More Non-traditional Holiday Plants

Talk about non-traditional! And yet, when I saw this one I thought, yes, it will blend right in with the aglaeonema ‘Red Valentine’ and the next plant that I am going to show you.

And the nice thing about bromeliads is that this bloom spike will last quite some time. This one is a tilllandsia (it may have recently changed names like the snake plant has, but I am not quite sure).

That bloom spike consists of pink bracts which may (but probably not in my cooler house) send out purple flowers from the sides.

And once the blooming has finished, the plant slowly dies, but it may make little “pups” at the base which can be re-potted to begin the cycle over again.

Or, if you don’t have that patience, at least compost the plant.

This is one of my favorite plants. I have a large one upstairs but it’s too large to bring with me to house plant lectures. So when I saw this small one, I grabbed it.

This is stromanthe tricolor. It is a relative of marantas and calatheas. With my large one, when I am reading in my den in the evening I can hear the the leaves move as they “settle down” for the night, because, just like the other prayer plants, their leaves move at night. They don’t fold up, exactly, but they do, settle, as I have said. It’s actually audible.

The other lovely thing about this plant is the color. It’s green and white on top and magenta on the underside. It’s so unusual.

This plant takes quite low light and is a slow grower. And unlike the maranta and calathea plants, it doesn’t need a lot of humidity. It doesn’t seem to be subject to the insects that they are either. And it can dry a bit between watering, which they hate!

You can see why I am anxious to bring this plant with me for “show and tell.” Any plant this pretty and this easy is something that I want to share.

Plants for the Holidays

My house is my too cold for the traditional poinsettias so I need to think about other plants at the holidays.

The advantage of this approach, of course, is that once Christmas is over and I have packed away the decorations, the plants can go right back where they came from and nothing is a reminder of the “out of season ” holiday.”

The plant above is an aglaeonema, also known as a Chinese evergreen. There are many varieties of these, so if this variety is a bit too Christmasy for you, there are other that will suit. Ironically, this variety is ‘Red Valentine.’

Here’s another aglaeonema that in no way has any Christmas colors. This one is called ‘Madonna,’ and it’s perfect for celebrating New Year’s–or whatever holiday you choose–with its white and gold variegation. And note the lovely white stems!

There are many other aglaeonema varieties as well–I have 6 of them. These are versatile, easy to grow plants that like bright light (no full sun) and can stand to dry a little between watering. They are relatively slow growing–I have had Madonna, above, for 3 years, and it is still in the same 6″ pot.

These are great, easy care plants and are generally readily available. Even if you don’t think of them as a holiday plant alternative, definitely check them out for your house plant collection!

Not ‘Gram Worthy

5 year old poinsettia

I was having an email exchange with a friend about my plants and I remarked, about the above plant, that it was getting so large that it was getting in the way of my printer, so clearly I was going to have to move my printer. Moving the plant is out of the question. If a plant is happy, it gets to stay where it is. Something inanimate like a printer can easily be moved somewhere else.

Now, looking at that plant, it’s really nothing special–in fact, a lot of people might say it’s even ugly. It’s certainly nothing I would ever post on Twitter or any of the other social media sites because it’s definitely not “eye candy.” It’s not that kind of plant.

Office redo–to accommodate the plant

But it has a lot of sentimental value. It’s almost 5 years old–in fact, it’s probably older, but I have had it for 5 years, or almost, this Christmas season. Like many of my holdover “Christmas” plants, it now blooms out of season, but that’s okay–that’s part of the charm. So it definitely deserves the extra room that I have now given it. And as a bonus, my printer is actually closer to my desk so I have made my workspace a bit more efficient too.

Close up

I did a close-up of its leaves and stems earlier this summer–they’re quite lovely by themselves.

But sometimes, it’s nice to have plants that aren’t just showy. Sometimes it’s nice to have plants with some longevity too.

Poinsettia Aftercare


Remember this lovely pink poinsettia? Well, sadly, it didn’t look like that for long. I don’t know if these new cultivars are more finicky than regular poinsettias, or if it was this plant in particular, but it dropped its leaves on a regular basis almost from the moment it left the greenhouse and entered my care.

By comparison, the other poinsettia I bought at the same time from the same place was far more easy care and would have maintained its leaves until now had I permitted it.

But it’s the end of February, almost March, and by now no one wants to look at poinsettias. Most of us are thinking spring!

The true gardener doesn’t toss the poinsettia, however (unless space is at a premium. In that case, I hope you can compost it at least).


Here’s the pink poinsettia today. It’s already on its way to lots of new regrowth. In fact, it looks great. I have it in a south window and despite the fact that they don’t like cold, it is tolerating the cooler temperatures in that window just fine. It must be the brighter spring sunshine sustaining it during the day.

So I will keep it there until about Memorial Day (or later if we have a cold spring). Then I will transition it outside to a shady area at first, then a partly sunny place for the summer. It will stay there until early September when I will bring it back in.

At that point, I will put it back into a sunny window, but I will make sure it’s in a room we don’t use much–likely our living room. Chances are, by next December, it will begin to set its colorful bracts again.

Knowing how easy this is, try keeping your poinsettia next year. They’re not really “toss away” plants.

Do You Know Princettia?


On Monday I talked about the un-poinsettia or the anti-poinsettia. Today I am going to talk about a new cultivar called Princettia.


What are Princettia poinsettias? They are trademarked poinsettias developed by Suntory of Japan. But basically they have been developed to be shorter, with more compact stems but much more floriflorous bracts (the colorful things that look like flowers.)


Right now they come in a few heights of white (yes, you read that correctly–not colors of white, but varying heights), a six different shades of pink (from pale pink through a more true pink to a deeper dark pink that’s almost fuchsia) and of course, a red.

If you remember the “rose” poinsettias from the last decade, these are probably comparable to those in number of petals–but of course, those were still like regular poinsettias in that they were tall–maybe even taller and narrower than some of the other varieties.

These are compact plants just covered in blooms–as one look at the web site reveals–and in person, they are stunning (as my unfortunate photography just doesn’t do them justice!)

They have been in cultivation for a few years but are just becoming readily available for gardeners. This holiday season, since we now know that poinsettias are not poisonous, perhaps you might like to try one?

The Un-Poinsettia


Each year, I post photos of aglaeonema, commonly known as Chinese evergreen plant, and call it something silly like the un-poinsettia or the anti-poinsettia.

Let’s face it: growers are losing the battle with poinsettias. Many people still believe the old myth that they are poisonous (they are NOT!)

But even if you don’t believe that myth, you may be like me, and may be limited by a cold house.

Or you simply may not want to look at a screaming red plant well into April–or longer. If any of these things is the case, aglaeonemas are the plant for you.


Usually I post a photo of this one because its color scheme is most “Christmas-like.” This is the appropriately named red stem variety.


If this is even too much red for you, this variety tones it down a bit. This variety is called Lipstick.


And if you just like the plant and don’t care about a holiday color scheme, this bright variety might be for you. This is Red Valentine.


All of these variations were developed from green plants, if you can imagine. Here’s a lovely green and white variety called Silver Queen.

If all of these choices don’t give you something to choose from when decorating, perhaps silk is more to your liking?