Although the poinsettia is by far the most popular plant associated with Christmas, there are others that make the season just as jolly...
Although the poinsettia is by far the most popular plant associated with Christmas, there are others that make the season just as jolly. Here are 10 to try:
1. African violet. This plant loves humidity (40 to 70 percent is ideal) and does best under fluorescent lighting. The leaves should lie flat. If they point upward, the plant needs more light. Some experts suggest watering from the bottom by filling a dish with the pot sitting on it. Make sure the water is room temperature and that the soil remains moist but not waterlogged. African violets prefer a porous soil mix and a light fertilizer every watering.
2. Amaryllis. This bulb produces tall stalks of flowers that are red, orange, white, salmon, pink and even striped. Keep out of direct sunlight, and cut off faded flowers. When blooming has ended, cut off the stalk just above each bulb. You can keep bulbs indoors in a pot or plant outside in the ground. The bulbs need at least eight weeks in a cool, dry place to encourage reblooming.
3. Carnation. Particularly red or white ones, carnations make a stunning gift in a cheery Christmas basket or pot with holiday greens added. These long-lasting bloomers will stay colorful throughout the holidays, and make great holiday centerpieces. Remove spent blooms and plant outdoors for more color later.
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4. Christmas cactus. The original hybrids had cherry-red flowers that bloomed during the Christmas season. Christmas cactus does not do well outdoors in heat and a dry climate. Keep the plant indoors in a sunny spot in well-drained soil.
Misting your Christmas cactus helps keep the humidity level high. Water when the top half of the soil is dry. If you hang the plant outside, keep it in a shady spot and avoid direct sunlight, especially in the summer, because the leaves can burn. Christmas cactus also is frost-sensitive in winter.
5. Chrysanthemum . The mum is known as the “Queen of the Fall Flowers.” Long-lasting blooms come in shades of pink, purple, red, yellow, bronze or orange and white. You can plant chrysanthemums outdoors, although reblooming is difficult. Trim back to stimulate growth.
6. Holly. First, a warning: Holly berries are not edible. Holly remains a traditional Christmas fixture and is used in wreaths and boughs. Holly will last longer if treated as a cut flower. Cut off stem tips underwater and keep in cool, fresh water.
7. Kalanchoe. This succulent produces red, orange or yellow blooms and is easy to grow and propagate. Let the soil dry completely between waterings. You can cut a piece of the plant and root it, or lay a leaflet over a porous soil mix that contains sand or perlite. Kalanchoe is drought-tolerant and can take full sun.
8. Miniature rose. In festive pots or pretty baskets, miniature roses make wonderful presents. The perfectly formed flowers come in red, pink, coral, yellow and white. After the holidays, plant these tiny beauties outdoors. They do well in containers and make a beautiful patio plant, or you can plant them in the ground as a border.
9. Mistletoe. This Christmas kissing plant is actually a rootless parasite that grows on trees. It often is sold dried or fresh as a Christmas novelty item.
10. Paperwhite. Growing kits for paperwhites are popular holiday gifts. Fragrant (some say smelly) paperwhite is easy to force and will bloom from Thanksgiving through March if bulbs are planted in succession. Take a leakproof container and line with gravel, pebbles or marbles to help secure the roots. Then group several paperwhite bulbs, pointed side up. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the bulbs and maintain at that level. Place the container in a cool, dark room. When you see shoots, transfer to a cool, sunny spot. It’s best to get new bulbs each fall. Although they can be planted in the garden, the next year’s bloom will not be as impressive.