It is always a joy to still see some green poking around from the snowy blanket topping winter landscapes. Evergreen plants are the last signs of life in the winter months. There are two excellent options, both called Christmas bush plant, that will lend your garden that all important greenery — one is from Australia (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) and one is from Chile (Baccharis magellanica)
Christmas bushes of either variety are warm to temperate region plants. The Christmas bush Australia will thrive in United States Department of Agriculture zones 8-11, while the Chile version is a bit hardier, to zone 7. Both have excellent attributes and medium water needs. Christmas bush care is minimal, making them outstanding plants for the garden.
Chile Christmas Bush Plant
Baccharis magellanica is the variety from Chile. It can be relatively hard to find, but specialty nurseries may have some. The leaves are tiny, green, and glossy, while the plant itself has a mounding habit. It will remain a fairly low growing plant but can spread to 6 feet (1.83 m.). In spring, the plant will be covered in small, white flowers that give way to fluffy seed heads. The Chile plant makes a great groundcover that is tolerant of poor soil and salt spray. It attracts numerous pollinators when in bloom.
Christmas Bush Australia
Ceratopetalum gummiferum is the Australian Christmas bush. It will grow to a medium sized tree of up to 20 feet (6 m.) in height with a spread of half. It will make an excellent hedge or planted as a specimen.
This Christmas bush’s growing conditions make it tolerant of part shade or sun and it grows well on almost any soil, provided it is well draining. The plant has long, glossy leaves divided into 3 leaflets. Young leaves have a light pinkish tinge. Mid-summer to fall will see the plant covered in bright, carmine red sepals that cover the insignificant tiny white flowers. The sepals and foliage are so attractive that the Christmas bush is grown commercially for cut stems. The stems, decorated with the sepals, are often brought indoors for Christmas. It is also called Fairley’s Coral and Festival Bush.
Christmas Bush Care
Christmas bush growing conditions for both varieties are similar, although the Chilean type prefers full sun. Both can handle periods of dryness but perform best when given average water. There is no need to prune Baccharis, but Ceratopetalum benefits from pruning after flowering. Both should have an annual application of balanced plant food in spring. Both these plants are easy going and have minimal maintenance. The Chile variety is deer tolerant and just generally a very tough, little bush.