13 Popular Holiday Plants For Festive Gardens

Are you looking for some plants to spruce up your holiday decor? There are of plenty of beautiful plants that will fit that criteria, no matter where you plant to grow them. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley looks at her favorite plants for a festive holiday season!

Red holiday plant poinsettia sitting in pot on bench

The holiday season is not just for celebrating with friends and family, it’s also a great time to grow beautiful, winter-friendly plants. During the holidays’ certain plants are commonly used as decorations or given as gifts. Whether you’re using holiday plants as décor, giving them as a gift, or simply want a beautiful winter container arrangement, there are many different plants to choose from that can make your home feel cheery, and bright.

What many gardeners aren’t aware of, is that most holiday plants can last months after the holidays. They are commonly discarded after the holidays because they aren’t provided the proper care or people don’t want to care for them.

Not all holiday plants are easy to care for and may require constant care to ensure their survival.  If you are looking for holiday plants to decorate your home or to give as gifts, look no further. Continue reading to learn more about the most popular holiday plants to grow or give this season, with a few tips to keep them alive well after the holidays. Let’s dive in!

Christmas Cactus

Succulent growing in pot with green foliage and pink flowers. The plants sit in green plastic pots which rest on a wooden table.
The Christmas Cactus is a low-maintenance succulent blooms during the holidays.

Let’s start with one of the most popular holiday plants, the Christmas cactus. They are a beautiful winter-flowering plant that is easy to care for. You don’t need a green thumb to care for this particular plant. Although it is a cactus, it’s not like most other desert cacti that are drought resistant.

Christmas cacti are native to tropical rainforests and need to be regularly watered to remain happy and healthy. The plant has stemmed segments of flat leaves that hang from the container. Christmas cacti bloom in an array of colors but the most popular colors are red, white, pink, and purple.

Christmas cacti tolerate a wide range of sunlight but shouldn’t receive too much or too little sunlight. The ideal sunlight for Christmas cacti is partial shade. If your cactus is exposed to full sunlight, be sure it’s during the winter months. Too much sunlight in the spring and summer can cause the leaves to become pale and yellow.

Poinsettia

Red and White Plant Growing in Garden For Holidays. The plant has red leaves with white speckling on them.
Poinsettias are some of the most popular holiday plants gardeners tend to grow during the holidays.

Nothing says the holidays are here like a beautiful poinsettia. This classic holiday plant is large with vibrant blooms and lush green foliage. Poinsettia comes in a range of colors from the popular scarlet red to white, cream, yellow, and pink.

Poinsettias are popular container plants during the holidays. It’s common for poinsettia to be sprayed with glitter to make them sparkle and shine. As it grows, the glitter will fall from the plant and you’ll be left with its natural leaves. Once the holidays are finished, it’s very common for poinsettias to be discarded or left to die.

Poinsettias are perennials and can live long past the holiday season if provided the proper care. Many seasoned gardeners opt to plant them in the ground outdoors after the holidays.

Place your poinsettia near bright, diffused sunlight and water once the soils are dry. A sunny location where your plant will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight per day is best. Providing the proper care will allow your poinsettias to live until the next holiday season.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis flowers are red and white growing in garden. Flowers are blooming during the flower season.
Amaryllis flowers are popular indoor plants during the holiday months.

A popular winter-blooming houseplant is amaryllis. They produce beautiful, huge flowers that resemble trumpet lilies. The blooms tend to be a deep red, white, pink, or a combination of all these colors. The produces an array of patterns and the most popular pattern resembles a candy cane with red and white striping.

The blooms can last for several weeks if provided with the proper care. You can find amaryllis at most retail stores during the holiday season.

Typically, amaryllis comes as bulbs in festive containers and depending on the growth stage may take weeks to produce blooms. If you want your amaryllis to bloom during the holiday, purchase it early or choose an amaryllis that is about to bloom.

Amaryllis enjoys morning sunlight turning to indirect sunlight in the afternoon. Keep the soil moist but not wet. The flower will have to be staked to keep the flower from falling over. Providing proper care through the winter will allow you to plant amaryllis outdoors in the spring.

Paperwhites

Flowers are paperwhites growing in garden with white blooms and yellow stamens. There is green foliage in the background that is out of focus.
A common holiday flower, paperwhites have delicate white blooms.

Paperwhites feature clusters of small, fragrant snow-white flowers atop tall green stems. They easily bloom indoors and can be found at most retail stores during the holiday season. Paperwhites take 4 to 6 weeks to bloom so keep this in mind if you want this beautiful flower to bloom during the holidays.

These delicate flowers look great next to red amaryllis and poinsettias. They have similar sunlight requirements to amaryllis and poinsettias making them great for living flower arrangements.

Place them in bright, indirect sunlight for 6 hours or more a day. Amaryllis are tall, top-heavy plants, they may need to be stalked to keep them from falling over and breaking.

