Beautify Your Home with Holiday Plants

Bonnie Nowicki

The Christmas season is in full swing. Purchasing colorful plants or a potted living tree helps put us all in a festive mood. Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are indigenous to Mexico. Their common English name is derived from Joel Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico. He introduced the plant species to the U.S. in 1825. Poinsettias’ colorful bracts (modified leaves) are designed to attract insects to the tiny yellowish flowers in the plant’s center. Purchase full (not leggy) plants whose bracts are firm, not drooping, with the tiny center flower intact. Water when the soil is dry, and drain thoroughly. No fertilizer is necessary. Bright light is preferable and avoid cold or hot drafts. Also, poinsettias are only mildly toxic to pets if ingested in large amounts, not poisonous. Group three poinsettias together for a great look.

I am seeing a lot of Norfolk pines (Araucaria heterophylla) for sale this season. This species of conifer, not pine, originated on Norfolk Island, a territory of Australia. They are sometimes called the Living Christmas Tree. This potted ornamental tree has a delightful, lush appearance and thrives in a bright-light location. The room temperature should not exceed 72 degrees, with ideally high humidity (60%). Water when the soil is dry and drain thoroughly. Miniature Christmas ornaments on this tree would look terrific. I have enjoyed my potted Norfolk pine since early November, adorned with several life-like birds.

Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is another popular holiday choice. It is a small genus of cacti originally found in the coastal mountains of Southeast Brazil. As epiphytes, meaning they grow on something else besides soil, they’re found in the crotches of trees or in rock outcroppings. Their stems resemble spineless, flat pads and flower best when slightly pot-bound. Blooms appear from areoles at the joints and tips of the stems. They prefer indirect light and less water—every 10 days or so is best.

The lovely array of flower colors makes purchasing decisions a challenge. Buy several for more drama. Happy Holidays to all!