First, holly, one the more traditional Christmas plants. The most ancient of Christmas traditions of decorating churches and homes derives from the Roman festival of Saturnalia, a seven-day fest of debauchery and drinking. Later, Christians adopted holly to represent Christ’s crown of thorns, the crimson berries a symbol of his blood, and the evergreen leaves a metaphor for life after death.
Rosemary has been associated with the Christmas period long before poinsettia, as rosemary is believed to have been one of the plants in the manger where the baby Jesus was cradled. In the Middle Ages, people believed that if they smelled rosemary on Christmas Eve, they would be healthy and happy throughout the New Year, so they walked on rosemary spread across the floors.
The massive, six-pointed amaryllis bloom makes an impressive festive decoration at the backdrop of a bleak day. If you want to have a blooming amaryllis for Christmas, you should plant the bulbs no later than the beginning of November, although it’s always safer to just buy one already in bloom.
In pagan festivals, ivy was used to celebrate the Winter Solstice and ward off evil spirits. Over time, due to its clingy nature, ivy has come to represent fidelity and, being forever green, eternal life.
5. White Chrysanthemums
As the chrysanthemum symbolizes optimism and joy, it comes as no surprise that it’s now synonymous with ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. However, white chrysanthemums are also brought into German homes on Christmas Eve because of an old legend in which a peasant family ushers a beggar man in from the cold. Claiming to be the Christ Child, he then fled, leaving two of the flowers behind.
Many a romance has started with an innocent seasonal peck under the mistletoe, but the reasons behind this Christmas tradition vary. In Norse mythology, it is said that after her son’s death from a mistletoe arrow, the goddess Frigg was so distraught that her tears turned to white berries that coat the plant in winter. However, after the gods resurrected her son, she declared mistletoe a symbol of love, promising a kiss for all who passed beneath.
At a time when the garden mostly sleeps, a select cast of delicate but doughty Christmas flowers make an entrance onto an unyielding, wintry stage.
8. Firs And Pine Cones
The first known Christmas tree to appear in England was in the 1760s when the German-born Queen Charlotte put up a tree at the royal court. Sixty years later, the lyrics of the song O Tannenbaum, emphasize the fir’s tree’s year-round appeal: ‘How lovely are thy branches! Not only green when summer’s here but in the coldest time of year.’
Originating from Mexico, the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is tender – but one of the best winter house plants and Christmas plants given as gifts, loved for its brightly colored bracts.
10. Christmas Cactus
Also known as the Thanksgiving cactus and holiday cactus, the Christmas cactus is so-called because it flowers in winter. Once you've learnt how to grow a Christmas cactus, with its dainty tendrils and boldly-colored flowers, you will have a plant that can bloom and bloom again throughout winter and beyond. A Christmas cactus prefers dappled natural light and well-draining, loose potting mix in winter; in growing season – from spring to September, it will enjoy slightly brighter light. Feed monthly in growing season, too, to guarantee more flowers.
Wonderful Christmas plants as gifts, indoor cyclamen are ideal for indoor displays; larger than outdoor cyclamen, they are native to the Middle East; outdoor cyclamen are an essential ingredient in your winter hanging basket ideas. Cyclamen come in a range of festive colors – from white to vivid pinks and reds – and will flower even when it's freezing outside.
Winter gardens, containers – and even pots indoors – are always at their best when heather is included in the mix. The colors – green, pinks, whites and purples – really stand out against other foliage that has faded to grey or brown; heather also attracts bees year round.
If you are planning a winter garden, snowdrops should be on your list – but equally, forced snowdrop bulbs make wonderful Christmas plants as gifts. Why plant snowdrops? They herald the coming of spring – guaranteed to lift the spirits on dreary winter days. Keep snowdrops cool to guarantee longer life indoors.