Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
December, 2000
Regional Report

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Colorful poinsettias provide a festive air for the holidays.

Holiday Plant Care

Holiday plants are fun to give and receive, and with a little bit of TLC they'll provide an attractive display into the new year. Here's how to care for some of my favorites.

Christmas Cacti

I love the bright fuschia-like flowers hanging from the tips of Christmas cacti stems. This plant is a succulent that originated in tropical zones. Unlike our native desert cacti, it prefers a more organic soil that is consistently moist but not too wet. Provide bright light, but keep the plant away from direct sun, as well as drafts and heating vents. Hold off on applying a houseplant fertilizer until the plant starts putting out new green tips. They don't need much fertilizer, so dilute it to half strength.


Poinsettias do best in a north or east window that provides plenty of light but no direct sun. They're sensitive to drafts and dry air from heating units. Water every 2-3 days to maintain a consistent soil moisture. (If your poinsettia came with a colorful foil wrap, remove it before watering to allow water to drain out the pot.) I find that poinsettias need more water and care than I'm willing to provide to thrive outdoors until the next holiday season rolls around. Because they're inexpensive, I usually toss mine into the compost pile without much guilt.

Live Christmas Trees

Being brought indoors after growing outside in a nursery is quite a shock for live trees in containers. Keep the trees out of direct sunlight and away from heating units to prevent needles from drying out. Soil should be consistently moist - an easy way to manage this is to put ice cubes on the soil and let them melt.

The sooner you can move the tree back outside, the better, because going from your warm house to the cold outdoors is another nasty shock. Leave the tree in the container and place it in a sheltered location. Keep it well watered and protected from frost. Plant it in early spring after the danger of frost is over.

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Today's site banner is by nmumpton and is called "Gymnocalycium andreae"