But that's a plant that's been nicely settled in the ground for a while. And some sources suggest having a big 'cloche'—an over-sized bell-shaped plant protector —on hand if even a well-established plant blooms right before a big ice or snow storm. And I feel strongly that plants that have been forced—like this and virtually all of the other blooming Christmas favorites —are already off their schedule and need extra pampering. My suspicions were confirmed by my old friend Barry Glick, who may be the biggest breeder of hellebores in the country; he says he typically has , in cultivation at his "Sunshine Farms and Gardens" in West Virginia.
He's the ultimate ambassador for these plants, which are among the earliest to bloom, do well in shade, and aren't touched by pestiferous plant nibblers like deer, voles or Evil Squirrels.
Barry took a short break from plowing snow to explain that the best course of action with a 'holiday hellebore' is to keep the plant indoors in a bright window until all danger of a hard freeze has passed and then plant it outside in the Spring in an area that gets dappled shade and drains well. Barry really emphasizes the drainage part; he told me "the only way I've been able to kill a Hellebore is to over water it". That means that our listener should have a light hand with the water inside as well. It's always easier to revive a slightly dry plant than to bring a drowned one back from the dead.
And with plants purchased at that "ho, ho, ho" time of year, good watering begins with getting rid of the decorative foil that typically adorns the pots of holiday plants—at least temporarily. Remove the foil, place the plant in a sink with a few inches of water, and then just let it sit there for a half hour or so to allow the drainage holes to take up the moisture. Then pick up the plant and note how it feels, which should be heavy with water. Let it drain in the dish rack, then put it back in place.
You can replace the decorative foil if you must I don't recommend it , but don't water it again until the pot feels noticeably lighter. Now let's take a minute to discuss these fascinating plants. From the common name, you might expect red flowers , but a true species of the Christmas rose has white blooms although they do turn a little pink as they age. Why "rose" in the common name?
Early botanists thought that the flowers of hellebores looked like those of wild roses; so some hellebores acquired common names like "Christmas rose" and "Lenten rose" that combined that misconception with their typical bloom time. There's also a folk tale that says the 'Christmas' name originated when a young girl shed tears because she had no gift for the baby Jesus and a blooming hellebore popped up out of the snow.
Hellebores are poisonous—that's why deer and Evil Squirrels won't mess with them. Their toxicity has even been linked to the death of Alexander the Great; who may have drank an ill-advised elixir containing hellebore juice. The leaves can also give some people a rash, so handle them with gloves which you should always be wearing anyway! Hellebores also have a long history in witchcraft and magic; it's said that the dried flowers were used by wizards to make themselves invisible!
But more magical to my mind is the fact that these plants are close to perfect for people with the most common garden problems of wretched wildlife and lack of sun. Reliable bloomers that flower in shade and aren't bothered by deer—that may beat invisibility! The main Christmas plant in this region is the pomegranate Punica granatum : a perfect choice, as it matures at just the right time of year. Doors, fireplaces, tables, etc. In Israel, olive branches Olea europaea are offered at Christmas to friends as a symbol of peace.
BEST CONDITIONS TO GROW HELLEBORES
Source: casita-colibri. Traditional Mexican Christmas punch with floating manzanitas Crataegus mexicana.
- ISBN 13: 9781468173420!
- Dying for the Christmas Rose.
- How to Preserve Christmas Roses: 10 Steps (with Pictures);
- Hellebore Varieties.
Manzanita, also called tejocote or manzanilla Crataegus mexicana , a large-berried hawthorn, is another plant traditionally used as a Christmas decoration in many parts of Mexico and Central America. The orange fruits may be threaded onto a garland and are also used to make Christmas punch. In it, radishes are carved and arranged into some very impressive displays. Since most of this continent lies south of the equator, the seasons are inverted and Christmas takes place in summer, not winter.
Turning the 'Christmas Rose' Into a Year-Round Plant
That means traditional Christmas plants of the Northern Hemisphere bloom six months too late for Christmas. Yet there is a Christmas cactus in these countries. Colored berries of the Brazilian peppertree Schinus terebinthifolius.
Source: Javier Alejandro, flickr. South Americans tend to use native plants as cut flowers or holiday plants at the Christmas season. Branches of the Brazilian peppertree Schinus terebinthifolius and its cousin, Peruvian peppertree S. Venezuelan Christmas orchid Cattleya percivaliana. Venezuela has its own Christmas orchid that blooms for the holidays: Cattleya perciviliana.
This pre-Christian tradition comes from the indigenous Guarani people. In general, the concept of Christmas is relatively new to this continent and the celebration is mostly a commercial one of American inspiration, so there are often no traditional plants associated with the holiday, at least not long-standing ones.