Many paperwhites come in a festive container and may have to be repotted before or after the holiday season. They prefer soil that has gravel or rocks in them to help increase drainage and air circulation. The bulb shouldn’t be allowed to sit in soggy soil as this can lead to root rot. Water your container just enough to moisten the top 2 inches.

Rosemary

Rosemary growing in form of a Christmas tree on table. There is a gold star on top of the tree, and the pot is wrapped in white tinsel.
There are many different uses for Rosemary plants around the holidays.

Rosemary is a popular herb to cook with and can be used as a decorative plant around your home during the holidays or year-round. It has slender, needle-like leaves that form around a woody stem. Rosemary can be started anytime if grown indoors in containers. If you plant outdoors, it’s best to plant in the spring.

Rosemary prefers full sun and will not tolerate shade. Provide at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day for best results. A south-facing window is ideal for growing indoors and occasionally grow lights are needed to supplement light. If planted outdoors in a container, bring it indoors before the first frost.

Rosemary is relatively drought tolerant and once mature watering can decrease. Allow the first few inches of soil to dry between waterings. Always water soils till they are moist and avoid soggy soils when possible.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe plant growing in black plastic pot on wooden table. The plant has green leaves with white edging, and it's growing in a pot with bark inside the plastic.
No holiday plant list is complete without including Mistletoe, which has several uses during the holidays.

No holiday gathering is complete without mistletoe hanging above an entryway waiting for someone to walk beneath it. This plant is an evergreen that produces translucent white berries. Mistletoe is more commonly found as a cutting and hung around the home. It’s not very common to grow as a houseplant because it requires a living host to survive.

The whole plant itself is rather unsightly and produces a twiggy ball on the branches of its host. Many people choose to grow branches from the mistletoe and tie them in bundles to hang around their homes. If you choose to purchase mistletoe to hang around your home, you will want to keep it fresh before your gatherings.

Keep your mistletoe branch cuttings in a cool, dry place in a vase of water until you’re ready to hang them. Hanging them too soon can cause them to wilt or dry out. Don’t forget to return the mistletoe branches to the vase at the end of the day. You can keep them alive and fresh for weeks in a cool, dry place with plenty of water. 

Holly

Holly plant growing with berries in garden. The leaves are green with a yellow lining around the edges, and the holly berries are bright red attached to the stems near the leaf.
Another popular holiday plant, holly has a place in garlands, Christmas trees and other holiday décor.

Holly might be the quintessential holiday plant and is a symbol of the holiday season. Known for their small crimson berries and spiky glossy leaves, holly is a beautiful plant to use to spruce up your home for the holiday season. Add to garlands, Christmas trees, and wreaths for a pop of red color.

Holly plants should be planted outdoors in the spring so that being said, you will have to plan if you want holly for the holiday season. Depending on the variety you choose to grow, they may require full sun to partial shade. Most types of holly prefer moist, well-draining soils but research your variety to understand its requirements.

Holly can be pruned in the late fall or early winter to enjoy the weather and holiday arrangements. You can keep cuttings in a cool, dry place in a bucket filled with a few inches of water until you are ready to use them. They will stay fresh in a buck for a few weeks until you are ready to add them to your holiday arrangements.

Croton

Croton plant with green leaves that have red veins running through them. The plant is in a red plastic pot.
Croton plants can come in many different holiday-themed colors.

Bring a bit of the tropics into your home during the holidays with this colorful plant. Crotons have beautiful variegated leaves with an array of patterns. The leaves come in many colors and shapes and tend to have more than one color per leaf. Common colors are red, orange, yellow, and green.

Croton can be a bit of a challenge when grown indoors but if you are patient and understand their demands, they will provide color all winter long. The most challenging part of growing croton plants indoors is regulating ideal temperatures. If the plant is in temperatures that are too cold, it will begin to drop its leaves. Temperatures should stay between 70 and 80° F indoors and outdoors.

Crotons aren’t as sensitive to sunlight and water as they are to temperature. They should be provided with bright, indirect sunlight. A south-facing window in the winter is an ideal location.  Crotons plants will require about an inch of water per week. In the winter, watering can be done on a biweekly schedule.

Anthurium

Red flowering Anthurium plant in garden. The flowers are red and healthy, and have a long yellow center stamen. At the base, there is green foliage.
A tropical plant in nature, Anthurium does well as a houseplant in cooler climates.

Also known as flamingo flower, laceleaf, and tailflower, anthurium is commonly grown as houseplants because they have particular care needs.

During the holidays, they look beautifully mixed in with peace lilies, paperwhites, and live greenery. They have a unique leaf shape and come in red, green, and white colors. The bloom lasts for long periods when provided with the proper care.

