Issue: November 17, 2007

Prolonging holiday plants Thanksgiving through Christmas

I like to decorate with living, flowering plants during the holiday season. However, many times the flowers do not last from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Are there any flowering plants that will keep their flowers until even New Years?

Mattie K.
Las Cruces


Choice of plants is important, as you have suggested. Some plants, such as the Christmas cactus, may bloom through the season if there are enough buds on the plant. Plants such as these have flowers that last only a few days to a week under typical home conditions. New flowers must open in succession to maintain flowering. However, we often choose plants that naturally flower in one brilliant display. Such plants will maintain their flowers longer if they receive appropriate environmental conditions.

Proper care to extend the life of blossoms on many houseplants requires proper watering. Keep the soil in which these flowering plants are growing moist. It is also important not to overwater. Do not keep the soil saturated with water. Surplus water should drain away leaving the soil about as moist as a wrung-out sponge. Avoid drafty locations near open doors and heater vents. These locations speed the drying of the soil and plants. Keep the plants in a cool location. Cool air slows the aging of the flowers. Of course, keep the temperatures above freezing. Maintain these plants in a brightly lit location. If there is sufficient light, the plants can photosynthesize and manufacture food to sustain the plant and flowers.

Another option is to choose plants that are not quick to loose their attractiveness. Some flowering plants stay in good condition for prolonged periods. The peace lily and kalanchoe are examples of such plants. They will also benefit from the environmental conditions mentioned above.

You can also choose plants that are colorful, but not dependent on short-lived flowers for their attractiveness. Poinsettias, New Mexico ornamental chiles, coleus, and other plants with colorful foliage instead of flowers can extend the period of attractive holiday color from Thanksgiving to well beyond New YearŐs Day. Once again, proper environmental conditions will help maintain their health and beauty.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications World Wide Web site at

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!