Caring for Holiday Houseplants

by Laurel Aiello

With shorter days and chilly weather settling in, the holidays are a perfect excuse to bring life and color into the home. Decorating with pine boughs, wreaths, and mistletoe can make any space feel festive, but sadly they only last a few weeks before drying up and becoming brittle. Consider investing in these holiday houseplants for blooms that’ll last all winter long: 


One of the most popular winter bloomers is the Christmas cactus, which is aptly named for its flowers that appear around the holiday. Christmas cacti come in many bloom colors ranging from white to red, including the peachy Sunset Dancer and rose-colored Exotic Dancer varieties. 

Though this cactus is on a winter blooming schedule, it still needs bright indirect light to thrive. Place it in a naturally well-lit area—ideally near a south- or west-facing window—and allow it to dry out completely in between waterings. Christmas cactus also tend to be thirstier when they are in bloom, so don’t be surprised if the soil dries out quicker this time of year.

Since Christmas cactus are usually sold already budding, it’s important not to cause them additional stress that could result in dropped blooms. Aggressive repotting is the quickest way to stress them out, so refrain from agitating the roots when moving them into their new home. Size up gradually when repotting a Christmas cactus, as they prefer to stay slightly root-bound. 


Poinsettias are another quintessential holiday houseplant that can be found at garden centers in the winter, and they don’t just come in red. These days, poinsettias are also available in white, cream, burgundy, pink, and even orange—not to mention variegated varieties such as Jingle Bells, Sonora White Glitter, and Ice Punch. Some local nurseries also carry Winter Rose poinsettias, which are a red variety with curled blooms that resemble a cut flower. 

Poinsettia care can be a bit tricky for people who are new to these tropical houseplants. They prefer bright indirect light and need to stay evenly moist, so be sure to check the soil moisture daily and only water when the soil surface feels barely damp to the touch. Avoid getting water on the leaves as this can cause them to wilt and turn brown, and transport them carefully because the stems break very easily. 


A less common holiday houseplant, the cyclamen is known for its heart-shaped leaves and upside-down flowers that bloom throughout the winter. Cyclamen flowers come in pink, red, white, and lavender, and some varieties have frilly petals or fade into white tips. Don’t be alarmed if their flowers and leaves drop off in the spring—cyclamen go dormant during the warm months and their bulbs must be stored in a dim, dry place until the following winter. 

Like poinsettias, cyclamen need bright indirect light and don’t like to dry out when active and in bloom. Their leaves droop dramatically if they have gone even a little too long without water, but this can usually be helped with a bottom soak. If they are watered too frequently, the stems can become squishy and grow mold, so it’s best to feel the soil moisture daily and allow the surface to dry out.

Originally published on December 1st, 2022.