Evergreens have been used to decorate homes over the Christmas festivities for a long time and as well as holly, ivy and the essential tree, we love having bright flowers in the home as a reminder that spring isn’t far away.
There’s a bit of a myth that festive houseplants are tricky to grow and don’t last very long. But by choosing the right plant, you can have flowers right up to and beyond Christmas day with just a little bit of TLC. Cyclamen have always been a favourite in our homes, perhaps because they tolerate lower temperatures than poinsettias, which are the number one in America. But although there are some amazing artificial poinsettias available these days, there’s nothing quite like a real plant. Most houseplants will last longer if they’re kept cooler, around 15C to 18C (60-65F), although poinsettias prefer it a little warmer, more like 18C to 21C (65-70F). The biggest problem in our homes now is the heat. It’s good for us, but not our plants!
Keep your houseplants away from radiators or open fires. At the other extreme, most don’t like the cold. Houseplants look lovely displayed on the windowsill, but once you draw the curtains at night, they can get very cold. Keep an eye on watering at this time of year, too. Always water with tepid water, not straight from the tap, and pour away excess in the saucer, just as with any other houseplant.
Available in a wide range of colours, including pink and cream, but red poinsettias are still a firm favourite.
How to grow: When buying, insist on them being wrapped to protect them from the cold when going outside. Never buy poinsettias that are displayed outside in cold weather or have been rained on, which will damage the bracts. Once home, poinsettias prefer a warm spot away from draughts. Keep them evenly moist if possible and on the dry side if in doubt.
After care: With care, your plant should last well into the new year although it may drop lower leaves. In spring, you can prune it hard, similar to how you would prune a rose, repot and grow it on for next year.
Tip: Always water with some cool water from the kettle, which will be lime-free and tepid.
With bright flowers and delicious scent, these easily-grown bulbs are Christmas favourites and make inexpensive, welcome gifts.
How to grow: Keep hyacinths in a cool room. They’re ideal for windowsills because chilly nights won’t harm them. In warm, stuffy rooms the flowers will not last long and the stems will flop. Keep them moist at all times.
After care: After flowering, the whole pot can be placed outside in a sheltered place and the bulbs planted out while still growing, in a sunny spot. They’ll bloom the following year if they’re allowed to die down naturally.
Tip: Don’t let them dry out or the petal tips can turn green and flowering time will be reduced.