University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Keep Holiday Plants Festive

December 2, 1999

With such a warm November, it’s hard to believe December is here and the holidays are closing in fast. Perhaps your holiday decorations are up, meaning Christmas trees and poinsettias are returning to the home and office. Here’s my annual review of the basic care to keep Christmas trees and poinsettias looking cheerful and festive.

Keep a Christmas tree looking fresh by purchasing a fresh tree! Cut your own tree and you are assured freshness. When purchasing trees off the retail lot, avoid those dropping lots of needles easily. Once the tree is home and ready to set up, cut off an inch or so from the bottom of the trunk, place the tree into the stand, and fill the stand with water immediately. Never let the water level go below the cut surface on the bottom of the trunk.

Despite various recipes you may have tried or read about, just plain water is best for Christmas trees. Check the level frequently and add more as needed. You don't need to add anything else. Another very important point is to locate trees away from heat sources and be sure all lights are in good working condition.

Just like with trees, purchasing fresh, healthy poinsettias that have been cared for properly at the point of purchase is critical. Fluctuating temperatures can be a big problem. Avoid placing plants in warm drafts, such as from heat ducts or radiators, and away from cold drafts of entrances. An optimum temperature range would be 60 to 68°F; temperatures above 75°F can cause decline. Another related problem is excessively dry air.

Overwatering will kill the roots of poinsettias. Roots of poinsettias, along with all other plants, need to have air. Don't overwater poinsettias; wait until the soil surface begins to dry slightly before watering. Don't let it completely dry out and become hard, however. Either remove foil wraps from the pot or place holes in it so water can escape.

Finally, try to place poinsettias near a bright window, but not in direct sunlight. Move it at night if a cold draft is likely to occur.

For many years, the poinsettia was considered to be poisonous. Extensive tests have proven this to be false. However, as with most plants, a child or pet could still have stomach distress if they were to eat poinsettias.

And be sure to visit our Christmas Trees & More website.


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