The Twelve Plants of Christmas
4th December, 2020
This Christmas, we're going to need all the joy we can get. So, reignite that cheeky love for mistletoe with a sprig in your doorway, feature a more unusual Christmas cactus on the coffee table next to the half-eaten box of chocolates or place a delicate Christmas rose in pride of place on the mantelpiece.
That's right, there'll be no maids a milking or drummers drumming here, instead, we're rounding up the 12 best Christmas plants and flowers and which ones will add that final sprinkle of festive cheer to your abode this season.
Okay, let's kick things off with a classic. The ever-popular and always beautiful poinsettia just had to feature on this list. With a striking plumage of red and green leaves, this Christmas plant adds a festive touch to any room. Better still? It’s joyfully long-lasting.
But why is the poinsettia associated with Christmas? Well, it's jovial colours are just one reason but its leaves also resemble a star, one of the key features of the famed Christmas story. This Christmas plant is the perfect gift for a loved one during the Christmas period or if you're living in a small space, a great alternative to your typical tree.
Keep your poinsettia looking its festive best by checking it's soil regularly – think of it like the Goldilocks tale, the soil shouldn't be too wet or too dry, just somewhere in the middle. Wilting or yellowing leaves suggest that it needs a water and it's worth noting that this special plant needs warmth and light to thrive. Like a little human then!
This spiky leafed beauty is commonly associated with Christmas and it's actually the birth month flower for those born in December. Holly typically grows in dangerous-looking bushes in British front gardens but cuttings look incredible in wreaths, in the centre of the dinner table ready for that turkey dinner or even in a festive floral arrangement.
Again, the contrast of green and red makes this plant a welcome addition come Christmas time but it also has ties to Ancient Rome, when the people would send boughs of holly to loved ones to celebrate the Saturnalia Festival that took place in December.
Cut holly should last a long time if its stems are placed in water, so you can enjoy this prickly plant right up until January. If you're featuring it in a wreath, grab a spray bottle and give it a light misting of water every now and then.
The iconic white berries and long green leaves of mistletoe are associated with Christmas parties and spreading the love. Usually, just a sprig of this Christmas plant is all you need to hang above a doorway or from the ceiling, then you need to invite someone underneath for a quick smooch. However, mistletoe also looks very lovely when featured in a wreath or as a stand-alone feature in a decorative vase as part of your Christmas decor.
A cheeky kiss under the mistletoe might be a fun Christmas tradition but did you know that it actually originated from a Norse tale? The story goes that Baldur, Son of Odin, was killed using an arrow laced with mistletoe berries.
Fortunately, he was resurrected and his mother Frigg (none other than the goddess of love) was so overjoyed she vowed to kiss any living creature that passed under the mistletoe. Moving on to the 18th Century, each time someone stole a kiss under this Christmas plant a berry was plucked and once all the berries were gone you could no longer carry out the tradition. A great idea if you ever spot some at your office Christmas party.
For something a little less traditional, swap your poinsettia or your holly sprig for a Christmas cactus. This fun plant explodes into colour during the festive season with vibrant red and pink flowers that look striking against its bright green arms.
The Christmas cactus is the perfect seasonal gift for a loved one with a black thumb as it does its thing with little need for any outside help. They like to be kept in a bright spot, enjoy a little water now and then and prefer a room that's kept relatively cool (that spare bedroom perhaps?) to ensure they thrive and look stunning on Christmas morning. Plus, if you repot the plant once the season's over you'll get fresh blooms ready for next Christmas. It's the gift that keeps on giving!
The Christmas cactus originates in the humid forests of Brazil, where it grows in shaded areas on the trees themselves above ground and are enjoyed during December simply because the stunning flowers bloom around this time. Feliz Natal, we say!
The Christmas rose – also known as Helleborus, if you want to impress your pals at that festive gathering – is part of the buttercup family but reminds us of the classic floral beauty of the same name. This stunning flower is way better than any five gold rings, its delicate freckled petals look wonderful when featured as part of a floral arrangement or dotted around a homemade wreath.
The Christmas rose blooms when it shouldn't, in the darkest and coldest month of December and so it could be said that it represents that glimmer of joy and hope that the festive season brings during the winter. You'll also find the Christmas rose grows in shades of pink and gothic hues of black and blue – perfect for those of us that believe it's Halloween every day.
Add a little touch of the exotic to your Christmas decor with amaryllis. These stunning flowers remind us of lilies and grow in vibrant shades of postbox red and snowy white – perfect for any festive display. Feature your amaryllis plant in a decorative pot on your mantelpiece or wrap up the plant in rustic brown paper and gift this to a friend over the Christmas period.
