Traditional Christmas plants are plants that stand out during winter. This may surprise but it reflects the timing of the celebration of Christmas in mid winter in the northern hemisphere when many plants are dormant or bare. Evergreens such as mistletoe, holly (which has red berries in winter), ivy, fir, spruce and yew are all associated with a winter Christmas celebration.

Native Christmas blooms

In Australia, gardens are in summer mode for Christmas so there’s plenty of choice for both flowers and foliage. There are native Christmas flowers to enjoy over the festive season. New South Wales Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) and Christmas bells (Blandfordia nobilis) are two local native plants available as cut flowers or colourful potted plants for an Australian-themed Christmas.

New Zealand contributes an evergreen shrub to Christmas in the form of the New Zealand Christmas tree or pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsus). It is smothered with crimson brush-shaped flowers during summer and can add a real festive feel to the garden. For small spaces or containers, select dwarf cultivars.

Garden flowers

Flowering in summer gardens are agapanthus, fuchsia, ‘Big Red’ and ‘Big Pink’ geraniums, rose, salvia, hibiscus, hydrangea and many others.

If your garden is short on flowering plants in bloom, shop for potted flowering plants. Fuchsia, geranium and hydrangea in full bloom are available in garden centres. They bring instant colour to gardens or can be used indoors, on balconies or at the front door for temporary festive decoration.

Also look out for pots of petunias and other advanced annuals to introduce instant colour to the garden or to dress containers including hanging baskets.

Poinsettia

One of the traditional festive blooms is poinsettia. It is popular for its large, red, star-shaped flowers, which work well with the traditional red and green festive colour scheme. This plant is widely used in the northern hemisphere as a Christmas pot plant as poinsettia is naturally winter flowering.

By juggling its growing conditions, poinsettia can be brought into flower for Christmas in the southern hemisphere too. That’s why there are bold potted poinsettia plants available at this time of the year.

Poinsettias make handy gifts as well as bright and cheery potted colour for balconies, entrances or indoors as temporary colour. As well as red poinsettias there are also varieties with pink, white and double flowers.

Foliage choices

Mid summer is a leafy time in the garden so there’s lots of foliage available to use to make natural Christmas wreaths, swags and table decorations. Long-lasting foliage includes ivy, japonica camellia, gum branches and conifers. To these add pine or sheoak cones or other pods. For an additional festive feel, add glitter or gold or silver spray paint.

One of the easiest seasonal festive table decorations you can whip up using foliage from the garden is an arrangement of camellia leaves studded with red cherries, cherry tomatoes or small red apples. It creates a red and green effect that’s reminiscent of holly berries. To keep it fresh, use a saturated block of florist foam (usually sold as Oasis) in a vase or other container.