There really is a plant or flower for every season – two of the most popular plants during the Christmas period are the poinsettia and the Christmas cactus. Whilst both are beautiful and long lasting; deciding which one to give as a seasonal gift or to have in your home this season can be tricky.
When you think of a cactus, the first thing that comes to mind is the stereotypical spiky plant found in the dessert. However, the Christmas cactus is a little different and is very much like a fern in the way that it drapes so beautifully. It also has flat spongy `leaves` and pretty pink or fuchsia flowers which work to show its succulent roots.
How the cactus became associated with Christmas is a little mysterious however, many believe it is simply because it starts to flower during the festive season.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Christmas cactus is it lasts all year if you look after it well. During winter, it is a good idea to keep it in a well-lit room away from harsh sunlight and drafts. Also remember to water it as soon as the soil is dry – check on this because it is not the same as pure cacti and needs regular watering. The Christmas cactus also loves humidity, so keep a dish of water nearby.
During the summer, it is important to keep it in a shady spot and give it plant food once a month – bring it indoors as soon as the first frost comes.
Poinsettias were an instant hit when the American Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, brought them to the US in the 19th century.
They had been linked with Christmas festivities prior to this through the work of early missionaries on their way to Mexico who used the plant as part of their festive celebrations.
Today, millions of these Christmas plants are sold every Christmas as a symbol of the holidays but there’s no reason why they should have to be discarded after Christmas, they are beautiful after all.
In order to extend the life of your plant, keep your poinsettia in a well-lit warm room and water it regularly for the rest of the winter. When the temperature rises outside, re-pot it and keep it in indirect sunlight with fertilisation every two weeks.
The Christmas cacti or poinsettia? Decisions, decisions.