Christmas Flowers

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are one of the most popular plants in stores at Christmas time. They come in various colors, from pink and marble to red and white. Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not toxic to pets or humans. We do not recommend eating your poinsettia, though, as it can cause nausea and vomiting, and some people or pets may be allergic to them.

Tomorrow, December 12th, is National Poinsettia Day. It marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was credited for bringing the poinsettia from Mexico to the United States. The poinsettia was named after him.

The showy, colorful part of the poinsettia isn’t a flower. It is a leaf called a bract. These bracts change color in response to shorter days and longer nights. Poinsettias need 15 hours of continuous darkness and 7-9 hours of bright sunlight to go through the color-turning process. Any artificial light at night can interrupt the cycle and cause them not to turn.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and Central America. They can grow to be 10-15 feet tall in the wild. You won’t see that here in Ohio, but you can keep them year-round as a houseplant. All you have to do is follow a few guidelines.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis can be found as bulbs or plants around Christmas time. They too come in an array of colors such as pink, white, red and bicolor. Once in full bloom, the blooms can last up to two weeks before dying off.

Most people think that once a Amaryllis is done blooming that is it and they pitch them into the garbage. Unfortunately, they then miss out as Amaryllis plants can continue to bloom and thrive for many years. The longest recorded bulb living to 75 years old.

In nature, amaryllis bloom in spring or summer, but through a process of forced dormancy are made to bloom around Chrismas time.

All parts of the amaryllis are poisonous so keeping them out of the reach of children and pets is a must.

The Netherlands is the worldwide hub for Amaryllis production. They produce some 15 million bulbs a year to export across the world.

Amaryllis are often exchanged as a thoughtful and festive gift during the holiday season.

Holiday Cactus

Three types of Holiday Cactus bloom at different times of the year and look very similar. The difference is in their leaves, blooms, and bloom times.

  • Easter Cactus – bloom around Easter and are seen in stores around that time. Flowers are more star-shaped than tubular than the others.
  • Thanksgiving Cactus – starts blooming around Thanksgiving, but when forced, it can bloom later into the holiday season. Shown in the picture, they have pointy ‘teeth’ on the sides of each stem segment. They often get mistaken for Christmas cacti and may be found in stores labeled as Christmas Cactus, even though they are not the true Christmas Cactus.
  • Christmas Cactus – blooms around Christmas. These are very hard to find in stores. They have a more scalloped or rounded edge to their segments.

Unlike regular cacti, all these are native to the rainforests of Brazil. They do not have the exact growing requirements as common cacti. They are called epiphytes, meaning they grow on other plants in the wild. As houseplants, they prefer a loose, well-draining growing medium. They do not tolerate heavy soils.

Flowering is triggered by shorter days and cooler nights. Like Poinsettias, they need a strict light and dark schedule to develop flower buds—bright daylight followed by continuous darkness with lower temperatures between 50ºF – 65ºF, depending on which variety you are growing. Artificial light and warmer temperatures can cause blossom drop.

They are generally considered non-toxic, but we do not suggest eating them as they can cause vomiting and diarrhea in pets and humans.

Whether you have a Thanksgiving or a Christmas cactus, you’ll enjoy these plants for what they are: easy-to-grow houseplants that often grace the holidays with their lovely flowers. These long-lived plants can be passed down from generation to generation.

Christmas Berry

Called Ardisia, this plant produces ornamental berries that start white and, as they mature, turn to a brilliant red. The berries hang in bunches beneath the dark green leaves. They make this unique plant a real conversation piece.

Native to southern China and Indonesia. Ardisia likes bright, natural light and even full sun for a few hours daily. If taken care of properly, berries can last for many weeks on the plant.

Keep away from pets and small children.