Living Space

Use flowers, plants and real greenery to liven up the holidays

Tribune Content AgencyDecember 6, 2013 

Christmas cactus are hardy, love the indoors, and they’re stingy drinkers.

FOTOLIA

This year, instead of putting out another tired pot of poinsettias and fake ferns, why not go with something living instead? In fact, winter is a time when many flowers are at their peak, making them a terrific option for holiday decorating.

Better still, living plants clean the indoor air, and when spring comes around, you can often take them outdoors. Besides looking fresh and natural in your home, live plants also make great gifts.

Add snowy white

Some of the most popular potted holiday flowers are paperwhites and cyclamen. Paperwhite bulbs are available in most home and garden centers and are easy to force indoors. ($29, Harryanddavid.com).

Cyclamen also come in a variety of colors from white to pale pink and deep fuchsia, making them a flexible choice. FTD offers a beautiful gold container of white cyclamen that would look beautiful right through winter. (For more on cyclamen, see Nancy Brachey’s column.)

Other choices for white flowers include jasmine and gardenia plants. Their waxy, dark green leaves and scented blooms will drive the winter chill out of your house and both can be planted outdoors once the seasons change. Finally, consider an orchid. These plants get a bad reputation for being delicate, but they really aren’t difficult to maintain. A window with indirect light and once-a-week watering keeps their big blossoms happy.

Brighten up with red

If traditional red is the color you’re looking for, there’s a wide range of plants to choose from. Christmas cactus is always a good choice. These plants are hardy, love the indoors, and they’re stingy drinkers. Try a cheery red-and-white version with candy-cane coloring ($59.95, JacksonandPerkins.com) for a truly holiday feel.

If big, bold flowers are more your style, nothing tops amaryllis. Usually grouped as three or more blossoms, these showy flowers steal the show. Find them now at your local garden or home center, or order online. Another good choice that can easily make the transition from house to patio is kalanchoe. These plants come in a variety of colors, look wonderful with holiday decor and are easy to care for.

Go for greenery

Of course, not all plants have to be blooming or showy to add a warm and inviting touch to your rooms. Simple cedar, juniper, or rosemary plants have a holiday look and add a nice spot of green. Try a small trio of potted juniper plants. Add burlap coverings and red bows for the pots, and you’re all set.

Of course, all kinds of trees can be purchased live, from spruce and pine to fir and cedar. The smell is incredible.

Still other options are wreaths made of eucalyptus, olive branches or bay leaves ($49, proflowers.com). Try a miniature citrus tree, such as a Meyer lemon, blood orange or kumquat. Two-year-old, 2-foot-high trees run about $40 and do well indoors (fourwindsgrowers.com).

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