Holiday houseplants

Given how many wonderful winter-blooming houseplants there are in the world, I find it sort of astonishing that poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is listed as the best selling houseplant in the US and Canada. But I suppose that fact must be chalked up to a couple things:

  1. Poinsettia are festive and fun. What’s not to love about their bright red (or pink or white or cream or speckled) over-sized flowers (bracts masquerading as flowers, that is) perfectly timed to color up for the holiday season?
  2. And their cultural requirements and growth habits are persnickety and weird enough that most people treat them as seasonal floral arrangements and buy new every year. — Poinsettia have a Goldilocks sort of reputation: Give them too much water and they’re likely to rot, too little and they’ll wilt and drop those pretty bracts all over your table. They’re not crazy about cold drafts either, and if they do survive and thrive in your home, they’ll generally want to grow into leggy shrubs.

On the other hand, we’re far less likely to want to replace Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) every year. They grow slowly enough that they can hang out on our shelves for decades. Generations even. They too are particular about the amount of water they receive but seem much more resilient particularly about under-watering. The worst they’ll do is drop buds, which is disappointing but hardly life-threatening. Check out this post I wrote a couple of years ago about getting them to rebloom, which for most of us usually occurs closer to Thanksgiving than Christmas. Other houseplants that come into bloom fairly reliably around the holidays are shown below (click on pictures or hover over for IDs). I freely admit that they don’t shout Christmas the way poinsettia or schlumbergera do. And camellia, citrus, and sweet olive (Osmanthus fragrans) eventually grow into shrubs that will require a sizable amount of floor space. But they, the Razzleberry Loropetalum chinense, and Gomphrena decumbens ‘Little Grapes’ will stay in bloom for months past the holidays. Like gifts that keep on giving.

Christmas cactus -- Schlumbergera truncata Camellia japonica 'Debutante'American wonder lemon -- Citrus x limon 'Ponderosa' all budded up.Sweet olive -- Osmanthus fragransRazzleberry Loropetalum chinenseGomphrena decumbens 'Little Grapes'

What are your favorite holiday houseplants?