Something Else than a Poinsettia for Christmas, Please!

The poinsettia, it is well known, is THE star of the holiday season and I admit it, every year, I get dozens of them that I offer as gifts to everyone. However, sometimes it’s good to change things up. And I even know people (whose identity I won’t mention) who downright hate poinsettias.

Poinsettias… always poinsettias. Image: Pixabay.

For those Christmas grinches, and for those who would like to make a change, there are some alternatives. Very nice alternatives.

The Mysterious Big Onion

The amaryllis has spectacular flowers and it’s so easy to grow! Image: Pixabay.

I hope to have the chance, maybe next year, to talk to you at length about the amaryllis (Hippeastrum), because, in my opinion, it is the perfect plant to offer to someone who does not garden. In summary, this is a large bulb that flowers as soon as it emerges from dormancy. We buy the bulb and 6 to 8 weeks later, it blossoms! And what a beautiful bloom! Amaryllis flowers so easily that vendors even offer wax-dipped bulbs. Yes, even without substrate and without watering… they bloom. That said, I much prefer potted plants, because the interest of amaryllis is that it’s super easy to get them to bloom again almost whenever you want!

The Perfect Duo for Fresh Apartments

And now for two plants that like freshness: the indoor azalea and the cyclamen. The best way to shorten their flowering period is to place them in a very warm and cozy room!

Azaleas must be kept in a fresh room. Image: Shutterstock.

At first glance, the indoor azalea (Rhododendron indicum) is not an indoor plant: it’s a rhododendron, quite similar to those grown in our gardens. It has become a holiday plant because it is easily grown into a small miniature tree and growers can make them flower easily. Once in bloom, it is a magnificent plant!

To keep an azalea in bloom as long as possible, it must be provided with cool temperatures, between 60 and 70°F (16 and 21°C) as well as regular watering. You must at all costs avoid letting the soil dry out completely; otherwise it will lose its leaves. Or worse, its flower buds.

Leaves as beautiful as the flowers. That’s what you get with cyclamens. Image: Buntysmum on pixabay.

The same goes for the cyclamen (Cyclamen), another very beautiful plant that is very popular at Christmas. It is also a plant that likes cool temperatures. On the other hand, the cyclamen is a little more capricious in terms of watering. Indeed, the soil must remain constantly moist, but it is preferable to water by placing the plant in a saucer filled with water. This is what is known in the trade as “bottom-watering”.

In both cases, they are plants that like full sun, but you have to find a way to have the right balance between the heat given off by the full sun and the coolness of a basement without windows! The good thing is that these plants can be placed very close to windows in winter, because they’ll appreciate the freshness released by their biting cold. Unfortunately, in many houses, the heaters are just below the windows…

For the Long-Term Project

The beautiful trumpet-shaped flower of the Christmas Cactus. Image: Pollydot on Pixabay.

Christmas cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) are among my personal favorites because they are such easy plants to keep alive. Tell me about it! A plant that we can forget to water for 3 weeks and forgives us! Well, I don’t advise forgetting to water your Christmas cactus during the flowering period, because the flower buds will drop like leaves in the fall (been there, done that). But once flowering is over, you can relax!

About watering, it’s a plant that should ideally be allowed to dry out slightly between waterings (three weeks is possible, but not ideal!) It lives well indoors under normal temperatures. For light exposure, full sun is sometimes too strong for this plant. You’ll know right away if there’s too much light because the leaves turn a reddish-brown color. That said, Christmas cacti like good light. With good watering and good lighting, this plant grows and branches generously. And in summer, we take it out to the garden! In short, you can keep this plant for years!

Color for a Short-Term Project

Kalanchoes are easy to grow, but making them rebloom is quite a challenge. Image: Jaclou on Pixabay.

