Answer by: Britney Hunter, USU Extension horticulture faculty, Davis County
It’s easy to spruce up holiday decorating with live plants. They offer color and texture to decor. Consider these plants that grow well in the home during the holidays.
- Christmas cactus – This succulent is an easy-to-grow indoor blooming plant available in most stores. The blooms are spectacular this time of year and can be found in red, white, pink and yellow. Christmas cactus starts blooming between Thanksgiving and Christmas and will bloom all winter with bright, indirect light. Long, dark nights and cooler temperatures signal flower buds to develop.
- Amaryllis – These bulbs are often sold in grocery stores and home improvement stores, but you can find higher quality bulbs and unique colors at your local nursery or garden center. Bulbs produce elegant, long leaves, and huge, striking flowers are produced 8-10 weeks after planting, just when you need some cheer in the middle of winter. Amaryllis bulbs grow best in bright light.
- Poinsettia – Poinsettias provide bold holiday color and make a great gift. They can be kept year round, but are very difficult to re-bloom without greenhouse conditions. Poinsettias will tolerate any level of light temporarily, but will eventually decline without bright light.
- Norfolk Island pine – Norfolk pines look like living Christmas trees, and they can support lightweight holiday decorations. The soft, deep green needles look great year round. Norfolk pines prefer bright indirect light, but can tolerate low light for short periods.
- Kalanchoe – These plants are in bloom at most local grocery stores or garden centers in red, pink, orange, yellow and white. This house plant has thick, waxy leaves and bright clusters of flowers that brighten up the indoors and make an excellent gift. Kalanchoe can be grown indoors year round and will re-bloom when nights are long and temperatures are cool, similar to the Christmas cactus. These plants like bright light and can be moved outdoors in the summer.
When choosing holiday plants as gifts, poinsettias and amaryllis bulbs are a great choice. Both are traditional holiday plants with lots of color, and they are nice for those without a lot of space because they are generally discarded after they bloom. African violet and orchid flowers also don’t take up much space, and they make a showy statement.
Tips for choosing a holiday plant:
- Look for short, bushy plants, as they tend to be healthier and maintain their beauty. Inspect plants for signs of disease or insects, and avoid those that look unhealthy.
- Use a box or similar item to prop the plant up and secure it in the car so it doesn’t get damaged on the ride home. Once home, place it where you will remember to water it.
- Keep potting soil moist by watering one to three times a week, depending on the container size. Smaller pots will need more frequent watering.
- If the container is wrapped in foil, make a hole for water to drain, or be very careful not to over water. It’s easy to accidentally create standing water in closed containers, which can damage roots and create unpleasant odors.
- Keep your eye out for attractive containers and saucers to re-pot your plants in after the holidays, and have potting soil and indoor plant fertilizer on hand.