How To Choose and Grow the Best Holiday Plants

Lynn Coulter
Print Friendly

poinsettias

From tinsel to twinkling lights, gardeners enjoy Christmas decorations as much as anyone. But with traditional poinsettias, fragrant paperwhites, and other seasonal flowers to choose from, we can’t resist decorating with plants, too. Check out our five favorites here. They’re easy to grow and last a long time in your home.

Poinsettias

Poinsettias come in solid red, pink, cream, apricot and salmon, as well as marbled and speckled colors. For a fun twist on your holiday palette, choose an artificially colored plant in blue, purple or green, available in select Home Depot Garden Centers.

poinsettiaWhen you shop, look for poinsettias with dark green leaves. The bracts — what most of us think of as the flowers — should have good color, without any green around the edges. Also check the red or yellow-tipped “buds” in the middle of the bracts. If they’re falling off, or they’ve released their pollen, choose a fresher plant.

Cover your plant when you take it out of the store into the cold air. Remove the wrap at home and put the poinsettia in a spot with bright, indirect light, out of drafts. It’ll stay colorful longer if the room temperature is 65 to 70 degrees during the day and 10 degrees cooler at night.

Water when the soil feels dry but be careful not to overwater.

Christmas Cacti

Christmas cactus

Despite the name, these holiday plants are succulents, not cacti. Select plants with buds that are just beginning to open, and stems and branches that are firm, not limp.

Water when the top inch of soil feels dry, and give your plant bright, indirect light. Christmas cacti dislike hot or cold drafts, so keep them away from doors, windows and air vents.

When the blooms are finished, move your plant to a cool room. Like poinsettias, the plants can vacation outdoors in the shade next summer, after the temperatures remain above 50 degrees.

 Cyclamens

cyclamen

Holiday cyclamens are not the same as the species that grow outside in your garden, but they’re wonderful holiday plants. Choose plants with buds that are just starting to open, and bring them home to a spot that gets bright, indirect light. They’ll do best when kept away from heated air and cold drafts.

Cyclamens love high humidity, so put them on top of trays filled with pebbles and a little water. Don’t let the bottom of the pot touch the water. When the flowers finish, let the soil dry out, so your plant can go dormant for a couple of months and build up energy for the next growing season.

Wait until the weather is reliably warm to move your cyclamen outside; it can’t survive temperatures below 50 degrees.

Then keep it in a shady spot and turn it on its side, so rain won’t accumulate in the pot. When you see new leaves emerging, usually around September, resume watering, and bring the plant in before frost.

Amaryllis

amaryllis

These striking holiday flowers are grown from bulbs. Choose healthy, firm amaryllis bulbs with no signs of mold or injury, or look for a boxed amaryllis with a pre-planted bulb in a container. All you have to do is remove the box, water the bulb thoroughly, and put it in a sunny window.

Don’t worry if the bulb fits snugly in its container; amaryllis like to be pot-bound. Blooms should open in a few weeks. Rotate your amaryllis regularly so it doesn’t lean toward the light, and be ready to stake the tall flower stalks if needed.

Amaryllis bulbs are exhausted after they bloom, so most people buy new bulbs the following year.

Paperwhites

paperwhites

As with amaryllis, look for paperwhite narcissus bulbs that are healthy and firm.

These sweetly scented holiday flowers are easy to grow in water. Start with a 4-inch-deep container without drainage holes. Add a couple of inches of pebbles to the bottom and put the bulbs, pointed ends up, on top. Add more pebbles over the bulbs to hold them in place (the pointed tips should still be showing).

Put just enough water in the container to touch the bottom of the bulbs. At this stage, they don’t need light, but they’ll develop best if kept in a room that’s 50 to 60 degrees. 

When roots start to form, move the bulbs into a sunny window. Once the flowers form, stake or support them and move them out of the sun to an area with indirect light. To keep the flower show going all season, start more bulbs every couple of weeks.

Paperwhites seldom flower again, so add them to your compost pile when they’re finished.

Got questions about this article or any other garden topic? Go here now to post your gardening ideas, questions, kudos or complaints. We have gardening experts standing by to help you!