December is upon us! By now, you might have bought your Christmas tree or festive plants such as Christmas cacti or poinsettia, and you might be wondering how to care for them. To help you, I’ve put together this guide, covering the most popular Christmas plants and their care tips.
If you’ve eschewed a plastic tree for a beautiful fir or spruce, you’re in for a treat! These trees look amazing, smell very festive, and bring some real joy to a home over Christmas.
Here’s how to choose a real Christmas tree
Choose right shape for your room, and make sure to measure your space before you go. Trees can look deceptively small when they’re situated in a large garden centre.
When you’re looking for your tree, only buy open trees, not wrapped ones. This is because you won’t be able to see the shape or the quality of the tree.
Do the ‘drop test’ to check for quality and needle drop! Brush your hand along the branches – if lots fall off, don’t buy it.
Finally, cut your tree fresh (or ask for fresh cut to be made) straight across the trunk, taking about an inch off.
How to care for your real Christmas tree
One of the most important things to do when you get your tree is to give it a drink of water. Trees will perform best when placed into water as soon as possible after harvesting. When positioning your tree, place it in a stand with a water reservoir and give it two pints of water for every inch of stem diameter (you might need to do a bit more measuring!) and top the water up each day. Don’t be tempted to shave down the trunk to fit it into a stand – this will make it less able to absorb water.
Place out of sun and away from radiators; ideally, you want your tree in the coolest room of your houre. Spray your tree with an inflammable spray for safety, and use LED lights rather than lights that emit heat.
After the twelfth day of Christmas, take your tree to a composting unit or plant it into your own garden!
Poinsettia are happiest in the home when they’re not too hot and not too cold. They really don’t like the shock of the cold though, so bring a blanket or bag to wrap it in on its journey home – yes, it helps!
In terms of watering, place your Poinsettia on a tray of pebbles and water to add humidity; you can also mist this plant to help keep humidity levels up. Water only when the surface of the soil has dried out though -this plant doesn’t like to be waterlogged.
When it’s spent for the season, leave it alone. Let the plant rest. Then, from autumn, give it 12 hours light and 12 hours dark in a 24 hour period, you may need a rather dark cupboard!
My plant of the month for December 2020, the Christmas cactus is a fabulous plant for this time of year, especially if you want guaranteed flowering.
Unlike other cacti, this won’t suit a sunny windowsill. Instead, place it in a well lit position out of direct sunlight on top of a saucer of pebbles and water to increase humidity (it grows natively in jungles, so it enjoys moisture!).
Like Poinsettia, you should let your plant rest after ti has finished blooming, and start feeding and watering occasionally from April through to September. It’ll benefit from being outside in a sheltered position in the summer; this will encourage winter blooming.
Hyacinths are a buxom, eye-catching flower, and you’ll have probably started to see them popping up on sueprmarket shelves this month.
These are great houseplants for a festive sideboard – keep them in cool conditions and water well once it comes into flower. Hyacinths can bloom for a couple of months if well cared for.
After flowering, snip off the flowers but keep the foliage, as they’ll need the energy to bloom again. Then, plant them in your garden!
Mistletoe is a strange plant really. It’s actually a parasite, which belies its Christmassy, romanticised legend! It grows on hosts plants like apple trees, and it is possible to grow your own mistletoe, but it’s easier to find it at your local greengrocers.
Once you’ve bought or harvested your mistletoe, keep it in a cool place until you want to use it. When you hang it up, it’s best to hang it in a cool place, or outside if possible (for example, above your front door). Spritz it with water if it looks a little dry. It should keep for up to a month.
Amaryllis in wax
Who couldn’t fall in love with the vibrant colour of an amaryllis?! Plus, if it’s kept in wax, it’s so easy to care for because it doesn’t need watering.
Everything the flower needs to survive is already in the bulb, and it is encased in wax to prevent the growth of new roots.
Don’t get too attached, however, as you can’t replant this bulb after it has bloomed.
Which festive plants will you have in your home this Christmas?
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.