mixed conifers

Little Christmas tree holiday plants can grow into lovely, but massive trees.

After the holidays decorative house plants can start to wear out their welcome. But don’t just throw them out. Depending on the kind of plant and where you live, you may be able to repurpose your ornamental living holiday plants  into year-round friends.

The most common indoor plant at Christmastime is the Christmas tree. True conifer trees – whether in small table size or big pots – are not ideal house plants. Almost all commonly sold for Christmas will live outdoors, though, in almost any part of the country. Most will be able to go outside even in the winter where they can be kept regularly watered in large pots until they are needed for next year’s holiday, or they can be planted permanently in the ground. Move your tree gradually into the open winter environment. It will need to adapt a little at a time over a week or two from the warm, dark indoor climate it has been used to. One word of warning, before you plant out your Christmas tree, check what variety it is. Most trees are only little immature versions of the 60’ – 120’ monsters they will grow to be. If your tree is one of these, only plant it where a very big mature tree will have room to grow!

Flowering potted bulbs are often colorful holiday visitors. The showy amaryllis is a favorite gift and is versatile enough to spend years indoors as a decorative plant. Other bulbs may re-bloom year after year if given the care they need. Some are happier planted out in the garden if soil is not frozen. Hyacinths are commonly forced into bloom (brought into flower at a time of year not typical for them to bloom) for the holidays and, although they will skip their usual spring flowering, they will settle right into your garden if you plant them out after the holidays. (Again, let them adapt to the cooler, brighter outdoor climate a little at a time.) They will slip back into their regular flowering schedule the next year.

The Poinsettia is another well-known potted plant gracing holiday rooms. If you live where frost is uncommon, you can probably plant yours out in the garden. Expect it to grow large and lanky, but bloom reliably at the end of future summers. You can also experiment with overwintering it and forcing it back into bloom for next year’s holiday by controlling daylight hours.

A curious tradition has popped up of spray-painting Poinsettias and cacti bright colors or sprinkling them with glitter. These are temporary ‘costumes’ and should be allowed to fade away as new, normal colored growth takes over. It should have no effect on transitioning plants (again, slowly) to new outdoor homes.

Gardenias and Azaleas are also popular holiday plants due to their Christmassy red and white colored flowers. Christmas cactus plants, orchids and begonias are also good plants that can adapt to indoor living year round if they are given good light, proper soil and water. The last three are tropical plants and can go outdoors only in warm climates or gentle summers. Boxwood and rosemary Christmas trees are shrubs that will do well out in the garden if your climate is a match.