Whether you’re buying a Christmas plant for amazing Aunt Hortensia or your student son who barely remembers to feed and water himself, let alone another living organism, there’s a festive houseplant out there for everybody. Here are my top ten plants to give as gifts this Christmas. Or maybe just to treat yourself!
Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) have enormous flowers, and what they lack in subtlety they make up for in colour.
Plants ranked from beginner to expert
One word: bulletproof! A flaming Katy will tolerate extremes of temperature and a neglectful owner. Too much love (water) is more likely to kill it. Perennial, but usually discarded after flowering (main image).
Just give an amaryllis bulb bright light, warmth plus a little water and watch it grow. Makes a nice gift as you get to see it grow, plus the flowers are colossal. Will grow leaves afterwards and can be kept to flower the following year. Intrigued? Read more from Alan, here:
A seasonal favourite. There are a few different types of flowering cacti around at this time of year. They’re all pretty easy and can be kept year on year, just don’t meddle with them once the buds set, or they may drop. Follow Max’s advice for more info:
Not the easiest, but a guilt-free purchase as cinerarias are usually treated like a bunch of flowers and are discarded after flowering. Their flowers are like an 80s reunion party in electric shades of cobalt, magenta and neon pink often ringed with white. Keep very cool (a range of 7-18°C min. and max.) and well-watered (no soggy ). Choose plants with more buds than open flowers for a longer show.
Florist's cinerarias are party unto themselves with their vibrant colours piercing the reds, pinks and whites of most festive flowers.
Fairy & poison primrose
These are a couple of unusual tender relatives of our wild primrose. Keep in a bright, cool spot and keep an eye on watering – they rot easily, but will suffer if they remain dry for too long. The poison primrose can be a skin irritant to some. They are discarded after flowering finishes.
Dainty and lightly scented, fairy primroses are less often seen and make a charming little gift (or keep it for yourself!)
Clivias are often considered difficult, but their reputation is undeserved. The problem is that they’re expensive, and a plant that costs £25 and drops dead gets bad press quickly. Treat similarly to cyclamen during winter, with bright light and cool temperature. You’ll be rewarded with a long flowering season, followed by gorgeously glossy foliage post-blooms.
Another one that likes it cool and bright. Water from below to prevent crown rot and never leave sitting in water. Dies back after flowering to a tuber which will regrow the following autumn. Read below for advice on this popular holiday gem:
The obvious choice for Christmas is not necessarily the easiest. Still, as long as it gets a warm, sunny spot and is allowed to dry a little between each watering, a Poinsettia will last for a good couple of months and can be kept as a perennial. Print off the article below and stick in in the gift wrap:
Clivias bring richness of leaf and flower colour, and like temperatures around 10-15°C for a long blooming period.
Warn your recipient that they’ll need to reduce their hours at work to fit in the time to look after this one. Festooned with candy-coloured flowers, the azalea has a deservedly difficult reputation. However, like most pets, the fault is often with the owner – avoid heartache and divided friendships by reading here:
You don’t need an RHS Diploma or full contingency of staff and gardeners to keep a Stephanotis happy, but it helps.
The main problem is that they don’t like sudden changes and sometimes, even if the plant is carried home on a velvet cushion and wrapped in damask fabric, it will still drop its buds. Although care isn't quite as demanding as the indoor azalea, its often hefty price tag means Stephanotis is more of a plant for enthusiasts. Pink jasmine is a slightly easier alternative for cooler rooms:
However, if you're smitten with Stephanotis, then stable winter temperatures (10-12°C ), bright light with a touch of winter sun and careful watering will reward you with what is arguably the most beautiful and sumptuously-scented of all houseplants.
The immaculate, porcelain-like blooms of Stephanotis make the care involved in their development worth your while.
Why choose seasonal flowering plants?
This list consists of plants that are known for their blooms, rather than others, like peace lilies, gardenias and anthuriums, which flower year-round and have glossy foliage.
If orchids are your thing, I’ve compiled a list of five relatively easy species/varieties here, which should make selection easier, depending on their requirements: