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    Christmas Plants and Holiday Flower Facts

    Authored by Leah Chester-Davis

    No matter the season, nature offers marvelous gifts. During the holidays, several plants add both beauty and have special meaning. Here are a few favorites:


    Poinsettia is one of the stars of the season. Available in a wide range of colors, from whites, to pinks, to deep, velvety reds, poinsettias shout merry, merry! This Mexico native was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel R. Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. 

    A Mexican legend centers on a young girl who, with nothing else to give, presents a tangle of weeds to the Baby Jesus in the Christmas procession. They turn into beautiful red flowers shaped like stars, echoing the symbolism of the season. What many think of as flowers are actually leaves or bracts.

    To care for a poinsettia, place in indirect light, about six hours daily. Check the soil daily. If you leave in a foil-wrapped container, punch holes in the foil so the water can drain into a saucer. Water when dry and discard excess water. 


    Holly is celebrated in holiday songs and perhaps the most famous is “Deck the halls with boughs of holly, falalalalalalalala!” There are hundreds of species, both evergreen and deciduous. It is the bright, waxy, pointed leaves and red berries that are prized for decking the hall. Legend has it that those sharp leaves symbolize the crown of thorns worn by Christ, and the berries represent his blood. Another bit of lore is that a gift of holly to the newly married bestows blessings for a happy and fruitful marriage. 

    Hollies are stunning in the landscape and add welcome color during the winter. Check with your local garden center about great selections for your region, and always inquire about size at maturity. 


    Amaryllis boasts dramatic, bold, trumpet-like blooms borne aloft on tall, leafless stems or stalks. It’s a popular plant to display in the home or to give as a gift. It is also fun to watch grow, as it pushes through the soil and makes noticeable progress each day. During the holidays, red and white are popular, but it is available in many colors. 

    In Greek mythology, Amaryllis fell in love with Alteo and to win his love sought to present him with a flower of extraordinary beauty. She pierced her heart with a golden arrow and when Alteo opened his door, there was a stunning crimson flower, which sprang from the blood of Amaryllis’s heart. 

    Select large bulbs, which will produce taller, thicker stems, and more flowers. Plant in a pot twice as tall as the bulb to give adequate room for root development. Make sure the pot has a drainage hole. Leave the top one-third of the bulb sticking out of the potting mix. Water and place in a sunny window. Keep soil moist but not soggy. When buds appear, move the plant out of direct sunlight.

    Christmas Cactus

    Christmas Cactus is known to last for generations, and you may very well know someone who owns the Christmas cactus that belonged to their grandmother. Not only does this exotic plant brighten the colder, grayer days of winter, it also is the subject of various legends in its native country of Brazil, all stemming from the desire to share gifts of beauty during the season of joy.

    Grow in a spot with full sunlight during the fall and winter. It likes shorter days and cooler temperatures when it will set flower buds. Water when the soil is dry to the touch but don’t waterlog it and don’t let it completely dry out.

    Other popular holiday plants

    Paperwhite bulbs are available through the season and are easy to grow. The fragrance of the dainty white flowers can be overpowering. Look for ‘Inbal’ or ‘Nir’ for a lighter scent. 

    Rosemary is an aromatic herb often found shaped into small trees during the holidays. It is perfect for the kitchen counter or a small space. Enjoy it during the holidays but don’t fret with its maintenance. Give it plenty of light, water once weekly, and mist daily.

    Cyclamen is popular around the holidays, perhaps for its striking foliage and its lovely blooms in reds, deep pinks, or whites. The plant likes bright, indirect light and moist soil.

    Oh, Christmas tree is the largest plant to grace homes as part of a favored tradition, whether it be cedar, fir, pine, cypress, spruce, or some other evergreen or conifer. The trick to a long-lasting tree is to buy fresh and keep it watered.

    Mistletoe is considered a parasite on woody trees but that doesn’t lessen the fun tradition to kiss anyone under the mistletoe, which dates back centuries and originates from Norse mythology.

    Ivy is a climbing, twining green vine used to decorate wreaths, garlands, and kissing balls. It symbolizes faithfulness and friendship. 

    More holiday gardening and gift ideas

    Most gardeners love to peruse the latest garden catalogs and dream of the next growing season. We are sharing gift ideas for the gardeners in your life.
    Find homegrown and homemade gift ideas for this holiday season with our thrifty giving guide.