Top tips for buying and using Christmas plants

Matt James shares ideas for encorporating plants into the festive period

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Enjoy festive decorations indoors and out

Some of this country’s most beautiful trees and shrubs, such as Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine), Viburnum farreri and Abeliophyllum (white forsythia), wait until mid-winter to flower. Plant these outside, then cut thin branches for decoration inside.

Choose holly for a classic seasonal favourite

For a tree to bear fruit you need a male and a female plant (berries only appear on the female) or a self-pollinating cultivar such as ‘JC van Tol’. Confusingly, cultivar names aren’t a good indicator of a plant’s sex: the ‘Silver Queen’ holly plant is male, and the ‘Golden King’ is female. If you do have a holly tree that hasn’t berried, identify whether it is male or female and then find it a partner. Look closely: male plants have four yellow stamens protruding from the base of their flowers; females don’t.

Prevent needle drop

To prolong the life of your Christmas tree, position it in one of your cooler rooms. To keep a cut tree healthy, saw a fresh cut just above the end, then promptly stand it in water, which should be topped up daily. For pot-grown trees, keep the compost moist but not saturated. Choose a non-drop Nordmann fir tree rather than a traditional Norway spruce.

Acclimatise your Christmas tree before taking it inside

Don’t put it in a warm room straight away. It needs to grow accustomed to its new environment to avoid premature needle drop. Stand it in the porch or garage for a few days before placing it inside. Once festivities are over, reacclimatise your tree in the same way, before moving it fully outside into a sunny, sheltered spot.

Care for orchids

Phalaenopsis and Cymbidium orchids are popular at Christmas, particularly as presents. Once the flowers have faded, cut out the spike. With regular feeding and misting, the plants will produce more flowers throughout the next year; they prefer a bright spot, out of direct sunlight. Water orchids regularly but never leave the roots in standing water for long periods.

Pamper your indoor houseplants

Poinsettias, cyclamens and hyacinths grown for the Christmas period are usually forced into flower. Position them out of draughts, avoid deep shade and strong sunlight, and keep them damp – but not wet – particularly indoor azaleas. Regular feeding while in flower will also prevent wilting. Fragrant stephanotis and gardenias won’t mind warmer rooms, but mist them daily.

Move houseplants away from hot radiators to a bright, but cooler spot. Increase humidity levels to stop leaf tips turning brown; mist daily or stand houseplants on saucers lined with a layer of gravel or clay granules, half-filled with water.

Featured image: Before heading to your local florist for a poinsettia this Christmas, visit Christmas-star.info for information on the different varieties and essential care tips.