Why do we enjoy amaryllis at Christmas time? Well, the bulbs can be forced to bloom during December and their colours perfectly represent this jolly season. The name amaryllis is also believed to come from the Greek word which means 'to sparkle' which makes it ideal for Christmas when everything – and eventually your home…and you – seems to be covered in glitter!
While we usually associate cyclamen flowers with dusky shades of pink and pure whites, it's the deep red hues we're interested in come Christmas time. Cyclamens produce a stunning bloom that defies the cold temperatures of winter, creating a gorgeous, colourful display that you can enjoy in your garden or in your home.
We love the velvety soft petals of the cyclamen plant that are just calling out to be touched and the silvery veins on its leaves that remind us of twinkling fairy lights and glittering Christmassy displays.
Feature one of these blushing beauties on the kitchen windowsill to add a festive feel to the heart of the home or offer the plant up as a gift to loved ones that they can enjoy long after Christmas day is over. The flower is said to symbolise love and sincere affection, what more could you ask for during this joyous season?
Not just for stuffing that turkey, rosemary is also the perfect Christmas plant to enjoy around this time of year, in and out of your home. Take a potted rosemary plant and prune it into the shape of a Christmas tree, ready to feature in your kitchen. You can sometimes buy rosemary Christmas trees ready-pruned (no one wants another job on their list on top of everything else during December) so keep an eye out while doing your shopping.
Add a few small baubles for that final festive touch or feature cuttings of the plant in your homemade wreath, guests will love getting a waft of the great smelling herb as they come through the door.
Steal a few sprigs for the Christmas dinner or to feature alongside that tasty cheese board when the evening rolls around. We also recommend adding a small cutting of rosemary to a G&T with a zingy slice of grapefruit. Delicious.
Not your typical Christmas plant but one that's well-received by loved ones and looks stunning around your home all the same. A cascade orchid in a stylish pot should keep your fussy auntie happy or you can keep one for yourself and feature it in that spare guest bedroom to brighten up the space, ready for when those distant cousins turn up 'unexpectedly'.
Orchids, of course, hail from warmer climates and aren't typically considered a traditional Christmas plant but we think they're the perfect modern alternative to your typical festive blooms. Plus, choose an orchid that flowers in a brilliant white shade and feature it alongside some glittering reindeer ornaments or whimsical snowglobes and you have a recipe for success.
Keep your orchid all dressed in its Christmas best by misting it regularly and featuring it in indirect light. But, we also know how hectic the Christmas season can be so just pop an ice cube on top of the soil and leave that to melt and water your plant for you. Easy. Take a look at our full orchid care guide for more tips.
The regal purple hues of the iris flower add a splash of colour amongst your typical reds and greens of the season. Plus, we love their vibrant strip of yellow that splays out from the centre. There are also white iris flowers – aptly named 'Christmas Angels' – however, these bloom in April and May, sadly too early in the year to be enjoyed for Christmas.
Irises are the perfect choice for a fun bouquet to present to friends and family when they open the door and bloom between November and April so are at their seasonal best. Purple irises are said to symbolise wisdom and royalty which makes them the ideal gift for the head of the family aka your Nan. We love the idea of featuring these pretty flowers with sparkling silver themed decor such as a white Christmas tree, embellished with shiny baubles and purple accessories.
The hardy ivy plant is a winter favourite, as its tendrils continue to grow and reach out even during the coldest of temperatures. Feature a pot of cascading English ivy on a shelf and intertwine flickering fairy lights between its shoots to create a pretty and subtle Christmas decoration.
Or, to quote the Christmas carol, pair 'the holly and the ivy' for a truly joyous display – we're thinking a wreath or a table decoration to go around a fat pillar candle.
Surprisingly to some, ivy has had a long relationship with the festive season. Farmers were once said to feed a sprig of ivy to their cows before midnight on Christmas Day, believing that this would protect them from 'the Devil'. We're not sure if the Devil is a fan of full-fat milk but each to their own – oh, and we wouldn't recommend feeding the plant to your pets at home, as it can lead to sickness. However you decide to feature this Christmas plant in your upcoming festivities, it's certainly one to enjoy during December.
Of course, there's no other plant that rings in the Christmas season like a real tree and we love the miniature varieties you can find at this time of year. Decorate them with festive ribbon, mini baubles and teeny tiny foil presents to create a cheery decoration. Mini Christmas trees are the ideal choice for those living in smaller abodes and real ones still bring in that festive scent to your indoor space.
So when did we start dragging in trees from the outside and decorating them in our homes? Well, the tradition we know and love today actually stems from our very own Queen Victoria who shared a snap of her family in front of a decorated tree and the masses couldn't get enough of it. However, fir trees were also used by pagans who hung them in their homes to symbolise the promise that spring was on its way. Whatever the reason, Christmas trees are a true symbol of the season and whatever size you feature in your home it's a must-have Christmas plant.