Most are the same Christmas plants seen in North America poinsettias, Christmas cacti, etc. Christmas trees, almost nonexistent only 30 years ago, for example, are now seen everywhere, although more often in shopping centers than in private homes. Usually artificial trees are used.
Heavenly bamboo Nandina domestica. The Christian population in Japan is more firmly established than most in Asia and has solidly adopted the tradition of the Christmas tree, usually a real fir or spruce tree. Heavenly bamboo, Nandina domestica , which is not a bamboo at all, but a shrub, is the second-best-known Christmas plant, with its scarlet fruits and red winter leaves. Chrysanthemums Chrysanthemum morifolium , popular in all seasons in Japan, are widely used at Christmas too.
Apples stamped with seasonal messages are common Christmas Eve gifts in China. Source: gbtimes. Christmas palm Adonidia merrillii. Source: palmpedia.
Hellebores As Houseplants? Tips for Their Care Indoors - HorticultureHorticulture
In the tropical regions of Asia, the Christmas palm Adonidia merrillii , better known by its old name, Veitchia merrillii , is widely grown. With its stocky trunk and relatively short fronds, it looks like a dwarf royal palm … and bears bright red fruit at Christmas.
Originally from the Philippines and Malaysia, this palm is now grown throughout the tropics. The traditions of using Christmas plants are more firmly established in South Africa than in the center and north of the continent, brought to this region by European settlers notably the Dutch and English. Source: pxhere. Again, though, with the seasons being inverted, the South African Christmas plants are very different from those in the Northern Hemisphere.
On the other hand, poinsettias are catching on as well. Christmas bells Sandersonia aurantiaca are bulbs native to South Africa. Various native plants also serve as Christmas plants, such as Christmas bush Pavetta spp. Several plants imported from Australia, which has a similar climate, are also appreciated for their winter bloom. Africans also celebrate Christmas with many plants that are for us just typical summer flowers, like daisies, roses and zinnias.
Christmas trees are very popular in South Africa, but they use as subjects conifers adapted to local conditions, such as cypress Cupressus spp. In Australia, the traditional Christmas tree is the native Norfolk Island pine Araucaria heterophylla. Grown in mostly as a houseplant in the northern hemisphere, where it rarely exceeds 5 feet 1.
Other mild-climate conifers from various parts of the world are also used as Christmas trees, including various pines. The Australian Christmas tree Nuytsia floribunda. The Australian Christmas tree produces frothy spikes of orange-yellow flowers just in time for the holidays. Source: gdaymateowyagoin, flickr. New Zealand Christmas tree Meterosideros excelsa. Source: Ed, Wikimedia Commons. So, wherever you travel around the world, there are always interesting Christmas plants to discover! If you know of other Christmas plants, do not hesitate to let me know about them at laidbackgardener gmail.
Yes, hellebores Helleborus spp.
But not where I live. Where winters are cold, as in most of North America, this hardy perennial rarely blooms before the month of March, even April or May the latter for me … but this winter may be the exception. Maybe your hellebores are budding up as we speak. The instructions accompanying each plant explain its basic needs: keep the plant well watered and put it in a bright location, preferably on the cool side, then plant it outdoors in the garden in spring as a perennial.
Personally, I was more than a bit skeptical about this information. How could a hardy perennial that normally requires a cold winter be able to spend a winter in an overheated home and still be alive come spring? To assuage my doubts, I obviously had to try growing one. So five years ago, in early December, I purchased a Christmas hellebore in full bloom with dense clusters of pure white flowers. I actually used it as a table decoration for the entire Christmas period. After the holidays, I simply put it with my other houseplants on a windowsill, giving it no special treatment, not even particularly cool temperatures.
And to my surprise, it did fine! My hellebore remained in bloom until mid-March, although the sepals did gradually turn green. The foliage was still in mint condition in May when I finally was able to plant it outdoors. And since then, every spring after the usual long, snowy winter, it has bloomed perfectly, from early May until July. When you buy hellebores in the spring, you have a wider choice of colors. Would I repeat the experience?
Probably not. At Christmas, all I can find are plain white ones… and I already have plenty of those in my shade garden. They prefer rich, well-drained soil that is not too acidic. In cold climates zones 3 to 5 , give them a thick covering of dead leaves in the fall, otherwise their foliage, theoretically evergreen, may be killed by the cold.
Harder-working gardeners then I remove damaged leaves in the spring and cut back the flowers when they fade. Yes, I do confess to watering them in times of drought during their first summer, but after that, they get no watering, no fertilizing, no cleaning, nothing… and they positively flourish!