14 Best Christmas Plants and Flowers for the Holiday Season
Decorating with Christmas plants and flowers is a great holiday tradition to start or continue in your home.
I love to fill my house with special Christmas flowers and plants. They’re as crucial a holiday decoration for me as a Christmas tree. Some will last well into the new year and can even be planted outside eventually. Here are a few picks to add to your indoor display.
Usually purchased as bulbs, amaryllis are often already potted. If you are potting an amaryllis bulb yourself, leave the upper one-third of the bulb above the soil line. Keep it watered and it’ll soon grow and flower.
You can also purchase a waxed amaryllis bulb, which will grow and flower with virtually no care.
I’ll make the claim that poinsettias are the most recognized potted Christmas plant. They show up everywhere by early November, sometimes even late October. Did you know poinsettias were originally called Cuetlaxochitl?
To be sure yours is in peak condition for Christmas, remember it’s a growing plant. If you use it to decorate for a dinner or party, move it back to where its plant needs are met.
Small narcissus bulbs known as paperwhites are easily forced into bloom in soil or a bed of small rocks. To keep your paperwhites from becoming tall and floppy, give them an alcoholic beverage. Researchers at Cornell University recommend watering them with a solution of 4% to 6% alcohol, made from any hard liquor. To time your paperwhite blooms for Christmas, plant them around Dec. 1.
Discover more surprising facts about holiday flowers and plants.
Norfolk Island Pine
These pines, which can’t take temperatures below 35 degrees, are great houseplants. They usually show up in stores decorated with a bow and a few red baubles. They’re the perfect holiday tree for showcasing all my smaller ornaments that would get lost on a big tree. If you buy a Norfolk Island pine for Christmas, with proper care you can enjoy it for many years.
You probably already know that rosemary is an herb native to the Mediterranean. But I often buy a potted rosemary topiary that’s clipped in the shape of a Christmas tree. They look great as a table decoration, but I consider them fussy as indoor plants because they need lots of light. After Christmastime, I’m content to let mine go to the compost.
Christmas cactus is an easy houseplant to maintain—it’ll rebloom each year, though it may not hit the exact mark for Christmas. If you want one blooming on Christmas Day, buy one that has buds right before the holidays. Psst—you can also grow a Thanksgiving cactus and an Easter cactus!
Here’s one of my favorite ways to use English ivy as a holiday decoration: Pot up three amaryllis bulbs in a terra-cotta bowl, then plant English ivy around them. If the amaryllis finish blooming before Christmas, I pull them out, replace them with big round candles and still have a nice centerpiece. Then I repot the ivy later to keep it growing as a houseplant.
Hellebores, commonly called Christmas roses, are worth looking for during the holidays, and can be found if you know the right florist. This hardy plant blooms outside in the winter, even in cold climates. As a potted flowering plant, it blooms for a few weeks. I keep it going until spring, when I can acclimate it and plant it outside.
I often see florist cyclamen for sale in December. Though some people find them to be finicky, their blooms—usually red, white or pink—will last several weeks. They’re challenging because they like to go dormant after flowering, and most of us lack the right conditions or patience to get them to rebloom. So I treat mine like a cut-flower arrangement, composting after the blooms fade.
Many of us consider caladiums to be a tropical pick for shade gardens, adding color in the summertime. But the Heart to Heart caladiums from Proven Winners can be grown as houseplants through the holidays. The variegated leaves in all shades of red, green, pink and white are perfect for Christmas.
Lily of the Valley
You won’t find pre-cooled lily of the valley pips (the growing tips and roots) for sale. But if you have Convallaria majallis growing in your garden, dig up a few pips after they’ve had sufficient time to cool in the fall. Pot them up, and they’ll soon grow and flower.
I’m still working out my timing. Mine bloom in January, but someday I’ll get them to bloom for Christmas.
Another flowering bulb you can try to grow for the holidays is snowdrops, Galanthus sp. Start with newly purchased bulbs or dig a few out of your garden. They require at least a 15-week chilling period and then a chilly spot (around 60 degrees) to grow and flower.
It’s worth experimenting if you have the time and patience. They make an impressive but tiny holiday display!
Grow flowers in winter by forcing bulbs indoors.
Kissing under the mistletoe is a holiday tradition for many. Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that grows in the tops of trees. It’s also dioecious, with separate male and female flowers on different plants.
If you find real mistletoe sprigs for sale, they were likely collected in the wild. All parts of mistletoe are toxic, so if you plan to decorate with it, consider an artificial mistletoe sprig.
Holly is a traditional potted plant that shows up this time of year. Enjoy it for the holidays, then consider putting it outdoors in spring in Zones 5 to 9 if it’s an American holly (Ilex opaca). English holly (I. aquifolium)is another popular choice, but it is best kept inside so birds can’t spread the seeds.
Don’t forget: You’ll need a female and a male holly plant to get red berries on the female plant.
Next, check out 8 types of Christmas trees you can grow.