Live plants for holiday decorating

holiday decoration cyclamen

Cyclamen ready for holiday decorating. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

For the first time in several years, my son, daughter-in-law and grand dogs are making the trek from Colorado to be here for Christmas. That means a Christmas tree for the first time in a while.

I wandered through a local retailer’s faux tree section, and from a distance, several styles look temptingly real. But I’m a live-tree kind of gal, so a Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) is on the shopping list.

When I don’t have a tree, I go for other kinds of holiday decorations, and these are guilt-free, live plants that when they die, they die, so let them go. Except maybe for one traditional plant.

Christmas cactus ready to start a holiday tradition. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Legacy plant

And that would be the Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii). This is a beloved pass-along plant because for many of us, it came from a grandmother, uncle, best friend or other special person. The houseplant is known to survive for generations, routinely divided for sharing.

Start your own family tradition and give a small pot of Christmas cactus to a young person. For tips on caring for it, download Purdue University’s Christmas Cactus FAQs.


Festive fare

Among the festive, guilt-free selections are long-blooming cyclamens, seed-grown plants with splotchy leaves. Cyclamens are grown to bloom this time of year, especially those with red or white flowers. (Other colors are usually available around Easter.)

If a succulent is more you style, go for a kalanchoe, a thick-leaf beauty that blooms in several colors. These also are long blooming, and among all of these plants, are probably the easiest to grow beyond the holidays, if so inclined. No pressure, though.

Indiana’s state bird adorns frosty ferns. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

One of my favorites is commonly called frosty fern, even though it isn’t really a fern. This soft textured, seasonal plant has medium green foliage with silver tips that give it that frosty look. Dressed for the holiday, frosty fern frequently comes adorned with a northern red cardinal, Indiana’s state bird.

Rosemary topiary. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Foodie plants

For herb lovers, look for a lavender tree or rosemary topiary. These plants can be harvested for tasty flavors. You also may find topiaries made of lavender and basil. Place in a bright window and snip away.

All of these should be available at area garden centers. You’ll also find holiday planters filled with houseplants, more items that make thoughtful (remember, no guilt) gifts for a hostess or host or your coffee table. The metal planters can be used next year, stuffed with pine cones or greenery. Or, recycle it.


Lavender trees. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

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