17 Best Christmas Plants

Filling the air with Christmas magic and wonder is easier when you include these delightful Christmas plants in your decor. Not only do they bring the room to life with their delicate greenery and cheery flowers, but many Christmas plants and flowers help to carry on Christmas traditions, too.

Whether you are looking for the best Christmas plants for gift giving or just want to brighten your home this Christmas holiday season there is a perfect Christmas plant waiting for you.

Poinsettia 

Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) hold the place of honor as the most popular Christmas plant with over 35 million plants sold in the U.S. every holiday season. These delightful plants sport blooms in a range of colors from bright red, pink, and white to dramatic variegated varieties. Like many holiday plants, Poinsettias are forced into bloom in midwinter to bring holiday cheer.

It may surprise you to learn that the flowers on poinsettias aren't really flowers at all. The bright red blooms associated with poinsettias are actually colored bracts. The real Poinsettia flower consists of tiny yellow flowers in the center of the colored bracts.

While most people consider a poinsettia a disposable plant and toss it in the compost bin after the holiday season, these Christmas plants will live for years with proper care.

Move your poinsettia plant to a location that receives bright light from a sunny window and water them when the soil dries. Don't worry if it drops some leaves. New leaves will soon appear and your poinsettia plant will revive.

Orchid

Orchids add an exotic flair to the holiday season. While they are not always considered a Christmas plant they make a dramatic and showy holiday display. These tropical plants may look fragile, but they are actually relatively easy to grow indoors. Initial holiday blooming may last for several months.

Place orchids in bright, indirect light in an area free of hot or cold drafts. They do quite well in a bright eastern, western, or even a southern window during the winter. Avoid them in direct sunlight. Water them once a week (or whenever the soil dries) to saturate the soil and then let it dry again.

Christmas tree

Christmas trees adorn the homes of both Canadians and Americans in surprising numbers every year. While many urban dwellers may have switched to artificial trees the evergreen tree is still a booming business in the U.S. and Canada. Many people prefer the lovely blue spruce for a Christmas tree, but balsam fir and pine are popular, too.

It seems that all that is really required in choosing a Christmas tree is that the tree has evergreen foliage in the classic pyramidal shape.

The tradition of bringing evergreen trees inside the home to celebrate Christmas dates back to early German celebrations of the winter solstice. The evergreen tree was called a tree of life because its deep green leaves stayed bright all year. It was not known as a Christmas tree until the 17th Century when it was first observed as a religious tradition to honor the birth of Christ.

Christmas trees can be composted, but composted pine can be harmful to other plants and is best avoided if you intend to use your compost for gardening needs.

There are many species of evergreen trees prized as Christmas trees. Some of the most popular include:

Popular Christmas Trees

Blue spruce

Blue spruce (Picea pungens Engelm) is prized as a Christmas tree because of its beautiful blue-green needles, its asymmetrical shape, and its ability to hold needles for a long period inside. It also has stiff branches (and sharp needles) that hold ornaments that may cause less sturdy trees to droop. On the downside, the fragrance of blue spruce is less than desirable. Blue spruce can also be purchased in pots for display as a living Christmas tree and then planted outside after the holidays. 

Balsam fir

Balsam fir (Abies balsamea) is prized for its aromatic needles that fill the air with traditional Christmas fragrance. Balsam Fir trees are typically pruned and trimmed at a tree farm to give them the dense branches and shape you desire. Balsam fir branches are not as sturdy as blue spruce and may droop under the weight of heavy ornaments. Use medium to lightweight ornaments on a Balsam Fir tree.

On the plus side, when you trim the lower branches before setting up the tree, you can use them in pots or decorative buckets filled with water to spread the Christmas cheer throughout the home.

Norfolk Island pine

The Norfork Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla) makes a captivating living Christmas tree as it is a tropical plant often sold potted for that very purpose. It is typically bedecked with brightly colored ribbons and bows or other miniature tree ornaments. These small-scale Christmas trees are ideal as centerpieces or tabletop trees.

