The berry-reds and tree-greens of Christmas have begun to emerge and with the magical day just around the corner, we’ve started to see our households wonderfully transformed with glistening lights and fire-side glows. Add something special to your festive displays with these Christmas houseplants.
As decorations begin to fill our homes and cover our Christmas trees, here are five festive plants to brighten up your home.
Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia)
A festive favourite to take centre stage this time of year is the rich, red Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia).
This deep colour sings with Christmas cheer and these plants also make great gifts.
Have a few in stock to give to loved ones and it makes for a nice break from oodles of sweet treats we have this time of year.
A poinsettia is a tender plant and prefers temperatures between 16C and 22C, so you will need to identify the perfect spot for it with no draughts. Be careful not to over water them, in order to keep this bloom bright and beautiful right through to the new year.
Schlumbergera (Christmas cactus)
The Christmas cactus is a fabulous addition to your home during the season. Naturally flowering in December, they are almost indestructible and boast broad, bold blooms.
This plant comes from Brazil and prefers a semi-shaded spot. It’s ideal for humid environments like kitchens and bathrooms because in the wild they grow in tropical rainforests or jungles.
So, as well as ensuring humidity, they need to be somewhere warm—at least during flowering from September to January.
Keep the pot in a gravel-filled tray and add water until it touches pot’s base. Then, keep it topped up for a striking display.
There’s no doubt that the cactus, with its longevity and low-maintenance requirements, makes for a very appealing addition to your home.
Cyclamen (sow bread)
Cyclamen are stunning upright plants in a huge range of colours, with swept-back flowers sitting above layered leaves.
Displaying a variety of large or small flowers, some cultivars have silvery or patterned foliage and a sweet scent.
Grow them in a bright spot away from hot sunlight and radiators. Allow the compost to dry a little before watering again, as over watering can be more damaging to them.
These winter beauties will deliver marbled foliage texture coupled with soft delicate petalled flowers. They’ll add some personality and panache to your potted parade this year.
Rhododendron simsii (azalea)
Azaleas are one of my all-time favourites, they’re such cheerful plants. Usually a sign that spring is coming, these classic colourful-numbers can be brought inside and enjoyed in the cold season. In fact, they’ll make a delicate and distinctive Christmas contribution.
You can purchase varieties such as ‘Christmas Cheer’ which winter flower in arrays of pretty pink, rosy red and soft white.
Christmas azaleas will need a cool spot away from direct sunlight. It’s important to keep the compost moist, as the plant will wilt if left to dry out.
I recommend keeping the pot on a gravelled tray half-filled with water, to maintain a humid atmosphere. I also like to give them a drink of cold tea (without milk, obviously) as the tannins and slight acidity help support the plant’s growth.
Phalaenopsis (moth orchids)
One of the most popular ornamental houseplants, orchids look really decorative at this time of year.
In their natural habitat they’re either epiphytic by growing on trees or lithophytic as they grow on rocks. They use these as a support and feed from plant debris accumulated around the bases.
Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) are great all-rounders, producing long-lasting flowers and growing well in heated homes.
Alternatively, the Christmas-flowering orchid variety Cymbidium will find you some festive cheer. With cultivars needing slightly cooler temperatures than other winter houseplants, find it a sunny spot and water once every few weeks for highly-ornamental flower decoration.
Plants for a Christmas challenge
If these ornamental options have filled you with further fascination, here are some more houseplant options to keep your Christmas display undoubtedly delightful:
Viscum album (mistletoe)
There’s no denying that a breath-taking addition to your home this year would be mistletoe. This evergreen is as much an emblem of Christmas as the tree itself. We often see them hung on wreaths or door frames at Christmas and it’s a nice idea to buy your mistletoe fresh.
Keep an eye out, these are often located in your local garden centres’ seasonal display. Alternatively, you can buy some when picking out your Christmas tree—as tree farms will often have it in stock. However, these specimens will have been harvested and will only last so long.
To grow your own mistletoe supply, you need to source a living plant in order to germinate the fresh seeds. This parasitic plant lives off the nutrients and water from a host tree. In order to grow your own at home, first you gather the seeds from the berry and plant it in potting soil.
Then attach to the host tree of your choosing—the most commonly an apple tree. Some species of this plant are poisonous, so I keep mine away from the kids.
Ilex aquifolium (holly)
In my household, we’re all for Christmas activities so my kids really like to be involved with decorating the house. For creating your own garlands, better induct the help of a festive favourite: holly.
My favourite variety to use is ‘Silver Queen’, which has a cream margin on its leaves, making it look frosted. It’s perfect for garland and wreath making! For an option which is not as sharp as traditional holly, choose Ilex aquifolium ‘Alaska’, which also bears beautiful red berries over winter.
Holly seeds are difficult to germinate so, for a potted holly plant inside the home, a cutting can be used to start the plant. Home-grown indoor holly will probably not produce berries because plants are either male or female and must be grown together to produce berries. So, buying a plant with berries already is the easiest way to get started.
For best results, keep in a cool room with access to sunlight. You can always move this plant outside when the season is over and, once well-established, it will make an attractive addition to your garden.
Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
Plants often appeal to two of our five senses, sight and smell. An option which will get your nose twitching in joyful anticipation too, would be the humble rosemary bush.
This herb, long associated with your Christmas roast, has a lot to offer—the smell alone will get you feeling festive and keep you rosy-cheeked right up until the big day!
Plus, I always find it immensely rewarding to have grown the herbs that season my family’s food as it gives the feast that extra something special.
It’s wise to bring a garden rosemary inside at this time of year to keep it temperature-happy, as they really don’t like frosts. Keep in a sunny spot like your kitchen windowsill, providing ample water when the soil is dry to touch.
For a bit of fun, you can decorate your indoor rosemary with red ribbon to make it look like a miniature Christmas tree!
For those of you who are feeling ready for a Christmas challenge, I’d like to propose one wild card this year. Galanthus (snowdrops) typically flower after the festive season and are one of the first signs of spring. However, a snow-dropped appearance for the holiday season would be a wondrous thing to behold.
Forcing bulbs for Christmas is something you have to be prepared for; with plating beginning as early as October for some varieties. For snowdrops, plant them for November to ensure blooms by Christmas morning.
Snowdrops require a period of cold to really help them to prosper, so try leaving them in a sheltered outdoor space before bringing indoors to flower.
Growing them indoors works well but they should be kept cool and shaded. For those of you who would like the aesthetic of a snowdrop, without the added pressure, try Bessera elegans (coral drops) as an alternative option here.
This autumnal bloom is burnt orange and will compliment your festive décor nicely.
David Domoney is a Chartered Horticulturalist, Broadcaster, and Author. David has worked with a number of the UK’s leading garden retailers as a plant buyer and strategic consultant. With more than 30 years experience, in horticulture, David is as passionate about plants now as he was when he bought his first plant at a village fete.
Thank you David, for your posts throughout the year, very helpful indeed. Wishing you and your family, a very Happy Christmas & New year. Looking forward to next years posts.!!! x