Hellebores as Christmas Plants
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) has been the traditional Christmas plant for generations. It was first introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first US Minister to Mexico. Its bright red bracts (they’re not really flowers) and green foliage pay homage to the season, and can be found in displays from malls and offices to schools and stores. I've always placed a few around the house to add a splash of color around the holidays, and I even succumbed to the mini rage of glitter spray once or twice. (The sparkly-er, the better according to my daughter.)
My greenhouse grower husband grew tens of thousands of fantastic poinsettias over a period of 20 years, and he never got tired of them. But I did. After a couple weeks in the house, these four or five darn plants became completely useless. My annoyance would grow each time I had to water them, move them, or clean up the fallen leaves…and I admit, more than once, I just tossed them outside on a really cold day just to get rid of them.
People tell me stories about keeping them year-round, and trying to get them to re-bloom. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Poinsettias need several weeks of uninterrupted dark at night (no household lights at night) alternating with bright light during the day. No wonder it’s so difficult to get them to re-bloom! Really, I couldn't be bothered.
I don’t believe poinsettias will ever go completely out of style, but personally, I’m about done with them. I have chosen a different kind of plant for Christmas this year. Hellebores have been around for a long time, but they are traditionally known as a garden perennial that the deer don’t eat. Very cool! They come in reds, greens, white, off-white, pink, purple, yellow and combinations of all these colors. Their bloom time in the garden is late winter to early spring, but they can be tricked into blooming earlier, like Christmas time, without the dark/light combination required for poinsettias.
Hellebores can brighten my house for the holidays, and as soon as the weather warms a bit, I will plant them in my perennial garden where they may bloom every spring for years and years. A season in the house, a lifetime in the garden! Now that's my kind of plant!