From the Desk of Ed Hume: Seasonal Houseplant Questions

January 18, 2012 at 1:51 PM Leave a comment

This is the time of the year when one gets a lot of questions about houseplants. Here are my answers to a few of the most common ones.

Christmas Cactus:

Why does my Christmas Cactus flower a month before Christmas or a couple of months after Christmas?

If your Christmas Cactus is flowering a month before Christmas or a few months after Christmas, chances are you have a different type of cactus. Your cactus is probably either a “Thanksgiving Cactus,” or an “Easter Cactus.” However, it should be noted that a Christmas cactus will sometimes bloom out of season due to varying temperatures and light exposure, so if your cactus is suddenly blooming out of season, it is probably due to one of these factors.


Why won’t my gardenia bloom?

Greenhouse growers tell me gardenia needs about 10 hours of bright light every day in order to bloom. If your plant isn’t getting this amount of light, it might not bloom.


Why do the leaves of my poinsettia start falling off right after Christmas?

This might be because of a couple different factors. First, there might not be enough moisture in the air. Try placing a glass of water near the plant, but don’t mist the plant, as that is apt to ruin the colorful leaf bracts. Second, a poinsettia will also drop leaves if it is too dry. Third, leaves will drop if the plant is in a part of the house that is too cold. Keep the poinsettia in a warm room of 67 to 72 degrees.

Dracena and a Palm:

Why do both my dracena and my miniature palm have considerable browning on the tips of almost all leaves?

The most frequent problem is a build-up of fertilizer salts in the soil. In other words, the plant is being given too much fertilizer. If there is any white substance on the soil or on the bottom sides of the pot, that is a good indicator it is a fertilizer problem.

Another problem can be that the soil was too dry at some point. This is most likely if the dry tips are all on the same level. My suggestion would be to cut off the dry leaf tips in the same pointed shape that they grow naturally. Take the whites of an egg and rub it on the cut edge to help cure it naturally, without leaving the leaf with an ugly brow edge.

Remember, at this time of year most houseplants need little to no fertilizer, less water, and more humid conditions. If you have a houseplant question, I’d suggest going to our website, to see my article on “Houseplants.” This was originally a chapter I wrote for my latest book “Gardening With Ed Hume: Northwest Gardening Made Easy.” ($25.95, $19.95 online) If you still can’t find an answer to your houseplant question, ask us at

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