By Sarah Wilson
There are so many lovely Christmas plants to choose from for your home this year, including some lovely modern new takes. Yes, there's the traditional poinsettias we all know and love at this time of year, but how about trying something a little different too?
As with all of the best indoor plants, with a little bit of TLC your Christmas plants will thrive, and could continue spreading their festive cheer for months, even going strong beyond the holiday season. Some of the most popular Christmas plants like poinsettias, amaryllis and Christmas cactus can be coaxed into bloom again next year too. To give them the best chance, keep on watering and feeding them once the flowers have faded. Then gradually ease off watering in late summer and move the plant to a cooler place to allow it to have a dormant phase. In mid-autumn, start to water and feed once more and move the plant to a warmer spot.
So where to start with your Christmas plant search? We've picked our favourites below for you to choose from, plus there's expert tips on finding the right spot in your home for them and how to encourage repeat blooms. Keep scrolling to get inspired, then make sure you check out our indoor plant ideas for more ways to up your house plant game.
The pastel tones of these cool cream blooms are a modern twist on the traditional red poinsettia that brings it bang up to date. Poinsettia need a light spot but not bright sunshine and like the soil slightly damp. A little diluted house plant food once a fortnight should be enough to keep them happy. If the leaves turn yellow and drop off, move it to a cooler spot and it should soon perk up again.
The stems of poinsettias make good cut flowers. Either cauterise the cut end for a few seconds in hot water or dust it with powdered charcoal to stop the flow of white sap. Poinsettias from last year will stay green if exposed to artificial light from early September. They need shortening days to form coloured bracts and the bead-like flowers within them.
Pink hyacinths get a modern makeover planted in hammered glass tea light holders for an elegant indoor arrangement. Choose prepared hyacinths if you want to have flowers in time for Christmas. Prepared hyacinths are bred to bloom much earlier and it’s this variety that is grown mainly as indoor plants. They will fill the room with their intoxicating scent for weeks. Place your hyacinths somewhere cool – no more than 13C – or the stems can flop and flowers will fade quickly.
The beautiful showy blooms of amaryllis (also known as hippeastrum) look festive in a simple modern arrangement. Their cool colours and structured look make a strong statement. If you like drama these lush blooms come in strong velvety shades of bold crimson, magenta pink and deep maroon too. Position them in a well-lit spot and water sparingly until the new leaves develop, then more regularly once they do. Turn the pot regularly to prevent the flower stalk leaning towards the light.
4. Moth orchid
One of the most popular ornamental houseplants around, orchids add a showy decorative display at this time of year and come in the traditional Christmas colours of white, red and green, which is handy when it comes to co-ordinating a look, as well as some stunning shades of pink and purple. Moth orchids (also known as Phalaenopsis) are great all-rounders, producing long-lasting flowers and coping well in centrally heated homes.
5. Paperwhite narcissus
Pretty pots of miniature spring bulbs can be used to create some great Christmas displays. The traditional paperwhite narcissus is so strongly scented it will fill the house with fragrance for weeks. They work well as an indoor plant as they come out far earlier than the garden variety to give colour and scent when you most want it. Plant bulbs closely together in pots filled with bulb fibre. Then put them in a cool, dark place until the petals burst out, adding some bare twigs for sculptural interest. Get advice on how to grow paperwhite daffodils for Christmas with tips from gardening guru Monty Don in our feature.
6. Christmas cactus
Naturally flowering in December, these are indestructible little plants with gorgeous blooms in pink, red and white that can flower from September right through to January. They are ideal for humid environments like kitchens and bathrooms because in the wild they grow in tropical rainforests. As well as a humid spot, they need to be somewhere warm. Keep the pot in a gravel-filled saucer and add water until it touches the base. Then keep it topped up for a stunning seasonal display.
Christmas cacti don’t take kindly to being moved into different temperatures once the flower buds have formed. If you do move them, it can cause premature bud drop.
Another Christmas classic, the cyclamen comes in a range of colours as well as the more traditional red. The bright blooms of the larger, showier ones including pale frilled petals inked with pink are a real winner. The flowers sit above layers of attractive marble-patterned foliage which is a pretty thing in itself. Water from the base, and allow them to dry out each time, as over watering can be especially damaging to them. Put them in a cool, bright spot away from sunlight and radiators. To remove fading flowers from cyclamen, twist stems through a half circle and tweak out cleanly.
Grown for their attractive glossy foliage and highly scented waxy-textured flowers, choosing one of these will add an extra special touch to the festive decorations. Although considered difficult, they're so worth it. Stand the pot on a saucer of gravel, and don’t let the compost dry out. Use rainwater wherever possible but make sure it’s at room temperature. Mist the leaves frequently, but not when they’re in flower as this can discolour them. Feed with a balanced fertiliser occasionally.
Top tips on how to care for Christmas plants
Find the right spot for your Christmas plants
You need to think carefully about finding the best spot for your Christmas plants. A windowsill might seem like the logical place, but the temperature fluctuates there, especially if there’s a radiator underneath, which makes life hard for plants. Avoid draughts and hot spots near radiators or fires too. Instead, display them somewhere that’s bright yet maintains a steady temperature.
How much should you water your Christmas plants?
Overwatering is a common mistake too. If the compost is dry, stand the pot in a few centimetres of water for five minutes or so. Remove and allow to drain. Improve humidity levels by standing pots on gravel-filled saucers topped with water, making sure the bottom of the pot isn’t submerged. Group house plants together too as this will raise humidity levels. Regular misting will also help.
Don't let it get too cold
If you need to transport your house plant home from the shop or from someone’s house, make sure it doesn’t get chilled en route.
Recycling your Christmas plants
While some of the plants on our list can be encourage to bloom again next year, not everything is designed to last, however. Narcissi Paperwhite, for example, are best enjoyed, then placed on the compost heap. They are tender, so won’t survive outdoors, and it would be a few years before they’d bulked up sufficiently to flower again.
- How to make a Christmas wreath using garden foliage
- The best plants gifts: treat plant fans to a Christmas present they'll love
- How to force bulbs indoors for festive displays
Sarah Wilson has been a lifestyle journalist for many years, writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, as well as Country Homes & Interiors and Modern Gardens magazines.
Her own (small urban) garden is a work in progress - so many ideas, not enough space to cram them in. Hero plants include her ever growing collection of ornamental grasses, black bamboo and ferns, and the perennials like salvias and penstemons that come back reliably year after year. All very restrained though when in fact she'd love to pack her garden with gaudy dahlias and giant cannas, so these are top of her wish list for what to grow next.
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