Your potted Norfolk pine will grow for years inside as potted plants when given proper care. Place your Norfolk pine that receives bright light as they need sufficient light to thrive. They can even tolerate direct sunlight, especially during the winter months.

Pot them in well-draining soil and keep the soil evenly moist, but not soggy.

Christmas cactus

The Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii))is one of the most common Christmas plants grown in homes around the world. This plant will live for years putting on a stunning show each Christmas with its showy and colorful blooms. It is often confused with the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncate ) that blooms a few weeks earlier, typically in November. These easy-to-grow plants are native to tropical rainforests of Brazil and aren't really cacti at all. They are epiphytes that grow on other plants in nature. A Christmas cactus has smooth edges on its fleshy leaves, while the Thanksgiving cactus has serrated edges.

You can't go wrong adding these Christmas plants to your collection of houseplants as they will live for years when provided with bright light from a sunny window and watered to prevent the soil from drying out completely. They do need complete darkness at night for several weeks in the fall to stimulate blooms for Christmas time.

Cyclamen

Cyclamen is commonly referred to as its scientific name but is sometimes called a Persian Violet. The most common variety of florist plants sold during the holidays is Cyclamen persicum. This delightful flowering plant puts on quite a show with its bold flowers that look like butterflies dancing above the foliage.

Flower color ranges from pink or white to lovely shades of red and lavender. Cyclamen plants drop their leaves after blooming and go dormant for a month or two. Withhold water and place them in a cool, dark place for at least 8 weeks, or until you see signs of new plant growth.

Move them to an area that receives bright, indirect light. Water to saturate the soil and then let it dry out before watering it again. New growth will soon appear and your Cyclamen plant will likely rebloom in a few weeks.

Frosty Fern

Frosty Fern (Selaginella kraussiana), also known as Frosted Fern, hits the stores in time for the Christmas Holidays. While it really isn't a fern at all, this plant likely gets its popularity from its delightful Christmasy name. In addition, this miniature plant produces new foliage with enchanting white tips that make it look like it has been frosted with snow.

This tropical plant needs high humidity and will suffer in dry air. Grow it in a terrarium or on pebble trays to keep the humidity above 70 percent. It likes medium to low light and needs temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees.

Amaryllis

Delightful amaryllis can be purchased in full bloom during the winter holidays but are most often purchased as bulbs and forced to bloom in vases of water or in pots. These magical flowers grow quickly sending up tall green stems topped with one or more trumpet-shaped blooms. They are prized for both their beauty and their sweetly fragrant blooms.

Amaryllis blooms range in color from traditional red and white to lovely shades of pink, rose, and apricot with many striped or variegated varieties too.

Amaryllis will live for years if they are given the proper care. After blooming, cut off the blooms, but leave the stalk intact. Your amaryllis plant needs the green stem to perform photosynthesis and store energy in the bulb for another season.

Move it to a bright window and water it when the top inch or two of the soil has dried. Move the plant inside for the summer and bring it in in the fall.

Rosemary

Rosemary is a fragrant herb with tiny green needles that look a lot like the needles of Christmas evergreens. When grown in a pot and trimmed to a pyramidal shape they look like a tiny Christmas tree just the right size for tabletop decor or as centerpieces in your Christmas displays.

These perennial herbs will live for years in a pot and can even be added to the perennial bed in southern climates. They are cold hardy to USDA plant hardiness zones 6 or 7 through 10 and must be overwintered inside in colder climates.

Place rosemary in a sunny window where it receives bright light for at least 6 hours a day. Water it to saturate the soil and then let the soil dry before watering it again.

Paper whites

Paper whites make a striking display during the cold, dark winter days. These Christmas plants are also sold as bulbs that can be forced to bloom in a vase of water, a pot of pebbles, or in the soil. Paper whites are actually a miniature narcissus often called a Tazetta Daffodil.

