Christmas Flowers

21/07/2012 15:27


Christmas flowers come in various forms such as the poinsettia, holly, Christmas rose, cyclamen, ivy, mistletoe, amaryllis, and of course the Christmas cactus. It was quite popular in nineteenth century Victorian England to give plants as holiday gifts. Today we still love to give and recieve Christmas flowers.

Poinsettias are traditional Christmas plants. Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where they grow wild. The most common colour is red. However, there is a wide range of other colours available, including pink, white, marbled, speckled, and yellow. The colourful petals on the poinsettia are often referred to as the flower, but they are actually called bracts. The flower heads are the tiny yellow clusters at the center of the bracts. The poinsettia was first used as a Christmas decoration by Franciscan friars in Mexico during the 17th century.The plant’s star-shaped leaf pattern symbolizes the Star of Bethlehem, and the bright red colour signifies the blood of Jesus. The enchanting legend of the poinsettia dates back several centuries, to a Christmas Eve in Mexico when a little girl named Pepita had no gift to present to the Christ child. Her cousin Pedro urged her to give a humble gift. So, on her way to church she gathered some weeds she found along the road. As she approached the altar, a miracle happened - The weeds blossomed into bright red flowers. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night, for they bloomed each year during the Christmas season.



The Christmas rose - Helleborus niger, is the best known and certainly the showiest of the species hellebores, it has long been associated with Christmas, the New Year and a longing for spring. It was first referred to as the Christmas Rose in the 18th century because of its resemblance to the single wild rose (dog-rose). Also known as Black Hellebores,these flowers with their dark green evergreen foliage, may indeed bloom around Christmas; if you're in zone 7+ or you're having a mild winter in a colder zone. For most, early Spring is a more likely blooming time. White to pinkish white are the most common but the Pheder Select Strain features a dark purple almost black flower. The root is considered poisonous but at one time it was used to treat insanity and some believe that Alexander The Great died from an overdose of this plant.


The stunning, velvety trumpet flower of the amaryllis has made it one of the most popular indoor plants. The amaryllis is frequently used as a Christmas decoration. They have large starry trumpets which spring from huge papery bulbs.Thick smooth leafless stems, often more than half a metre tall, are topped by four or five blooms, making an impressive display. The amaryllis comes in many beautiful varieties including various shades of red, white, pink, salmon and orange.  There are also many striped and multicolored varieties too, usually combining shades of pink or red with white. Christmas red varieties include "Liberty", "Red Lion", and "Hercules". Amaryllis is sometimes called Hippeastrum, which means, "Knight Star". The amaryllis originated in South America's tropical regions. Make cut flowers of Amaryllis last longer by providing them with a little support, with either a thin piece of coated wire or thin cane inserted into their stems. Otherwise the weight of their flowers tends to break their stems.


Cyclamen are flowering winter jewels. I just love them, they are our favourite Christmas potplant. Their marbled leaves and flowers are just beautiful! They bring welcome colour to our homes in the Winter. Cyclamen are a genus of plants containing 20 species. They are native in the Mediterranean and Africa. Cyclamen grow mainly in dry forest or scrub areas. They are part of the primrose family. Cyclamen can be grown both outdoors and indoors in pots. Give the cyclamen a sniff before you buy, to check for scent. You'll find the pinks, purples and especially the whites are often the most fragrant. Cyclamen seem to like light-airy places, so keep them on a windowsill or unheated room. When watering wait until the plant is almost dry, then put the pot into a bowl of water and leave until the compost is soaked, don't water from above as watering hanging around the base of the foliage will cause the plant to rot. And as soon as any dead leaves appear remove them by giving a twist and a sharp tug.



The Christmas cactus is a popular, winter-flowering houseplant. Schlumbergera bridgesii is the correct botanical name but they are also called Zygocactus which was their former botanical name. Christmas cactus are of the botanical plant family called Cactaceae. It has flat stems, which are called cladodes, which resemble leaves, even though they are not actual leaves. Traditionally the colours of Christmas cactus are deep red flowers, although it also blooms in various colours of purple, pink, orange, and cream. Christmas cactus are easy to look after and will live for many years. They make a great choice for hanging baskets. Christmas cactus is a member of a group sold as holiday cacti that includes the Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) and the Easter cactus (Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri).
The Christmas Cactus were originally forest cactus which grew in southeast Brazil, South America. They are called Flor de maio (May Flower) in Brazil. The grew as an  epiphyte which is a plant that derives moisture and nutrients from the air and rain.


Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on a variety of trees, including the apple and the oak. The practice of hanging it in the house goes back to the times of the ancient Druids. It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and ward off evil spirits. It was also used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology and that's where the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from. The original custom was that a berry was picked from the sprig of Mistletoe before the person could be kissed and when all the berries had gone, there could be no more kissing.

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen — and kissed me there.

~ Walter de la Mare (1873-1956)

The sight of holly leaves and berries are linked with Christmas. In some parts of Britain holly was formerly referred to merely as Christmas, and in pre-Victorian times 'Christmas trees' meant holly bushes. The early Romans decorated their hallways with garlands made from Holly for their mid-winter feast. The prickly leaves of holly represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore when he was crucified. The berries are the drops of blood that were shed by Jesus because of the thorns. Holly trees were traditionally known for protection from lightning strikes, so they were planted near a house.

The amount of available varieties of ivy run into the hundreds and offers a wide range of leaf shapes and foliage variegations. Ivies are very useful plants for those places where 'nothing will grow'. Ivy is a wild evergreen climbing vine that attaches itself to the bark of trees, brickwork and other surfaces. Ivy's most common association is with the Holly tree, the “Holly and the Ivy” being used extensively worldwide as a Yuletide decoration. Ivy is one of the most valuable plants around for wildlife as it provides shelter at all times and the winter flowers and berries are a welcome food source when other supplies have all but disappeared.
A few intersting facts..
Ivy is a symbol of immortality, endurance, promise, hope and vitality.
Ivy has been a symbol of eternal life in the pagan world.
Ivy now represents a new promise and eternal life in the Christian world.
Considered a symbol of woman, if put together with Holly (the symbol of man) at Christmas, it would bring peace in a home between a husband and wife, for the following year.

One of my favourite Christmas carols is the Holly and the Ivy.
Heres a little verse : )

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood
The holly bears the crown
O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir....

D. Moss