Tired of poinsettias? Check out these alternative Christmas houseplants...
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You’d be forgiven for thinking poinsettias were the only festive houseplant out there - there are in fact alternatives!
These three fine options should last through Christmas and beyond:
1. Evergreen azalea
Small pot-grown evergreen azaleas are bought in their thousands over the Christmas period, and are great for gardeners who don’t have acid soil and can’t grow them outside.
Favourites include the white-flowered forms of Rhododendron simsii - the Indian Azalea - which will be smothered in elegant blooms for many weeks.
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To keep them looking their best, choose a cool but well-lit spot and make sure the compost doesn’t dry out.
Azaleas dislike being kept inside for long periods of time, so you could try transferring them to a sheltered position in the garden once the weather warms up, making sure they are re-potted into a container filled with ericaceous compost.
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These delicate-looking beauties come in a huge range of colours, from white to deep purple, and some garden centres are now stocking giant versions.
However, often gardeners have trouble with them as they can turn black and collapse within a short time if they don’t have the right conditions. They will die if they are left in warm, dark places or overwatered - yet if given the right treatment, they are potentially long-lived.
When you bring a cyclamen home, place it in a bright, cool position (13-18C) in the house. They will do well on or near south and west-facing windowsills in the winter. Water plants from the bottom by standing the container in water. If you must water from the top, don’t pour water directly on to the tuber.
3. Christmas cactus
These undemanding plants provide a burst of vivid colour and a touch of the tropics to windowsills during the worst of the winter weather, with flowers emerging from their tooth-edged branching and arching stems.
The Zygocactus truncatus (Schlumbergera truncata), its technical name, is generally bought from garden centres in bud and blooms between mid-November and late January, depending on the variety you buy.
You can get them in white, pink, red or purple. Water them at the roots, rather than directly into the compost. Pour water into the base you are resting the pot in and water thoroughly when the compost begins to dry out. Just before flowering, the plants should be kept cool and dryish until the flower buds form, and then you can increase water and temperature.
They can be placed outside in the summer in a shady spot and should be protected from slugs.