The holiday season is upon us and with it, holiday plants. The displays of Christmas trees, Christmas cactus and poinsettias are everywhere making it easy to select and purchase one of these festive plants to brighten the inside or outside of your home. Enjoy these cheerful beauties throughout the holiday season by following a few simple tips.

A cut Christmas tree is perhaps the easiest plant to care for inside of the home — all you need is to keep your tree stand full of water to pull it through to the New Year. There are no special solutions that are known to make your tree last longer. Try to purchase the freshest tree possible by asking the retailer how often they receive shipments. The purchase date should be as close to the ship date as possible. Look for tree farms that store their cut trees in water. Once the tree is cut, the wound will start to harden off, and the longer it sits out of water, the more its ability to take up water is reduced.

The Christmas cactus is the second most popular potted holiday plant, following the poinsettia. There are different species of Christmas cactus, and their bloom times may vary. Some may bloom around Easter and others near Thanksgiving, but a true Christmas cactus starts its profusion of blooms about two weeks before Christmas. When this colorful holiday bloomer is well cared for, it can grow and thrive for up to twenty years.

The Christmas cactus isn’t really a cactus at all, but considered to be a succulent. It is native to the humid cloud forests of South America. Because it is adapted to this environment, make sure your Christmas cactus does not experience prolonged dry spells. Keep the soil moist, but not saturated. When the soil feels dry to the touch, water the plant.

You may grow Christmas cactus outdoors in filtered sunlight in Florida throughout much of the year, but when temperatures start to creep below 50 degrees, it is best to move it indoors. It will not tolerate intense afternoon sun. In order to re-bloom, the Christmas cactus needs at least 13 hours of darkness to set flower buds. Place them in an area of your yard free from sources of light during the night hours.

To select and grow poinsettias look for those whose buds contain a green tint. If you see a dusting of yellow pollen on the red bracts, avoid this particular plant as its colorful season is on its way out.

Poinsettias should be grown in an area of your home with abundant bright light. They will also grow outdoors in the full sun, so as soon as the holiday season is over, plant them outside away from any street or porch lights.

Let the soil dry between waterings as these tropical plants are prone to root rot if the soil is kept too moist. You do not need to fertilize poinsettias during the holidays, as this can cause a decline in appearance by encouraging green leaf growth instead of bright red, pink and white colors.

For gardening questions, visit our Master Gardener Plant Clinic. For landscape and garden ideas, visit Discovery Gardens. Both are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays at the Extension Services Office, 1951 Woodlea Road in Tavares.

Brooke Moffis is the Residential Horticulture Agent of the UF/IFAS Lake County Extension office. Email: burnb48@ufl.edu.