Some potted plants that are part of Christmas displays are tropical or subtropical, like poinsettias and Christmas cactus. These days, a northern native is moving up the Christmas plant charts: wintergreen. Like holly, wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is usually grown outdoors. If you are interested in wintergreen plant décor – using wintergreen houseplants to decorate your holiday table – read on for tips on how to grow wintergreen indoors.
If you’ve ever seen wintergreen growing outdoors, you know that it is a gorgeous plant all year long. Like a holly tree, the wintergreen’s glossy leaves do not wilt and die in autumn. Wintergreen plants are evergreen. These shiny leaves contrast winningly with the plant’s flowers. The blossoms look like tiny, dangling bells. Wintergreen flowers ultimately produce bright Christmas-red berries. As you can imagine, all of these elements in a small pot on your holiday table looks festive and merry, indeed. If you want to start growing wintergreen indoors, you’ll be very happy with the results. Wintergreen makes a beautiful houseplant.
How to Grow Wintergreen Indoors
If you start growing wintergreen indoors, you’ll have those bright red berries on the plant during the entire holiday season. In fact, the berries hang onto the plant from July through the following spring. Talk about long-lasting wintergreen plant décor! If you bring a wintergreen plant indoors, you have to provide it with all the elements Mother Nature would offer outside. That starts with ample light. If you’ve bought a houseplant as wintergreen plant décor, most exposures are okay during the Christmas season. The wintergreen houseplant is at rest in winter. Toward spring, however, you’ll need to increase the light. Wintergreen houseplants require lots of bright light but not too much direct sun. An hour or two of direct morning sun is probably enough. When you are growing wintergreen indoors, maintain a temperature of 60 degrees F. (16 C.) or less if possible. However, the plant probably won’t suffer if the temperature climbs to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 C.) but it prefers chillier weather. Wintergreen plants indoors do not like much heat. You’ll also want to give your wintergreen houseplants enough water to keep their soil fairly moist. On the other hand, if you have a wintergreen plant indoors, don’t worry too much about fertilizer. Less is better than more, and none works well too.
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Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.
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