This festive season, create some Christmas cheer with your potted plants. The trick is using plants that you can be sure will be in flower at the right time, so choose plants that have heaps of blooms constantly throughout the season.
It's easier than it sounds. For a sunny spot, I'd suggest mandevillas, dipladenias, pentas, vincas, petunias, and dianthus. It's hard to go past geranium Big Red, in my view the best geranium on the market at the moment. With its brilliant deep red blooms year-round and neat semi-trailing habit, it is perfect for large pots and hanging baskets. Big Red seems to be one of the few geraniums not prone to rust (causing ugly brown spots on the leaves) in wet, humid weather, and it tolerates dry spells too.
Team it with the beautiful trailing round, silver leaves of dichondra Silver Falls and some white petunias to create a classic Christmas display.
Red or white pentas will work well in this scheme too, or small chilli bushes laden with brightly coloured fruit.
Try clipping rosemary or small-leaf lilly pillies into a Christmas tree shape and decorating with tiny baubles or seed pods. You could plant white alyssum around the base to add a carpet of 'snow'.
You'll find red poinsettias in shops and garden centres in the next few weeks.
These are the classic Christmas plant, and, while striking on their own, will make a dramatic display if you put three or five in a large pot. These have been grown in very controlled conditions to produce colour now, so I would be wary about putting them in a really hot, sunny position outdoors straight away. Keep them in a bright but shaded position indoors or out.
Continuing the Christmas theme indoors is easy, too. For short-term colour, use pots of annuals that will last for a couple of weeks in a brightly lit position.
Longer term options for indoor or shady positions include Phalaenopsis orchids, anthuriums, peace lilies and bromeliads.
These all have flowers that will last for months, so if you get one now, it will still be in bloom for Christmas. All will flower well in a brightly lit position out of direct sun.
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