Celebrate Christmas With Plants and Greens

Thanksgiving is now complete and our attention has shifted to Christmas as we all prepare for a month of shopping, celebrating and worship. Plants play a key role in the Christmas celebrations. Most folks add a Christmas tree and greens like wreaths, evergreen rope or swags as part of their decorating for the holiday. The Christmas tree is one of the focal points for most family celebrations and can be a live tree you later plant in the yard or a cut tree you select at a tree lot or a garden center. We have a fair number of Christmas tree farms across our state and many families make an adventure out of going to the farm to select and cut their own tree. Some folks trim their juniper or other needle evergreens at this time of year to bring some fresh greens into the house to add color, scent and life to the festive atmosphere. You can even trim your holly shrubs or other broadleaf evergreens to decorate for the season. Make sure to keep your cut tree standing in water and to refill the water regularly to extend the tree life and keep it from drying out and dropping needles so quickly. If you go with a living Christmas tree to plant out in the yard later, it is important to keep it watered while in the house and to limit how long you keep it in the house before getting it back outside and planted in the yard. Two weeks in the house is best and you should not go over three weeks to avoid dehydration and getting the tree too soft before it goes back outside to face winter weather.

The poinsettia is the iconic flower of Christmas and we use them to decorate our homes, businesses and churches. Poinsettias are a fairly recent addition to the Christmas celebration as they were discovered in Mexico by the first U.S. Minister (Ambassador) to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, in the mid 1820’s. He sent plants of the “Christmas Eve Flower” back to botanist friends in the U.S. and it soon became our Christmas flower. The Poinsettia has evolved with plant breeding to a much more compact plant with impressive colorful bracts in hundreds of varieties and shades of red, pink, white, orange, peach, cream or mixed colors. The actual little yellow flowers are not very impressive but the bracts, which are the top leaves that change colors and make a ring of color under the flowers, are what we enjoy and most folks think are the flowers. Poinsettias are fairly heavy drinkers and will need regular watering while in the house. The varieties grown today will often keep their color and look good all the way up into February, March or April of the following year if you water them correctly and they get adequate light.

Even more recent additions to the Christmas plant party are Amaryllis and Cyclamen. Amaryllis are grown from a bulb and you can buy them already in bloom with their big brightly colored trumpet flowers on display or buy your own bulbs to plant and grow yourself. It is amazing to watch the flower stem emerge from the bulb and push upward to the light and then unwrap or unfurl the impressive and colorful flowers. The long amaryllis leaves usually wait to appear until after the flowers are about complete. Cyclamen or shooting star plants have benefitted from modern breeding and now produce lots more flowers for longer, in a wide array of red, white and pink colors. It is one of my favorite flowers and is being used more and more for Christmas decoration. Cyclamen are grown from seed or a corm, which is a kind of bulb and they like cooler temperatures and will do well by windows or in a room you run cooler.

We hope you enjoy this full month of Christmas celebrations and will celebrate Christmas with plants and greens that help create the holiday atmosphere and add to the fun.

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