4 Holiday Plants To Get This Year If You're Sick Of Poinsettias

Poinsettias don't actually have a historical connection to Christmas. Consider growing these festive plants instead.

November 2, 2017
poinsettia alternatives

Love ’em or hate ’em, it’s hard to escape pyramids of iconic poinsettia plants this time of year. The seasonal red-petaled plant even has its own national holiday, celebrated each December 12, the day that the man who first brought the plants from Mexico to the United States, Joel Robert Poinsett, died.

(Brag your love of gardening with the Organic Life 2018 Wall Calendar, featuring gorgeous photographs, cooking tips and recipes, plus how to eat more—and waste less—of what's in season.)

Though the plant’s green and red color scheme is clearly a factor, there actually doesn’t seem to be any clear connection between poinsettias and Christmas aside from an oft-repeated, but unattributed, Mexican folk story about a girl placing leaves at the feet of the Virgin Mary at a Christmas Eve service, at which time the weeds burst into a brilliant red. In reality, poinsettias have been around since the time of the Aztecs—long before Christianity came to the shores of their native Mexico—when they were used for medicinal purposes and for red dye.

You can green up your home all year round by growing these herbs inside:

Looking for something different this year? There are plenty of other plants that deserve to be a part of your holiday decor. Here are a few festive alternatives if you’re not a poinsettia person.

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More elegant, but just as brightly colored as poinsettia plants, amaryllis are tropical species that can be kept healthy year after year if you take care of them properly. And the different varieties come in all sorts of colors—pinks and oranges in addition to traditional white and red flowers. Amaryllis can be expensive if you buy flowering plants at a nursery, but you can also grow them from a bulb inside in containers, even during cold winter months, a bonus considering that it’s hard to find organically grown houseplants in stores.

Related: How To Grow An Amaryllis That Will Bloom Year After Year

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Paperwhites' fragrant white flowers resemble daffodils, not surprising since they belong to the same species. One common complaint about this plant is that the flowers can grow too tall and become top-heavy, causing the container to topple over. Luckily, researchers at the Cornell University Flowerbulb Research Program came up with a solution: Plant paperwhite bulbs in the traditional gravel-and-water mix, and after they begin to show roots, pour out the water and replace it with a mixture of water and 4 to 6 percent alcohol (vodka or gin will do). By “pickling your paperwhites,” you'll reduce their growth by a third and prevent toppling.

Related: How To Plant Your Holiday Paperwhites Outside

ornamental peppers
Ornamental Peppers

Perhaps the ultimate Christmas houseplant, ornamental peppers (Capsicum annuum) have dark green, waxy leaves with little flowering peppers that look like Christmas-tree lights. The peppers usually start out green then change from to white to purple to orange to red, and often all of the colors are present on a single plant. The more light the plants receive, the more colorful they become. Just beware: Though the peppers are edible, they’re very hot, so keep pets and kids from eating them.

Related: How To Grow Peppers From The Same Plant Year After Year

Norfolk pine tree
Norfolk Island Pine

These may not bear any flowers, but tiny Norfolk Island pines in pots are becoming increasingly popular holiday houseplants. One reason is that they look a bit like small Christmas trees and can even be decorated with light ornaments and tiny light strings (regular ornaments are too heavy for their branches), making them perfect for apartment dwellers and people who don't like the thought of chopping down real trees or buying plastic fake ones. However, these trees can grow to 100 feet in their native island habitat, so the houseplant variety, which can reach 12 feet, usually has to be composted or mulched once it’s too big for your dwelling. You can try replanting them outdoors if you live in a warm climate, but they aren't hardy enough for most U.S. regions.

Related: The Crazy Number Of Insects That Could Be Hiding In Your Christmas Tree