I have always considered kalanchoes (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) as short-lived flowering plants. We buy them. We take advantage of their flowering. Then we dispose of them. You’ll understand that I don’t grow them much because of their “programmed obsolescence”. It’s not that the plant dies after flowering. On the contrary, kalanchoes can live for years as a houseplant. However, like poinsettias, they are very difficult to rebloom because they are short-day plants . So you end up with a beautiful green houseplant!

Despite everything, they are still full of qualities! Flowering lasts a really long time: often, they are still flowering in February! And unlike azaleas or Christmas cacti, the flowers remain beautiful, even when you forget a little watering!

Good light, without direct sun, regular watering and normal temperatures for a comfortable interior are ideal for it. It’s an easy plant.

A series of kalanchoes named Calandiva can now be found on the market. They are simply double-flowered kalanchoes, which gives them the appearance of small roses. Very cute!

All these plants are also great Christmas classics and it’s in December that we find them in droves in gardening stores. They’ll be perfect to satisfy your needs for festive plants, or to fill with happiness any person to whom you want to offer a living gift! By the way, I adoooorre receiving plants as presents!

Admit it… poinsettias are quite lovely! 😉 Image: Donnenstraul on Pixabay.

Julie Boudreau is a horticulturist who trained at the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. She’s been working with plants for more than 25 years. She has published many gardening books and hosted various radio and television shows. She now teaches horticulture at the Centre de formation horticole of Laval. A great gardening enthusiast, she’s devoted to promoting gardening, garden design, botany and ecology in every form. Born a fan of organic gardening, she’s curious and cultivates a passion for all that can be eaten. Julie Boudreau is “epicurious” and also fascinated by Latin names.

14 comments on “Something Else than a Poinsettia for Christmas, Please!

  1. One thing to note is that with the exception of schlumbergera, most of these plants are toxic to pets. If there are animals in the house, maybe consider something else entirely!

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  4. the flowers are beautiful!

  5. such beautiful garden there. really love this

  6. Liz Hathway

    I love cyclamens! Years ago I successfully grew many from seed! I bought a beautiful white one last year and kept waiting for it to stop blooming and go dormant. More than a year later, it once again looks like it may be going dormant but just keeps on blooming!

  7. Embarrassingly, while a student, I told Paul Ecke Junior, the son of Paul Ecke who popularized poinsettia, how much I disliked all the effort and resources that poinsettia production demands. What I meant to say was that I prefer to grow commodities that are not so consumptive, and that are more ‘natural’.

  8. Sue Babcock

    I can take or leave poinsettias. I have cats, so they’re a “no” for me. My mom had the most amazing green thumb; she could get hers to re-bloom for years. I can’t be bothered. And her Christmas cactus? A behemoth that lived for decades! I’ve been trying to coax blooms from my amaryllis for 2 years…nothing. Great strapping leaves, but still no flowers. I refuse to give up, though.

    • I have several Amaryllis that spend the summer outside in a bright but shady space. They bloom reliably every year. Let the bulb decide it’s own schedule so keep the foliage going for as long as possible. Creates stronger bulbs. Amaryllis bulbs can live upwards of 75 years and just get better each year.

  9. Glad to hear I’m not the only person who is less than enthusiastic about these plants! OK, I come from a country where they are essentially an introduced garden weed, and that may have coloured my opinion… And please, why do North Americans pronounce them “Poinsetters” when they are spelt (and pronounced, at least down under) Poinsettias? Weird.

    • I’ve always pronounced it “poin-set-tia,” and I’ve been corrected several times! ?

  10. Lynn Noreen McNamara Y4600402-W

    Our garden is full of them, pulled many up, then we had rain, now the seedlings are everywhere

  11. I have always liked poinsettias (married in December the church was full of them default floral decoration) but have had and enjoyed all of the other plants at one time or another. What I don’t get is this trend to dye and glitter the things!! Recent trip to the grocery I noted purple poinsettias with added glitter – just ick.

  12. I have the same feeling about Poinsettias, I haven’t been purchasing them for the past couple of years. Thanks for your suggestions for other options.

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