5 Best Houseplants for Christmas Decorating

Easy to grow and fun to give, these colorful favorites make the season merry and bright.

I love the holidays. The short dark days and the bitter chill of winter sometimes threaten to bring out my inner Scrooge, but decorating with houseplants for Christmas, including brilliant red poinsettias or candy-cane-striped amaryllis, always lifts my spirits. Plus, both of these plants make the perfect gift for someone hard to buy for. While poinsettias and amaryllises are go-to plants this time of year, a few other winter-bloomers such as kalanchoe, cyclamen, and Christmas cactus can also make your holiday celebrations magical. Here's how to use these easy-care beauties in your seasonal decor or for gifting.

Amaryllis in Birch Vases
Michael Partenio

1. Big, Bold Amaryllis

Poinsettias are everywhere during the holidays, but judging from Instagram tags, amaryllises may be more popular. And no wonder! Amaryllises have spectacular blooms that can last for weeks with little care. They come in a few colors: white, red, coral, burgundy, pink, and bicolor. For example, 'Apple Blossom' has lime green throats, and white blooms brushed with watercolor pink. Red 'Stargazer' flowers have snowy-white stars on their petals. With a little TLC, the big bulbs can even rebloom after a dormant period.

If your plant comes in a plain pot, slip it into a decorative container, or snip the long-stemmed blooms and pop them into water with floral preservative. The cut flowers are stunning in tall, clear glass cylinders, but they can be a little top-heavy, so be sure whatever vessel you use won't tip over.

Note: Be careful with these plants around pets because they are toxic if eaten.

Poinsettias on top of wrapped gifts
Marty Baldwin

2. Classic Poinsettias

If ever a plant represented decorating with houseplants for Christmas, it's poinsettias. Look for them in Christmassy red, hot pink, cream, white, apricot, or with marbling, speckles, or streaks. Two of my faves: 'Jingle Bells,' a crimson beauty with white splashes, and 'Peppermint Ruffles,' in pale pink and cream with dark pink speckles. As if their natural splendor wasn't enough, they even come spray-painted in blue and other fanciful hues, with or without glitter.

Potted poinsettias are showy enough to stand alone as a centerpiece or on your hearth, where they'll get bright, indirect light. You also can tuck cut blooms into water picks to decorate a garland, wreath, or Christmas tree. These tender perennials dislike cold drafts near windows and doors, but you can use them to flank an outside door if you're in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11. And contrary to popular belief, poinsettias aren't dangerous to pets or small children if eaten.

florist's kalanchoe
Jay Wilde

3. Charming Kalanchoes

With their plump, green leaves and vibrant flowers, kalanchoes are another holiday favorite. Blooming for weeks, varieties with white, pink, or red flowers work nicely with seasonal colors. You can find them in bright orange and yellow, too.

Kalanchoes are succulents. They like bright light, but not direct sun. Try one in your kitchen, bath, or home office for winter cheer. Water when the soil feels dry and let the excess drain away to prevent roots from rotting. These low-maintenance perennials are tricky to coax into reblooming. However, they still make lovely evergreen houseplants even without their flowers.

Doug Hetherington

4. Carefree Cyclamens

Cyclamen may not be as familiar a holiday plant as the poinsettia or amaryllis, but it can brighten up your festive decor just as much. Their heart-shaped leaves and flowers in lilac, crimson, white, pink, and other colors look adorable on their own or mingled with other houseplants. Add a ribbon and bow, and voila! Foil-wrapped cyclamen is a welcome gift for teachers, co-workers, and neighbors.

Most cyclamens sold at garden centers are tropicals, so don't grow yours outside unless you're in Zones 9-11. They'll bloom into spring if kept in a cool place. These houseplants go dormant after blooming but will usually revive after a rest period.

Christmas cactus plant in a red pot with near a window
Nadezhda_Nesterova/Getty Images

5. Colorful Christmas Cactus

Christmas cactus is an obvious holiday plant—it's in the name! It usually blooms around the holidays, too. These show-stopping succulents have distinctive flowers in magenta, red, pink, coral, white, and other colors. They also have long lifespans (plants can live up to 100 years), so some lucky gardeners own plants their great-grandparents grew!

For a meaningful gift, especially if you have a family heirloom plant, propagate a piece for someone special. Late spring is the best time to do this. Cut off a few segments, let them dry for a day or two, and plant them an inch deep in a damp mix of sand and potting soil. Water lightly until you see new growth. Then transplant them into regular potting soil. Christmas cactus needs cool, bright light and infrequent waterings.

If you live in Zones 9-11, you can grow them outside on a porch or deck year-round. Indoors, use them as accent plants and enjoy them as easy-care houseplants after the long-lasting flowers are finished.

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