Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
If you think of parasites, there are probably two words that won’t come to mind. One is romance; the other is Christmas. If someone told you that he had fleas or a tapeworm, your first reaction probably wouldn’t be to kiss him or to put on the Christmas tunes. But if he brought you a parasite that grows on apple trees, the humble mistletoe, then you probably would.
It’s funny how in general, we don’t question Christmas traditions. The Christmas tree, for example - 8 million Christmas trees are sold every year in Britain. But as houseplants go, they’re incredibly impractical. For a start, they’re TREES. They’re normally very big. Furniture has to be rearranged, and house pets have to be kept clear. The needles drop and make a huge mess. And they invariably die very quickly, leaving the council to pick up a phenomenal number of dead trees with their already busy post-Christmas waste collection.
The poinsettia’s another example of a Christmas plant that we don’t question. But the association of poinsettias with Christmas was originally commercial. In the early 1900s, an enterprising man called Paul Ecke sent free poinsettias to television stations in America to display on air from Thanksgiving to Christmas. His sales tactic worked and even now, the Ecke Ranch has a 70% share of the poinsettia market in the US and a 50% market share worldwide.
So this year, consider breaking away from tradition and choose an original Christmas selection. Here are some ideas of plants that will make an impact:
- The exotic crane flower (Strelitzia reginae Bird of Paradise) will produce bright orange and blue flowers from winter to spring. Choose a humulis (pygmaea) variety, which grows well in pots. But you’ll have to be patient; plants only start to bloom when they’re mature (5 years or older).
- Living art is an original way to brighten up your walls. You could fill a frame with succulent plants or share a Christmas greeting by growing your own words – an eco-friendly alternative to tacky lights!
- If the prospect of a Christmas without a real tree fills you with fear, why not consider a bonsai Christmas tree? There are loads of options like dwarf Japanese white pine (pinus parviflora), dwarf scots pine (pinus sylvestris), or English yew (taxus baccata). You won’t need half as many Christmas tree decorations and it will last for many Christmases to come.