Christmas Flowers

Deck the halls with beautiful potted Christmas flowers. These easy-growing bloomers add fresh color to holiday celebrations.

The elegant 'Glace' poinsettia features bright white bracts.

'Glace' Poinsettia

The elegant 'Glace' poinsettia features bright white bracts.

Photo by: Image courtesy of the Biltmore Company

Image courtesy of the Biltmore Company

The elegant 'Glace' poinsettia features bright white bracts.

Start a new holiday decorating tradition by filling your home with easy-grows-it Christmas flowers. These potted beauties keep the color coming long after the festivities are finished—a few will even flower for years to come. Count on Christmas flowers for last-minute gifts and spreading good cheer.


The classic Christmas flower, poinsettia, comes in a variety of sizes and colors. Traditional red remains a favorite, although pink, white, marbled, orange and gold also fill holiday displays. Many garden centers and florists use floral sprays to give poinsettias sparkle and glitz, as well as coat white plants with alternative hues, like blue or purple.

Success with poinsettias starts with transport. In colder regions, never expose this traditional Christmas flower to freezing temperatures. That means don’t leave it sitting in a cold vehicle, even for a few minutes, and refuse to carry it from the store without a protective sleeve. Plastic is fine; paper is better. Make sure your covering is closed at the top. Even a few minutes of exposure to 50º F can cause a poinsettia to drop its leaves later—imagine what freezing temps will do. Remove all coverings immediately upon getting your plant home.

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Poinsettias are not poisonous. If you eat a few leaves, you’ll suffer a tummyache and may vomit, but won’t die. If you’re someone who rises to a challenge, keep your poinsettia alive through summer and try to make it rebloom. For others, the most sensible action is adding it to the compost pile when you tire of caring for it.

Amaryllis and Paperwhites

Bulbs are Christmas flowers that ignite a spirit of wonder. With their goofproof natures, amaryllis and paperwhite narcissus make every recipient feel like a master gardener. Amaryllis delivers on the promise that the softball-sized bulb contains a magical prize. Partially submerge a fat bulb into soil, and get ready for a show. Stems rocket toward the ceiling and explode into floral fireworks.

Paperwhite narcissus also stage a breathtaking display, and these bulbs don’t even require soil. Just fill an old fishbowl with gravel, add a little water beneath, and perch the bulbs atop the stones. Occasional water replacement is all you need to do to conjure pretty green stems topped with fragrant white blooms. Some people love paperwhite perfume; others find it offensive.

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The main difference between amaryllis and paperwhites is that, once the narcissus flower, the show is over. Toss the bulbs in the compost. Amaryllis, on the other hand, gladly flower for years to come with bigger blooms as bulbs age. It’s a gift that truly keeps on giving.

Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus is another holiday flower favorite that easily becomes a treasured houseplant. It’s not unusual to find this Christmas flower spanning generations, as starts are passed from parents to children. Choose a Christmas cactus with open blooms to ensure you get the flower color you want. Don’t assume a coral bud yields a coral flower. Sometimes buds sport deeper hues than blooms.

Despite the cactus moniker, this is one plant that benefits from regular moisture. Water when soil is dry to the touch. Use care, though; it’s easy to overwater a Christmas cactus during winter. The secret to wooing this beauty to bloom in future years depends on shorter days (no light for 14 hours daily) and/or lower temperatures (50-55° F). Stash it in an unused bedroom or near a cool window not near streetlights, and buds should appear.

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