Gaultheria procumbens, also known as the partridge berry, is a pretty evergreen with festive-looking red berries at Christmas which can be planted outside for the summer or left in a container and it will produce white flowers in the summer. It is worth bearing in mind that most houseplants will grow much faster when relocated outside.
Within the vast range of orchids available, there are many choices suited to giving at Christmas. Cymbidium orchids produce long-lasting blooms while moth orchids can be obtained in a wide range of colors and are not as difficult to maintain as is sometimes thought. If buying for a relatively novice gardener, it is worth considering that in general, hybrid orchid varieties often prove more robust than a pure cultivar.
Hippeastrums, the true name for some of those sold as amaryllis, produce a number of large brightly-colored trumpet-shaped flowers, usually two or four, from the same stem, though some varieties produce more. Their colors range mainly in whites, pinks and reds or combinations of these. They are distinctive, attractive and easy to maintain.
Christmas House Plants for Fragrance
As well as providing color, houseplants with scent add to their attraction as Christmas gifts. Experienced gardeners can cultivate their own plants so that they can be given as appropriate gifts at Christmas. Most of the more common houseplants used for this need to be cultivated so that they bloom ahead of their conventional season.
With bulbs, this is done by forcing, a technique that in general varies the temperature and light that the bulbs are exposed to so that they are induced at the right time. In effect, the natural occurrence of the seasons is being simulated for the specimen plants so that they are induced to bloom in winter.
A generic example of the forcing technique would be as follows:
- Bulbs are buried in damp compost
- The bulbs and their container are covered with some material to prevent light reaching them, e.g. black plastic
- The container is then maintained at a low temperature, usually below 40F, kept damp and inspected periodically
- When the bulbs exhibit shoots of around one to two inches, they can be brought indoors
- Initially they should be kept out of direct sunlight until they begin to “green up”, at which point they can be sited and cultivated as normal
Clearly, with a little research it is relatively easy to time when certain bulbs might be treated in this way. Popular choices for forcing techniques are cyclamen persicum, several hyacinth and tulip varieties, narcissi, primula and scented pelargoniums. House plants that will bloom and be fragrant around Christmas without forcing include some varieties of eucalyptus, and mimosa.
Favorite and Alternative Christmas House Plants
Other popular favorite house plants at Christmas include cyclamen and poinsettia. Achimenes are coming back into fashion but require temperatures to be maintained at above 50F to grow well. Some fruit tree varieties can be at their optimum for Christmas presentation, especially those exhibiting small oranges such as the calamondin.
Cacti and succulents provide another alternative for Christmas gift house plant ideas and are a long-lasting and low-maintenance gift. The Christmas cactus, normally regarded as a hybrid of the schlumbergera genus, provides very colorful flowers and is easy to maintain if kept in a brightly-lit but not too sun-drenched spot.