Make your holidays more festive with Christmas plants.
It’s a perfect time to talk about some of the best Christmas plants. Yes, this means some of the “normal” holiday plants (like poinsettias and mistletoe), but we can’t leave out several other indoor plants, flowers, and wreaths that are perfect to have around during the holiday season.
Because no one wants to end up on Santa’s “naughty” list, we’ll provide some essential tips to help you keep these holiday plants as lively as we are during the holidays, too.
So, without further ado, here are 14 of the best Christmas plants to have this holiday season.
14 Best Christmas Plants
Part of the Euphorbia family, poinsettias are native to Mexico, but have become a popular holiday plant in the United States thanks to their colorful red and pink leaves. The leaves actually transform from a pretty green to a different color during the short winter days.
While most of us are familiar with leaves that come in a creamy white, pink, or bright red color, different varieties of poinsettias come in several different colors, including bright blue and bright orange. You may even spot some at the store that have been spray-painted or adorned with a layer of glitter.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Poinsettias
Try to have your poinsettia located in a south, east, or west window so that it receives adequate daylight. If you’re lucky enough to live in a warm climate, as long as it receives 4 to 6 hours of outdoor sunlight it should do well.
Poinsettias can’t tolerate freezing temperatures and won’t do well with temperatures below 50℉, so keep them inside in that case.
Inside, keep the temperature around 65 to 70 degrees℉. Keep the poinsettia away from anything that might expose it to a different temperature (i.e. a cold drafty window, a fireplace, a space heater, or a heat vent).
Keep the soil moist, but not overwatered. If the soil surface feels dry when touched, you can add water. The poinsettia should be in a pot that drains freely too, because if exposed to excess water the plant roots will rot.
If needed after the holidays (i.e. if you notice new green stems, leaves, or bracts) you’re going to want to add an all-purpose plant fertilizer every three to four weeks.
In late spring, your poinsettia can head outside to be transplanted into a part-sun garden bed. There are several guides online that will help you care for your poinsettia year-round .
A common gift for green thumbs every year, amaryllis bulbs are great to have around for the holidays. These beauties look similar to poinsettias, but have their own special twist. In fact their name means “to sparkle”—and they truly do!
This festive living Christmas decor transforms from a bulb to bloom in just six weeks after planting. When planted in October or November, you should be able to enjoy bright red or white flowers by December 25th.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Amaryllis
Amaryllis is easy to grow in nearly any medium including rocks, pebbles, and even glass chips, but narrow containers work best. It doesn’t matter if it’s made of metal, ceramic, plastic, or terracotta, just be sure that the container has a few holes in the bottom so that drainage is easy.
A sunny windowsill works best for this holiday plant. In fact, the more sun, the better. Regular water and fertilization with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer will allow the amaryllis to stay healthy before it’s eventually moved outdoors (well after the last frost) .
3. Paperwhite Narcissus
Bring the magic of the first winter snow indoors with delicate paperwhites. Narcissus papyraceus is a perennial that starts with a bulb and can flower inside during winter. As a relative to daffodils, paperwhites have a heavenly fragrance and make for a perfect holiday gift.
Aside from their beautiful snow-like flowers, paperwhites are notoriously easy bulbs to force indoors.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Paperwhite Narcissus
Not requiring much in the way of soil or extra care, this hardy flower is perfect for beginning gardeners who want something a little special around Christmastime.
Be sure to choose the bulbs that are blemish-free. Choose a pot that has holes for drainage and a potting mix that will also support good drainage (pebbles or marbles will do, too). Full flowering will happen in about four to eight weeks.
Choose a cool and sunny location—but avoid too much sun as it’ll cause the flowers to deteriorate .
Holly is a great plant to have outdoors during winter, but it’s also something that can be brought inside as a perfect Christmas plant. In fact, there’s nothing better to “deck the halls” with.
While a full grown tree can reach heights up to 50 feet tall, a holly shrub or wreath can easily fit inside. Just be sure to look for a female variety, because they’re the only ones that produce the festive bright red berries.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Holly
Ilex aquifolium (English holly) is commonly what you’ll find when you look for holly that’s suitable for indoor growth. Your holly plant will do best in direct sun, so a south facing window is a good location.
