11 of the Best Christmas Plants That Aren’t Poinsettias

11 of the Best Christmas Plants That Aren’t Poinsettias
Photo: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock

There are certain things in this world whose appeal is mysterious: Jake Paul. Caesar salads without anchovies. Dubstep. The popularity of the poinsettias plant this time of year is nearly as mysterious — their bright red and green colouring makes them absolutely ideal for the holidays, which explains why they’re easily the most popular potted plant sold during the holidays, with about 30 million popping up in cheerful homes each year. On the other hand, that distinct colouring combined with the difficulty of keeping your finicky, fragile poinsettias alive also explains why about 29.9 million of those wind up in the trash by January.

While the poisonous nature of the poinsettia has been overblown, they’re not exactly good for your pets, either, which is another reason to find an alternative. But the worst thing about the poinsettia is their very basicness: They’re the default holiday plant, and who wants default? Wouldn’t you rather have unique and interesting? And maybe a plant that doesn’t require a Ph.D. in horticulture just to keep it from turning into a brown ghost of Christmas Past?

The fact is, you’re not legally required to have poinsettias in your house during the holidays, and other houseplants can be just as festive. If you’re thinking of changing up your holiday houseplant game this year, here are ten alternative plants that are just as attractive as the classic poinsettia without some of its drawbacks.

Christmas Cactus

Photo: Boryana Manzurova, Shutterstock Photo: Boryana Manzurova, Shutterstock

I mean, it’s in the name: If you’re looking for a houseplant to brighten up your holidays, the Christmas Cactus is the ideal choice. For about $US10 (A$14) per plant, you can have just as much red popping as with the poinsettia (pink blossoms, too). The Christmas Cactus is a lot easier to care for, too: All it needs is a little water and some indirect sunlight, which means it’s ideal for people who routinely forget they have plants in their homes in the first place. If you want to keep your Christmas Cactus hanging around for next year, repot it after the blooms have wilted — typically in later winter or very early spring.

Pet safe: Yes.

Amaryllis

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The amaryllis will produce some bold, gorgeous red flowers that are an ideal match for the holiday season. For about $US30 (A$42), you’ll get a bulb that will bloom nicely and look great with just a little bit of watering. The only downside comes if you want to hang onto the plant until the next season: You’ll need to prune it down, fertilize it, and alternate between full sunlight and indirect light on a regular basis. But if you’ve got the time and motivation, the work pays off when the holiday season comes back around.

Pet safe: No.

Anthurium

Photo: Nitiphat, Shutterstock Photo: Nitiphat, Shutterstock

Blooming bright red or pink, the anthurium is a beautiful and durable houseplant that will remain fresh-looking for months with just a bit of watering. The anthurium needs indirect light, as direct sunlight can damage the leaves — but the brighter the indirect light, the more flowers you’ll get. Although they’re a little pricier than other plants (typically going for anywhere from $US25 (A$35) to $US50 (A$70)), you can get more bang for your buck, because its long life means you can use it as Valentine’s Day décor, as well.

Pet safe: No.

Primrose

Photo: O de R, Shutterstock Photo: O de R, Shutterstock

The primrose blooms in the winter in a variety of colours, with a bright yellow centre in each flower. For about $US10-15 (A$14-21) a pot, primroses offer an abundance of colour and don’t require much upkeep unless you intend to keep them going until next year. Most people discard their primroses after the holiday season because they require a lot of effort to keep them alive after they bloom. In the short-term, though, just ensure they have bright light and don’t let the soil dry out too much, and you should be good.

Pet safe: No.

Kalanchoes

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One of the most forgiving plants you can buy, the kalanchoe will pretty much survive any amount of neglect short of actively setting it on fire. In bloom they are gorgeous, and you can find them in yellow, orange, or red varieties so you can customise your holiday décor, and they cost about $US10-15 (A$14-21) depending on the size. Most people toss their kalanchoes after the blooms die, but it’s actually not hard to keep them going until next year — all that’s required is an aggressive pruning and then…nothing, really, as the plant almost thrives under benevolent neglect.

Pet safe: No.

Phalaenopsis Orchids

Photo: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock Photo: Mariia Boiko, Shutterstock

These orchids offer a gentle pop of colour, though they tend to be more purple and pink than traditional red. You can pick some up for as little as $US10 (A$14)-$US20 (A$28) at a big box store, or spend up to $US60 (A$84) for a nicer presentation from a florist, and they’re easy to care for. All they need is a moderately bright windowsill and consistent watering and they will reward you with beautiful flowers for most of the year, including the holiday season.

Pet safe: Yes.

Red Roses

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We tend to think of roses as an outdoor plant, but you can 100% grow roses as houseplants. And of course, you can also just purchase cut roses in an attractive arrangement for short-term decoration for about $US30 (A$42)-$US40 (A$56) per bouquet (potted roses typically run about $US20 (A$28)). A gorgeous group of red roses is pretty festive, but they’re also softer and, you know, classier than poinsettias or just about any other flower. And if you’re feeling particularly creative, roses come in a wide variety of colours beyond red and pink.

Pet safe: Yes.

Cyclamen

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With bright red, pink, or white petals that resemble butterfly wings, cyclamen plants make for perfect poinsettia replacements. They’re cheap — you can typically find them between $US10 (A$14)-20 for multiple plants — and easy to find, as most big box and supermarket garden sections will carry them. While most people treat them as temporary decorations and toss them when the holidays are over, they’re easy to keep going — all they need is low humidity, bright indirect light, and moderate watering. One note is that if the temperature gets above 70 or so, the cyclamen will go dormant and stop blooming.

Pet safe: No.

Azaleas

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Coming in white, red, or pink, the key to making azaleas work for the holidays is in the presentation: Pop them into a bright red or green container and suddenly you have a beautiful bit of decoration for your home. The flowers will last a few weeks before wilting, but that’s ok because a gallon container of azaleas will run you less than $US10 (A$14), so these are some of the most cost-effective holiday flowers you’ll find. But if you decide you want to hang onto your azaleas, just put them in a spot where they’ll get bright indirect light, keep their soil moist, and they should do fine.

Pet safe: No.

Begonias

Photo: Vyaseleva Elena, Shutterstock Photo: Vyaseleva Elena, Shutterstock

What’s awesome about begonias for the holidays is that you can find them in brilliant red, and they tend to have a lot of bright petals, giving them a full, robust appearance. Available for about $US10-15 (A$14-21) for a pack of four to six plants, they can fill any space with delicious colour. For some variety, mix in some white begonias, too. There are different kinds of begonias, so you should look for specific care instructions if you want to keep them, but in general indirect sunlight and placing them in a tray of water so they can soak up the moisture will work.

Pet safe: No.

Hydrangeas

Photo: macy alexzandra villars, Shutterstock Photo: macy alexzandra villars, Shutterstock

The big flowers of these plants are bold and dramatic and come in a wide variety of colours. That makes them a great choice if you’re feeling creative and want to make a unique and multi-coloured arrangement. They’re easy to find, are commonly kept as houseplants, and a gallon container will run you around $US20 (A$28)-$US30 (A$42) depending on the colour and where you live. These flowers also work well in combination with other plants, like the cyclamen or begonias.

Pet safe: No.

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