91218thumb‘Tis the season for seasonal potted plants. These are not well established houseplant or potted plants that live out on porches and patios through the year. Seasonal potted plants are those that are purchased at their prime, allowed to live in our homes and offices while they continue to bloom or maintain their foliage, and then most likely get discarded when no longer visually appealing.

Poinsettia epitomizes winter seasonal potted plants. Florists’ cyclamen, azalea, holly, amaryllis, Christmas cactus and small living Christmas trees are other overly popular choices. All are grown in very synthetic environments designed to force optimal performance, with no regard to survival afterward. They are like cut flowers that are not yet dead. They are true aberrations of horticulture.

Technically, any of them can survive as potted plants, or out in the garden after they serve their purpose as appealing seasonal potted plants. Their main difficulty is that it is not so easy for them to recover from their prior cultivation, and adapt to more realistic environmental conditions. For now, it is best to enjoy them at their best, and try to maintain them at their best for as long as possible.

Eventually, they all experience a phase in which their original growth deteriorates to some extent, while they start to generate new growth that is adapted to the situation that they are in at the time. Christmas cactus are probably the most proficient at adapting, and becoming delightful houseplants. They are even likely to bloom occasionally, although not on any particular schedule for winter.

Holly, azalea and cyclamen can eventually get planted out in the garden. Most hollies grow into large evergreen shrubbery, but do not produce as many berries as they originally did. Azaleas are cultivars that were developed to be seasonal potted plants, so are a bit more finicky than those developed more for landscapes. Cyclamen can be added to pots of mixed annuals and perennials.

Living Christmas trees are not so easy to accommodate. Most are pines that need their space.


8 thoughts on “Seasonal Potted Plants For Christmas

  1. I happened to be at our local nursery yesterday, buying lovely new soil for my potted plants, and the Christmas cacti and cyclamen were gorgeous. I think once I’m settled (I’m in the process of moving) I’ll get a cyclamen or two. They do very well here in winter, and often are used as bedding plants, as well as being enjoyed in patio pots or as houseplants.

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    1. They are happy to bloom in the garden in mild climates, but do not do so right at Christmas. The bloom and foliage looks very different too. Those that grow in Southern California get really lanky because they don’t get pruned. They look best if pruned to the ground after bloom, and left to regenerate to bloom a year later.

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  2. I love cyclamen, but my home is too warm for them. I have kept a poinsettia from last year going and I can see the stems turning red. It will probably have a bloom in the spring or much later in the winter. I thought about trying to force it with 12 hours of darkness every day, but every dark place in my home gets opened every evening, so I figure to let nature take its course. It’s a pretty plant, like a little tree.

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    1. I don’t think poinsettias are worth forcing. Their color is nice whenever they want to bloom. Forcing is just too much work.
      Do cyclamen not like the cold there? They are out all winter here, but it does not get very cold. They get discarded in spring, but can survive dormant through summer, and regenerate the following autumn.

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      1. I haven’t tried planting them outside, but may try it if they just go dormant in the heat of summer. If they survive in your area–and I’ve seen them wild on hillsides in Greece–they might be okay in a mild winter.

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      2. Others have mentioned that they can freeze where winters are cold. I really do not know how much chill they can tolerate. Also, where winters are colder, they can be obscured by snow while they are trying to bloom. They do well for us because we get no snow.

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