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Four Plants That Help The Season Shine

This article was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and was featured in our December issue of Home By Design magazine. To visit the original Home By Design article, click here.


In the depths of frigid winter, it’s no wonder freshly cut trees and garlands of evergreen adorn homes all over the globe. Bringing their herbaceous scents and transfixing green hues into our living spaces is an ancient and soothing reminder that spring will eventually return again. There’s just one problem: these rapidly drying options require fairly constant upkeep (watering here, spritzing there) and will, inevitably, wilt like a drooping rose.

Thankfully, there are myriad other festive plants you can add to your indoorsy and outdoorsy gardening this winter. (Before bringing any of these plants into your home, ensure they’re safe for pets and kiddos. Some are more toxic than others. Plus, let’s be honest—we’d all rather be eating cookies anyway.) Here, four of our favorites and how to best care for them so they put the happy in holidays all season long.

Photography provided by Cavan Images/iStock/Getty Images Plus.


Beloved for their blousy “bracts” (colored leaves that look like long-lasting petals) and often festive coloring, these are holiday classics for good reason—in part because they bloom in winter, when little else seems to. They thrive in their native Mexico and Central America, often spotted in lush ravines and on verdant hills.

Tender Loving Care: Poinsettias thrive in consistent daylight, especially in a southern-facing window, where they can sop up the sun’s rays as much as possible. These are fairly tropical beauties, so you’ll want to keep your indoor temperature at a balmy 65 to 70 degrees F, and keep their soils fairly moist to recreate a jungly environment.


If a trip to a tropical vacationland isn’t in your holiday plans this year, don’t fret. This trumpet-like African native—called amarysso, or “sparkle,” by the Greeks—will tote all the lush razzle dazzle you crave right into your living room. No wonder Europeans have been propagating it since the 1700s (fun fact: some amaryllis bulbs will bloom for a whopping seventy-five years). Because these showy blossoms tend to peak at the holidays, they’ve become as seasonally common as cocoa on the coffee table.

Tender Loving Care: Whether you pick up a bulb to plant or an already blooming grocery-store lovely, you’ll want to let the soil dry a bit between waterings—dousing it anew when the top two inches feel dry. Pros recommend lending it nutrients each time you water it, too, with a houseplant fertilizer stocked with lots of phosphorus. Last, these sun-shy beauties should be pulled out of direct sunlight once they’re in bloom.


That dried up old weed hanging from your aunt’s foyer ceiling isn’t exactly lush. But the mistletoe plant can be—if you’re willing to do the legwork to find one. These plants typically live in the uppermost branches of trees like locusts, oaks, and poplars, and only grow a foot tall. Scoop one up online and you’ll find its delicate silhouette so charming, you’ll quickly understand why the first-century Celtic Druids used it as a symbol of fertility. By the eighteenth century, it garnered all the swoon-worthy kissing connotations we know today.

Tender Loving Care: Unlike the other plants here, mistletoe is meant to live on another tree. Tend your wee plant indoors until it’s producing leaves (perhaps through the holiday season), then help it attach to a new home base by cutting a small hole in your chosen tree’s bark and anchoring it there with wet moss. Soon, they’ll be as attached as you and your favorite person to smooch under the mistletoe.


With their emerald-green leaves and cherry-red berries that can only be described as adorable, holly bushes are a holiday mainstay. But they’re way, way more than the pops of color you tuck into your garlands. Holly was used for ceremonial headdresses by the Druids; ancient Christians hung it on their doors to ward off evil spirits.

Tender Loving Care: Plant your holly in the spring or autumn, when it can sop up plenty of rainfall and avoid temperature extremes, then keep it watered regularly. Voilà! Now you’ll forever have a holly, jolly holiday.