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14 Best Christmas Plants and Flowers for the Holiday Season

Decorating with Christmas plants and flowers is a great holiday tradition to start or continue in your home.

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Christmas Plants and Flowers

For many of us, the holidays present yet another reason to purchase more plants. I always buy a big amaryllis bulb or three to pot up and watch grow throughout the season. Will it bloom by Christmas?

I marvel at the new poinsettia varieties developed by breeders. I promise myself I won’t buy another, until I see a pretty one I’ve never seen before. Another Christmas cactus? Yes, please. And after the holidays, I’ll line it up with my other cacti from Christmases past.

You get the idea. I love to fill my house with special Christmas flower and plants. They’re as much a holiday decoration for me as a Christmas tree. When cared for properly, many will last well after the new year. Even after their blooms fade, some become favored houseplants, and a few can be planted outside.

Here are some of the many Christmas flowers and plants to tempt us, along with some special flowers that are a fun challenge to get to bloom.

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AmaryllisDigiPub/Getty Images

Amaryllis

Amaryllis are usually purchased as bulbs. They often come already potted, or with a pot and potting soil.

When potting an amaryllis bulb yourself, leave the upper one-third of the bulb above the soil line. Keep it watered and it’ll soon grow and flower. I cover the potting soil with green moss sheets to make it more decorative. You can also purchase a waxed amaryllis bulb which will grow and flower with virtually no care.

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Poinsettia (Common Poinsettia ; X'mas Flower)Welcome to buy my photos/Getty Images

Poinsettia

I’ll make the claim that poinsettias are the most recognized potted Christmas plant. They show up everywhere by early November, sometimes even late October.

To be sure yours is in peak condition for Christmas, remember it’s a growing plant. If you use it to decorate for a dinner or party, move it back to where its plant needs are met.

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Beautiful pure white narcissusouchi_iro/Getty Images

Paperwhites

Paperwhites are small narcissus bulbs easily forced into bloom in soil or a bed of small rocks.

To keep your paperwhites from becoming tall and floppy, give them an alcoholic beverage. No kidding: Researchers at Cornell University recommend watering with a four- to six-percent alcohol solution. To time your paperwhite blooms for Christmas, plant them around December 1.

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Christmas Tree And Gifts At HomeLynn Hunt/Getty Images

Norfolk Island Pine

These pines, which can’t take temperatures below 35 degrees, are great houseplants for most of us. They usually show up in the stores decorated with a bow and a few red baubles.

They’re the perfect holiday tree for showcasing all my smaller ornaments that would get lost on a big one. If you buy one for Christmas, with proper care you’ll enjoy it for many years.

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Potted culinary herbsGary Moss Photography/Getty Images

Rosemary Topiary

Rosemary is an herb native to the Mediterranean. I often buy a potted rosemary topiary clipped in the shape of a Christmas tree.

They look great as a table decoration, but I consider them a fussy houseplant at best because they need lots of light. I love having one at Christmastime, but I’m content to let mine go to the compost after the holidays.

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Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera)Nadezhda_Nesterova/Getty Images

Christmas Cactus

Is it a Christmas cactus or a Thanksgiving cactus? They’re different species of Schlumbergera. You’ll likely find more Thanksgiving cactus for sale, but buy it anyway to enjoy while it’s in bloom.

It’s an easy houseplant to maintain. It will rebloom each year but may not hit the mark for Christmas. If you want it blooming on Christmas Day, buy one that has buds right before the holiday.

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Close up of Ivy in brown flowerpot against window, New England, USATonya Nunn/Getty Images

English Ivy

Here’s one of my favorite ways to use English ivy houseplants for Christmas decorations: Pot up three amaryllis bulbs in a terra cotta bowl, then plant the English ivy around it.

If the amaryllis finishes blooming before Christmas, I pull them out, replace them with big round candles and still have a nice centerpiece. Then I repot the ivy to keep it growing as a houseplant.

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Closeup of the white petals on a Christmas RoseAkchamczuk/Getty Images

Hellebores

Hellebores are worth looking for during the holidays and can be found if you know the right florist. Commonly called the Christmas Rose, this hardy plant blooms outside in the winter even in cold climates.

As a potted flowering plant, it blooms for a few weeks. I keep it going until spring, when I can acclimate it and plant it outside near where my Christmas roses from past years grow.

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Blooming Cyclamen In A PotMargarita Zhilova/Getty Images

Cyclamen

I often see florist cyclamen for sale in December. Some people find them fussy, but their blooms — usually red, white or pink — will last several weeks.

They’re challenging because they like to go dormant after flowering, and most of us lack the right conditions or patience to get them to rebloom. I treat my cyclamen like a cut flower arrangement. After the blooms fade, I compost it.

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Caladium Pink SplashNora Carol Photography/Getty Images

Caladium

What’s next in the holiday parade of flowers and plants? Caladiums, which many of us consider a tropical plant for the shade garden to add color in the summertime.

Now Proven Winners has introduced Heart to Heart Christmas caladiums, grown as houseplants through the holidays. The variegated leaves in all shades of red, green, pink and white are perfect for Christmas.

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Lily of the valley in morning lightRiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images

Lily of the Valley

You won’t find pre-cooled Lily of the Valley pips (the growing tips and roots) for sale. But if you have Convallaria majallis growing in your garden, dig up a few pips after they’ve had sufficient time to cool in the fall. Pot them up, and they’ll soon grow and flower.

I’m still working out my timing. Mine bloom in January, but someday I’ll get them to bloom for Christmas.

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Snowdrop flowers blooming in winterMuzka/Getty Images

Snowdrops

Another flowering bulb you can try to grow for the holidays is snowdrops, Galanthus sp. Start with newly purchased bulbs or dig a few out of your garden. They require at least a 15-week chilling period and then a chilly spot (around 60 degrees) to grow and flower.

It’s worth experimenting if you have the time and patience. They make an impressive but tiny holiday display!

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MistletoeAYImages/Getty Images

Mistletoe

Kissing under the mistletoe is a holiday tradition for many. Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that grows in the tops of trees. It’s also dioecious, with separate male and female flowers on different plants.

If you find real mistletoe sprigs for sale, they were likely collected in the wild. All parts of mistletoe are toxic, so if you plan to decorate with it, consider an artificial mistletoe sprig.

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Ilex aquifolia Interior decoration for Christmas. Green Bush with red berriesAnna Nelidova/Getty Images

Holly

Another traditional potted plant that shows up for Christmas is holly, Ilex opaca. Enjoy it for the holidays, then consider putting it outdoors in the spring where it grow as a potted plant.

If you live in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 9, grow holly in your garden and clip sprigs for holiday decorations. Remember, you need a female and male plant to get red berries on the female plant.

Carol J. Michel
Carol J. Michel is an award-winning author of several books including five gardening humor books and one children's book. As the holder of degrees from Purdue University in both horticulture and computer technology, she spent over three decades making a living in healthcare IT while making a life in her garden. She started writing about gardening on her blog called May Dreams Gardens which lead to numerous magazine articles, her books, and a podcast called The Gardenangelists. She was recently named a GardenComm Fellow by Garden Communicators International.