Holiday Flowers – My Favorites

Empress or Lady Clare camellia in bloom

Bud of Empress camellia

Poinsettia still fresh and happy after being at our home for two weeks

Ten year old Christmas cactus that never misses blooming in the season.

Looking at the temperatures now through December, the empress camellia in our yard will again grace our Christmas table with blooms. It is a delight to go out on Christmas morning and fill a trug with cut blooms. This has become an annual tradition at our house, and unless we have an exceptionally cold December, we gather the blooms. I think this is all about choosing plants for your garden that not only beautify your outdoor spaces but can adorn the inside, too when in bloom. Another nice surprise this year is that many of the sasanqua camellias are still blooming too and can be cut and used indoors. Now don’t expect them to last too long indoors, but they will be fine for the big day.
Most of us purchase or have given at least one poinsettia for the holidays. Now with careful picking these plants can last way past the holiday season. Look at the center of each plant stalk and see if the little flowers in that space are healthy looking and not fully open. Then check the colorful leaves (called bracts) and the green foliage. Make sure they look healthy and are not yellowing (yes the colored leaves yellow,too). Once you have purchased a good plant remember, they are grown in sunlight so don’t expect them to thrive in a dark room. The one in the photo above is in our den that is loaded with windows (undraped) and has no direct sun. Since the plants you purchase are almost always root bound, be sure and water them once or twice a week as needed.
The Christmas cactus shown above has been part of our family for many years and stays outdoors on our porch until a freeze is predicted. It never misses blooming around this time of the year. My tricks to keeping it alive are not over watering, no full sun and putting it outdoors in spring, and allowing it to stay outdoors in fall cool weather until the temperature is predicted to drop below 33 degrees.
Now remember, I am not a plant lover who tries to hold on to ugly or unhealthy plants (I compost those), but these are the plants that always grace our home over the holidays.

John Floyd

John Floyd has been gardening--and learning about Birmingham area gardening--for more than 30 years. In addition to his day-to-day experience, John has degrees in horticulture from Auburn and Clemson Universities and was Editor-in-Chief of Southern Living.

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