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Living Space: Use floral to liven up the holidays

By By Kathryn Weber
Dec. 5, 2013 at 6:05 a.m.

Christmas cactus are hardy, love the indoors and they're stingy drinkers.

This year, instead of putting out another tired pot of poinsettias and fake ferns, why not go with something living instead? In fact, winter is a time when many flowers are at their peak, making them a terrific option for holiday decorating.

Better still, living plants clean the indoor air, and when spring comes around, you can often take them outdoors. Besides looking fresh and natural in your home, live plants also make great gifts.

Holiday in white

Some of the most popular potted holiday flowers are paperwhites and cyclamen. Paperwhite bulbs are available in most home and garden centers and are easy to force indoors. Their frosty white color is perfect for the Hanukkah table ($29, Harryanddavid.com).

Cyclamen also come in a variety of colors from white to pale pink and deep fuchsia, making them a flexible choice. FTD offers a beautiful gold container of white cyclamen that would look beautiful right through winter ($29, FTD.com).

Other choices for white flowers include jasmine and gardenia plants. Their waxy, dark-green leaves and scented blooms will drive the winter chill out of your house, and both can be planted outdoors once the seasons change.

The last bloom to consider? An orchid. These plants get a bad reputation for being delicate, but they really aren't difficult to maintain. A window with indirect light and once-a-week watering keeps their big blossoms happy.

Turn up heat

If traditional red is the color you're looking for, there's a wide range of plants to choose from. Christmas cactus is always a good choice. These plants are hardy and love the indoors, and they're stingy drinkers. Try a cheery red and white version with candy cane coloring ($59.95, JacksonandPerkins.com) for a truly holiday feel.

If big, bold flowers are more your style, nothing tops amaryllis. Usually grouped as three or more blossoms, these showy flowers steal the show. Find them now at your local garden or home center or order online. Another good choice that can easily make the transition from house to patio is kalanchoe. These plants come in a variety of colors, look wonderful with holiday decor and are easy to care for.

Go green

Of course, not all plants have to be blooming or showy to add a warm and inviting touch to your rooms. Simple cedar, juniper or rosemary plants have a holiday look and add a nice spot of green. Try a small trio of potted juniper plants. Add burlap coverings and red bows for the pots, and you're all set.

Of course, all kinds of trees can be purchased live - from spruce and pine to fir and cedar. The smell is incredible.

Still other options are wreaths made of eucalyptus, olive branches or bay leaves ($49, proflowers.com). Try a miniature citrus tree, such as a Meyer lemon, blood orange or kumquat. Two-year-old, 2-foot-high trees run about $40 and do well indoors (fourwindsgrowers.com).

Kathryn Weber is a home and decorating columnist and publishes the Red Lotus Letter feng shui ezine. For more information, contact Weber through her website, redlotusletter.com.

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