Christmas Plants

Ilona Erwin

Christmas greeting

Loving Christmas for Christmas inspiration

I love the Christmas season, so it is no surprise that seasonal Christmas plants play a part in my celebrations. In a way, we bring our gardens inside during this holiday more than any other. We cut pine branches and holly, make garlands, and wreaths, surround candles, ornament mantles, with all sorts of natural reminders of the outdoors. With Christmas plants however, we have particular elements of the garden for living color and scent.


Poinsettias say Christmas


What plant makes you think of Christmas (besides the Christmas tree, of course)? I know for me, it is the poinsettia. Hybridizers have made the poinsettia an interior decoration diva.
There are so many color variations now, purple, red-orange, pink,white, as well as the traditional bright Christmas red varieties are available. I’ve even seen spotted and
striped.. as well as the unusual colors, an example of what’s available, here.
How to care for your holiday poinsettias?

  • indirect sunlight for at least six hours per day,direct sun should be avoided.
  • room temperatures between 68 – 70° F.
  • water your plant when the soil feels dry to the touch. (don’t let it wilt, or the lower leaves drop.)
  • protect your plant between store your home -keep tightly closed in a large bag

Chilies or Ornamental Peppers

Chile plants, with their vibrant colors and spicy edible peppers, are turning up the heat on traditional holiday plants in greenhouses and on nursery shelves –Albuquerque Tribune

ornamental pepper

I’ve been adding the ornamental peppers to my summer containers, so I can attest to their attractiveness. It has been a longstanding tradition for Southwest American homes to use the brightly colored chilies in garlands and ornaments, so for a Tex Mex theme these plants are good for anytime of the year. They are a bit newer to those in the North, but could be a very welcome sight with their beautiful color.

If you wanted to grow your own (which is very easy from seed) the time frame for beginning would be during July in the summer months, but thankfully those in the plant trade will have some ready for this year, and if you like them you can plan next years holiday plants with your own “Christmas in July” preparations.

Rosemary Trees

Every year I buy one or two rosemary trees, usually at Whole Foods Market. And every year I enjoy them, but can’t keep Rosemary plants much longer than the holiday season. It is usually a case of the unevenness of my watering practices, since they dried out. But I love having these little Christmas-tree-shaped and fragrant plants so much that I get new ones each year, anyway.

This year I am going to use one of my large outdoor pots to plant one in, maybe with a trim of variegated ivy at its base. I’m hoping the larger pot will retain the moisture longer without water logging and thus solve my problem of such a short lived plant (although no shorter time span than Poinsettias). The key to some of these Christmas plant is to give them the growing conditions they like- and they are a bit pickier than the usual indoor plant selections.

Whole Foods Rosemary Tree  photo by Yusuke Toyoda

Whole Foods Rosemary Tree photo by Yusuke Toyoda

How to care for your Rosemary trees?

  • bright light in a sunny exposure
  • room temperatures between 63–65°F
  • water your plant to keep somewhat moist, but not soggy. Don’t let it dry out completely.
  • think about repotting into a larger pot than the one purchased within.

Christmas Cactus

These were Grandma’s favorites, which were probably ‘Schlumbergera x. buckleyi‘, and they are plants that can live a long time given care. Succulent type leaves tipped with piñata colored flowers create a festive air, they are more tolerant of the dryness of our indoor heated rooms. Christmas cacti are available in a number of colors and there are three types of plants that bloom around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.

How to care for your Schlumbergera?

  • bright light in a sunny exposure
  • room temperatures between 70 to 80 °F,night temperatures between 55 and 65 °F
  • water your plant when dry, likes to be slightly under-watered.
  • best when somewhat potbound

Norfolk Island Pine

The perfect little Christmas tree is a year ’round houseplant. I had one for many years, its true name is ‘Araucaria Hetrophylla‘, and for most of us it stays a manageable size, but in its own habitat is known to reach 100 feet! It is offered at Christmas time and I used to decorate it with tiny white paper snowflakes that I had made.
What keeps Norfolk Island Pines happy?

  • bright light
  • room temperatures between 60 to 70 °F
  • Keep consistently moist, but not overwatered and waterlogged.
  • Loves humidity, so if you have a small mister, give it a spritz of water

Norfolk Island Pine
Norfolk Island Pine TLC
Plant of the Week
Bonsai Araucaria advice


The dainty winged flowers of cyclamen, C. persicum, with the ring of marbled heartshaped foliage makes a favorite winter flowering plant. Usually available throughout the holiday season, they come in colors of coral, white, pinks, fuchsia red, and bi-colors.

How to care for your Cyclamen?

  • bright light such as an eastern exposure
  • room temperatures cool, 60-65 °F even 50 °F at night.
  • high humidity and moist soil suit cyclamens; a water tray filled with pebbles underneath is good for them
  • feed with diluted, balanced (the three numbers equal) fertilizer
  • the plants go dormant after their long bloom period

Other Holiday Plants

Christmas in Ohio for creating a cozy Christmas

Would you like to know more about such indoor bulbs as Amaryllis, Paperwhite, and spring bulbs for forcing? These are also Christmas plants that are available during the holiday season. Of course, if you wish to force one of them for Christmas, it would have been necessary to begin in late October, but any that you begin in December are likely to fill you home with their lovely blooms in the middle of winter: January or February.
Find out more on the post for Indoor Bulbs, including some helpful how-to videos.
NY Botanic Garden Fact sheets | Kalanchoe | How to Grow Amaryllis |Amaryllis | Paperwhites

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.