While it will thrive in a warm sunny area, it’s best to keep the temperature below 70℉. Slightly acidic soil that’s barely moist is best, too .
5. Phalaenopsis Orchid
While we may not associate a plant of the tropics with the winter holidays, an orchid is a lovely thing to have at any time of the year, and will bring some beautiful color into your home around the holidays.
Moth orchid, or phalaenopsis spp., is the easiest to grow and comes in a variety of colors including: pink, purple, yellow, or white.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Phalaenopsis Orchid
As a tropical plant, orchids like warmth. Be sure to locate yours in a room that’s well-heated (66-86℉) and receives bright light, but isn’t in direct sunlight (like an east- or west-facing window). Additionally, try to avoid any areas with drastic temperature fluctuations or that experience drafts.
During the colder winter months, reduce watering slightly and always keep the foliage dry .
6. Christmas Tree
Is it even a list about the best holiday plants if we don’t include the Christmas tree?!? As the most iconic Christmas plant, the Christmas tree is one of the most traditional ways to celebrate the winter holidays.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Christmas Trees
Fortunately, we’ve written an entire article about Christmas trees and how to care for them in our Christmas Tree Guide!
7. Christmas Rose
Helleborus niger, commonly known as Christmas Rose is a semi-evergreen perennial with dark green leaves and highly sought after white or pink-white bowl-shaped flowers that typically bloom from winter to spring.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Christmas Rose
Your Christmas Rose will look especially rosy when in a neutral or alkaline potting mix. Put it in an area that receives filtered or partial sunlight (like indirect morning sun and afternoon shade). It will do better in slightly cool temperatures, around 65℉.
Soil that’s evenly moist is recommended, especially while it’s flowering. After the flowering is finished, you can reduce the amount of watering and if you notice yellow leaves, that’s a sign you’re watering too often .
8. Christmas Cactus
Christmas cacti (or wintertime succulents, for that matter) aren’t as common as some of the other plants we see around the holidays, but there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be!
Christmas Cactus, also known as Schlumbergera, has breathtaking tubular flowers that are white, red, pink, or a blend of all three. The succulent is native to Brazil, but has made its way into the US as a holiday cactus that is popular for Thanksgiving and Easter, in addition to Christmas.
Schlumbergera truncata (Thanksgiving cactus) has the pointiest leaves, while Christmas Cactus has leaves that are more scalloped and teardrop shaped. Unlike most of the other Christmas plants on this list, Christmas Cactus isn’t toxic (but we still wouldn’t recommend eating it, or letting your pets get too close).
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Christmas Cactus
Being accustomed to warmer tropical areas, Christmas cactus does not tolerate cold weather. That said, indoor window sills work well, as long as temperatures are above 50℉ (although they prefer temperatures closer to 70℉.
The more exposure to sunlight, the better. An east-facing window with around 12 hours of indirect light is ideal for optimal growth (although they’ll do okay with less).
Christmas cacti don’t require a lot of water, just when the top inch of the soil is dry .
9. American Mistletoe
Do you think mommy would have been caught kissing Santa Clause if it weren’t for mistletoe? Even Christmas this year means less (or no) smooching, it’s still great to have this Yuletide decoration.
American mistletoe, or Phoradendron serotinum is native to mid-Atlantic areas of the US, specifically in the region spanning from Florida to Texas. While this may sound great for hopeful romantics before the holidays, it’s not so great for trees as this Phoradendron is parasitic!
Ho Ho How to Take Care of American Mistletoe
American mistletoe is a great holiday plant for those of us without the wherewithal to care for anything living. Just be sure you don’t hang mistletoe in a place that poses any risk for fire, like above a fireplace, heater, or stove .
10. Lemon Cypress
Don’t have space for a Christmas tree? This is where lemon cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa) can really come in handy. It’s perfect for smaller spaces, like apartments, and boasts a few additional benefits.
In lieu of a Christmas tree, a smaller lemon cypress tree can be brought indoors during a celebration of the winter holidays. The conical-shaped evergreen looks somewhat like a Christmas tree, but it has lovely yellow foliage instead. Along with it’s bright yellow color, it boasts a lemony scent that’s just as nice!
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Lemon Cypress
Another reason why lemon cypress should make it indoors this holiday season is because it’s extremely easy to take care of.