Many anthuriums are climbers. They will need warmer temperatures and higher humidity. Don’t be surprised if you see roots growing from the stem and it begins to climb whatever it’s near. The plant should be kept in temperatures between 65 and 85° F. Place in locations that receive bright, indirect sunlight for at least 6 hours a day.

Never allow soils to dry out so stick to a regular watering schedule to prevent dry soils. Care may seem difficult at first but once you figure out the plant’s care needs, it will be worth it. The plant is pretty slow growing which is why you see blooms for so long.

Cyclamen

Red and white cyclamen flowers blooming in garden. There is green foliage at the bottom of the plants, and there are many blooms with red and white coloring.
Cyclamen is a plant with gentle blooms that can be grown indoors.

A winter-blooming plant, cyclamen are popular for their butterfly-like petals that are red, white, or pink. They make excellent centerpieces as they have deep green foliage below their beautiful blooms. The leaves have a frosty appearance making them a good choice during the holidays and winter months. 

Cyclamen can be grown indoors and outdoors in well-draining soils. Place your cyclamen in bright indirect light and try to avoid direct sunlight when possible.

The plant goes dormant in the summer but will rebloom in the fall when provided the proper care. Warmer temperatures send this plant into dormancy, making it a great choice to grow in the winter months.

When grown indoors, the plant may not go fully dormant but lose some leaves and does not look its best. Blooms should resume once the temperatures become cooler. The trickiest part of caring for cyclamen is understanding its water needs. They don’t like to be over or underwatered so checks soils to ensure they are never too soggy or too dry.

Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island Pine tree growing in terra cotta pot indoors. The tree is young, and not fully grown.
While not a true pine tree, this small indoor pine has plenty of holiday charm.

Although it has pine in its name it is not a true pine but a subtropic conifer. They prefer warmth and humidity which makes them excellent houseplants. A great choice for the holiday season as they are often called the living Christmas tree. They are decorated with ornaments and ribbons around the holiday season.

Norfolk Island Pines are popular gifts or decorations and are commonly thrown away after the holiday season. But this tree can be kept as a permanent part of your home garden for many years. The norfolk island pine prefers full sun whenever possible.

They can tolerate long periods of dimmer light conditions as long as warmer temperatures are maintained.

Temperatures should be kept between 65 to 70° F so if growing outdoors in a pot during the summer, bring it indoors before temperatures become too cold. They are relatively drought tolerant but should be watered on a consistent schedule. This should be about every one to two weeks. Check soils often to ensure you are not overwatering or underwatering your norfolk island pine.

Peace Lily

White flowering indoor plant next to tropical plant with red flowers. Plants are sitting in the bright, indirect light with a mist sprayed over them.
When planted with Anthurium, Peace Lilies make a potent flower display of holiday colors.

Peace lilies are a beautiful addition to any holiday gathering. Their waxy green leaves and clean white blooms are a symbol of truce. The peace lily is easy to care for making them a great houseplant. They typically bloom in the spring but can very when grown indoors.

A healthy peace lily might bloom twice a year but the blooms can last a very long time, up to several months. Grow your peace lily in a location that doesn’t receive direct sunlight. The plant is naturally shade loving, making them a good choice in homes with lower natural light levels.

A peace lily prefers drier soils but how much and how often you water depends on the size of the container. If your container has proper drainage holes, water your peace lily once the first few inches of soil are dry. Containers without drainage holes can hold water for too long causing root rot to develop. Check your soils regularly to determine if you need to water your peace lily.

Bromeliads

Red Bromeliad flower blooming in tropical garden. The bloom is red with many petals, and the stamen is yellow in the center.
These showy tropical flowers make great houseplants, especially in the winter.

Bromeliads are showy tropical plants that thrive as an indoor plant and is rather easy to care for. They provide a pop of color during a dull winter and make excellent decorations around the holiday because of their vibrant colors. These showy plants only bloom once in their lifetime and take anywhere from a year to three years to mature.

Bromeliads produce offsets, these are smaller bromeliads that grow from the original plant. The plant will continue to produce color once the original plant finishes blooming. The plant produces multicolored leaves in red, green, purple, orange, and yellow. The leaves can also have a variety of patterns such as stripes or spots.

Place your bromeliads in bright, indirect sunlight. There are numerous varieties of bromeliads, and each has a varying light requirement. Even though these are considered tropical plants, they can handle low moisture levels.

Watering depends on sunlight exposure and the temperature of where they are kept. Generally, the plant will need watering once a week during the summer and much less during the winter.

Final Thoughts

There are many holiday plants to choose from when decorating your home, giving as a gift, or simply looking for a plant that blooms during the cold winter. Many holiday plants get tossed once the holiday is over, but many of these plants will live long past the holiday season. Keep them through the winter and transition them outdoors in the summer for continued enjoyment. Happy holidays!

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