While paperwhites can be grown in the soil in USDA zones 8 through 11, those sold at Christmas time are already primed to force into blooming. Paper whites that are forced to bloom in the winter expend all their energy developing their delicately scented blooms and will not typically rebloom.

Dispose of paper whites in the compost bin once they have completed the blooming cycle.

American mistletoe

American Mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) graces doorways, windows, and archways in homes across the U.S. and Canada as these Christmas plants are thought to bring good luck and ward off evil. They are often hung over archways as an invitation for guests to kiss under the mistletoe.

Mistletoe does grow wild in the southern United States where it grows on a host tree, but don't expect the mistletoe you buy in the store to continue to grow. These decorative twigs and sprays are meant for display during the holidays and not as a permanent plant grown indoors.

Compost Mistletoe once the holidays have passed and the leaves are wilted.

English Ivy

English Ivy (Hedera helix) isn't really a traditional Christmas plant but when it is grown in the shape of a wreath it looks like one. This vining plant can be trained to grow in the shape of a wreath with a simple wire or metal coat hanger.

This plant is commonly grown as potted plants all year round, but it can be planted outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9 after the winter months have passed.

English Ivy likes bright light but will grow in medium light. Keep the soil slightly moist in a pot with well draining soil. It thrives in full or partial shade.

Evergreen Shrub

Many people prefer the thought of having a living Christmas Tree as the tree can adorn the home for the holidays and live on in their landscape when the holidays are done. This often leads to nearly any evergreen tree or shrub being trimmed into a conical shape and sold as a living Christmas tree.

In northern climates, where the ground is frozen by Christmas time, the evergreen shrub will need to be cared for before it is time to plant outdoors. Place an evergreen shrub you intend to plant outside in the spring in a cool location and water to keep the soil from drying out.

Many are well-suited for an unheated basement or room that stays above freezing. Check the care instructions for your specific evergreen shrub carefully to provide it with the care it needs.

Pear Tree

The image of a partridge in a pear tree is synonymous with Christmas. The image was made popular by the Christmas Carol the Twelve Days of Christmas. According to Christian beliefs, the partridge represents Christ as it reportedly will sacrifice itself for its young. The pear tree represents abundance.

While you could display a young pear tree at Christmas time, it wouldn't have any leaves (they drop their leaves in winter) and wouldn't look like the storybook image of a partridge in a pear tree. You are more likely to find artistic renditions of a pear tree in full foliage for display at Christmas time.

If you do receive a real pear tree as a Christmas plant, you can plant it outside when the ground thaws in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 through 9, depending on the variety. Plant them in full sun and keep the soil evenly moist until they are established.

Most species bloom in early spring and may produce fruit in late summer. However, be aware that even if your tree produces flowers in the spring, it might not produce fruit in late summer or fall. It may take several years before your pear tree produces fruit.

Christmas wreaths

Traditional evergreen Christmas wreaths decorated with flowing red ribbons, cones, and bright red berries can be found on front doors, decorating decks and porches, bedecking fences, and otherwise brightening homes across the globe. The circular shape is said to represent everlasting life and the evergreen boughs represent rebirth or renewed life, at least that's the symbolism in the Christian faith.

Christmas wreaths are typically decorated with lightweight ornaments, ribbons, and Christmas balls. But there is no hard and fast rule to what you can add to your Christmas wreath. These versatile Christmas plants can be decorated by theme or color or even left plain adorned with a flowing red ribbon.

Remove all the ribbons and bows (and other ornaments) from the wreath after the holiday season and toss the evergreen boughs in the compost. If your wreath contains pine boughs, remove them and discard them in the trash as composted pine can pose a danger to some plants.

Christmas plants make delightful hostess gifts to show your appreciation, but don't overlook giving them to the plant lovers on your list, too. Keep in mind the care the Christmas plant needs after the holidays, too. While a living tree may make an enchanting gift, the recipient may be disappointed if they don't have a place to plant it in the spring. Likewise, a true plant lover may prefer a plant to care for and nurture throughout the year and be disappointed with one that is tossed when the holidays are done.