It does well living in a container, as long as it gets regular water (once a week) and is kept in a sunny spot (at least six to eight hours). Ironically, it also does better with slightly-cooler temperatures (around 60℉). Regularly rotate the container so that each side gets adequate sunlight and don’t move outside until you’re certain there’s no risk for frost .
11. Norfolk Pine
Here’s another option for those of us that don’t have to space or desire for a large Christmas tree. Hailing from Norfolk Island, just off the coast of New Zealand, this tree can grow to be up to 200 feet tall, but can easily be maintained at around five feet (or smaller) as a permanent foliage plant.
The needled evergreen conifer looks soft and Christmassy, yet is a beautiful splash of green to have around the house year-round.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Norfolk Pine
Based on its traditional home in the South Pacific, full sun is best for this pine. That being said, however, it can also handle longer periods of time with less light. Over winter, it’s better to have your Norfolk pine close to a sunny window— just be sure to regularly turn it so that every side gets access to equal light.
Slightly acidic soil is best as is soil that is slightly drier. We’d recommend keeping the temperature around 65℉ to 70℉, and use a weak liquid fertilizer when needed. Unfortunately, these pines have earned the nickname “suicide tree,” and a regular fertilization will help to strengthen their notoriously weak root systems .
This is yet another option for a holiday celebration that is short on space. Rosemary smells lovely, it has some Christmas tree-like features (especially when cut into a cone-shaped topiary), and you could easily hang a few small ornaments from its branches.
Not only that, but having rosemary handy in the home is great for holiday cooking!
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Rosemary
Rosemary traditionally hails from the Mediterranean, meaning hot and sunny conditions. Mimicking that in your home may be slightly difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible.
To start, make sure you pick a pot that’s at least eight inches deep and has an adequate drainage hole. Rosemary likes dry roots and typically absorbs most of its moisture through its foliage. This being said, adding a layer of small rocks at the bottom of the pot is recommended.
Then, just be sure to put the rosemary in an area that gets full sun and water every two weeks (or when the soil is dry). If you’re noticing any problems, wrap the foliage with a loose plastic bag to trap excess moisture .
Cyclamen may be one of our favorite outdoor container plants, but it’s also great to bring inside for the winter holidays. With its vibrant colors and interesting leaves, this is a popular house plant year-round, not just around Christmastime.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Cyclamen
Cyclamens prefer cool and humid environments, so it’ll do better in a house that’s kept under 68℉ (but definitely no cooler than 50℉). When watering, be sure to avoid touching the stems or the leaves as water may cause them to rot.
Also, be sure that the cyclamen is in a pot that drains adequately and apply fertilizer every one to two months. If you notice some yellowing leaves after the cyclamen blooms, don’t worry it’s just entering its dormant state and will bloom again in a few months.
During this process, put your cyclamen in a cool and dark place and avoid watering for a month or two .
14. Frosty Fern
Also known as Selaginella kraussiana, frosty fern actually isn’t a fern at all! It’s a type of spike moss that has lush green foliage with white frosted tips—which give off the appearance of fresh snow and make for a perfect plant to have around for the holidays.
Ho Ho How to Take Care of Frosty Fern
Let’s start out with one important requirement of frosty fern—it likes humidity, a lot of humidity. In fact, it’ll require at least 70% humidity, which is far higher than the average home.
This doesn’t make indoor frosty fern impossible, but it will require a tray of pebbles in water or, even better, a small terrarium (where it should perform very well). In a terrarium, water frequently (without leaving standing water) and keep the temperature between 60℉ and 80℉ .
Tips for Seasonal Success
Many of the holiday plants we know in love do well with the waning sunlight and cold temperatures. Most of them have been loved throughout the years as a tradition of seasonal cycles and the celebrations they bring about.
Here are a few main tips that will help you out with your Christmas plants:
- If the plant pot comes wrapped in a decorative foil or paper, make sure that you cut a hole in the bottom so that water can freely drain.
- Check in on your plants daily to be sure that they don’t need water. If your home is kept relatively cool, you should only need to water once a week or so.
- Never leave your pot in standing water as it could encourage root rot.
- Keep your holiday plants away from drafty windows, fireplaces, and hungry pets.