Pot Plants Generally Burn Out

Small conifers grow into big trees.

Pot plants are very different from common potted plants. Potted plants sustain healthy growth within pots or similar containers. They can range from small houseplants to small trees in big tubs out in the elements. Those that do not live for long in a particular pot before outgrowing it can continue to live in increasingly larger pots. They are considered to be sustainable, rather than temporary.

Pot plants, conversely, are generally expendable. They come into the home or office at their prime, but stay only as long as they continue to perform. For some, this may not be more than a month or so. They typically live their entire brief lifetimes within their original pots. Many endured forcing techniques that are difficult to recover from. Some are little more than uncut cut flowers with roots.

Most pot plants are seasonal. Most are seasonal at Christmas time. These include poinsettias, amaryllis, Christmas cactus, azaleas, hollies, cyclamen, rosemary (in conical ‘Christmas tree’ form) and live Christmas trees. Chrysanthemums were seasonal for autumn. Miniature roses will be in season for Saint Valentine’s Day. Easter lilies and hydrangeas will be seasonal in time for Easter.

Recovery from forcing techniques that are necessary to grow unnaturally showy pot plants is not impossible. It just might be difficult. That is why most poinsettias, Easter lilies and miniature roses rarely survive in the garden. Some pot plants, particularly azaleas and hydrangeas, are cultivars that excel as pot plants, but not in a garden. Christmas cactus and hollies are more likely to thrive.

Some types of live Christmas trees are likely to survive as well. That may not be an advantage. Dwarf Alberta spruce can remain potted as a live Christmas tree for several years, and then do well in the garden. Other spruces may remain potted for a few years, but then demand more space in the garden. Most other live Christmas trees either do not recover in the garden, or grow too large, such as Italian stone pine or Canary Island pine.

Potted Plants For Christmas Color

80103thumbAfter all the Christmas decorations get put away for next year, and the Christmas tree eventually gets undressed from all its ornaments, and retired to the compost pile or greenwaste, all the pretty seasonal potted plants remain. Some will bloom, or at least maintain their current bloom, for months. Some might eventually get planted out in the garden. Others might stay potted in the home.

Poinsettias are the epitome of seasonal potted plants for Christmas. Their flashy red bracts last a very long time, even after the tiny yellow flowers are gone. Some are pink, white, pale yellow, peachy, marbled or spotted. They can be grown as foliar houseplants, but will not likely bloom next Christmas. If protected from frost in the garden, they get tall and lanky, and bloom in January.

Christmas cactus is an excellent potted plant either indoors or out where protected from frost. The pendulous growth cascades nicely from a hanging pot. It blooms in phases, but does not stick to a tight schedule. Amaryllis should also stay potted only because it does not do well in the garden over winter. Foliage that develops after bloom will die back next autumn before bloom next winter.

Holly and azalea can be planted directly into the garden where appropriate. Azalea will probably look shabby until it gets new growth. Cyclamen is a perennial in the garden, but dies back over summer. It just might come back with a surprise in autumn. Paperwhite narcissus is perennial too, but exhausts its resources on bloom, so takes a year or more to recover before blooming again.

Small living Christmas trees are more variable than they seem. Rosemary can either be kept potted and shorn, or planted into the garden and allowed to grow wild or into another form. Dwarf Alberta spruce can likewise stay potted or get planted into the garden, but needs no shearing. Both rosemary and dwarf Alberta spruce will want larger pots as they grow. Italian stone pine and Canary Island pine grow into large shady trees, so should only be planted into spacious landscapes that can accommodate them.