Fed up of tinsel and longing for fresh leaves? Why not deck the halls with these plants which are at their best in winter?
Online garden centre Gardening Express has revealed the best plants and flowers for decorating homes throughout the festive season – from traditional winter poinsettia to big, blooming azaleas.
Plants such as holly, ivy and mistletoe were used long before the Christmas celebrations we know today, and are still a regular feature in festive homes in 2020.
And while the well-loved pine tree takes pride of place, Christmas roses or even Christmas cacti will brighten parts of the house too.
Chris Bonnett from Gardening Express said, “Beyond all the artificial glitz and sparkle of decorations like tinsel and baubles are some fantastic plants and flowers. These are not only easy to care for throughout the chillier months, but really add to the spirit of Christmas.
“Many of them make fantastic presents, and with growing concerns about plastic use, they’re eco-friendly options too.”
In no particular order – the 12 Plants of Christmas!
Holly is a symbol of eternal life and fertility. It was believed that hanging the plant in homes would bring good luck and protection. Christians continued the holly tradition from Druid, Celtic and Roman traditions, changing its symbolism to reflect Christian beliefs. Today, holly is symbolic of Jesus Christ in two ways: its red berries represent the blood that Jesus shed on the cross and the pointed leaves refer to the crown of thorns Jesus wore when he died on the cross.
Rosemary has been associated with Christmas since long before poinsettia, as rosemary is believed to have been one of the plants in the manger where baby Jesus was cradled.
In the Middle Ages, people believed that if they smelled rosemary on Christmas Eve, they would be healthy and happy throughout the new year, so they walked on rosemary spread across the floors. This started a tradition of rosemary in Christmas decorations that continues today – with table-top rosemary Christmas trees, wreaths, festive swags and evergreen bouquets.
Although it has a bit of a reputation for covering gardens with its creeping vines, ivy is actually a very popular plant over Christmas. Its distinctively-shaped, rich green leaves are often a key component of floral wreaths and other festive decorations. Ivy leaves are also said to represent the shape of Christ’s crown of thorns.
Instantly recognisable due to its pointed red bracts and rich red and green leaves, Poinsettia has become a symbol of the festive season. This is due to a Mexican legend in which a poor girl’s present to Jesus (a bouquet of weeds) was transformed into the bright red flowers we now call Poinsettia.
5. Christmas cactus
Despite its name and the fact it flowers over the Christmas period, the Christmas cactus actually has nothing to do with either tradition or the Christmas story! Despite this, they’re long-lived, easy to maintain in the cooler months, and they look great.
Having long been a symbol of love, peace and goodwill, the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. However beware if you bring any into your home – mistletoe berries are actually toxic to humans!
The massive, six-pointed amaryllis bloom makes an impressive festive decoration at the backdrop of a bleak day. If you want to have a blooming amaryllis for Christmas, you should plant the bulbs no later than the beginning of November. Although it’s always safer to just buy one that’s already in bloom.
8. White Chrysanthemums
As the Chrysanthemum symbolises optimism and joy, it comes as no surprise that it’s now synonymous with ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. However, white chrysanthemums are also brought into German homes on Christmas Eve because of an old legend in which a peasant family ushered a beggar man in from the cold. Claiming to be the Christ Child, he then vanished, leaving two of the flowers behind.
Cyclamen thrives in cooler temperatures. Its bright blooms and beautiful heart-shaped leaves are a great choice if you want to add some colour to your home or workplace this Christmas.
Often overlooked in favour of other festive plants and flowers, Azaleas’ bright colours and big, open blooms make them the perfect addition to indoor planting displays for Christmas.
11. Christmas rose
The Christmas Rose is revered during the festive season for the deep green foliage and delicate white flowers it brings to cold, dark winters. But despite the resemblance it bears to wild roses and the fact that it’s known as the Christmas Rose, this delicate evergreen perennial is actually quite deceptive. It is, in fact, a member of the buttercup family, Ranunculacea.
12. Christmas tree
Although evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals for thousands of years, the pivotal Christmas tree is a relatively modern addition to British Christmas traditions. Bringing a tree inside and decorating it in the way we know today first happened in 16th-century Germany, and became popular elsewhere in the 19th century.
The first Christmas trees came to Britain some time in the 1830s and became very popular almost a decade later, when Queen Victoria and her German husband Albert had a Christmas tree set up in Windsor Castle.