Gardening

Alternatives to the traditional Christmas tree

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Poinsettia grown outside the front garden of Caroline Dimba-Abwoga. PHOTO | FRANCIS NDERITU | NMG

Artificial Christmas trees can look nice, especially after they are over-decorated, but what about ditching the plastics this year and bringing the pines, ficus tree, eugenia, standing red bottle brush, Italian cypress, Christmas palm, Ashoka, the glorious poinsettia, calla lilies or Leyland cypress and the very bold crotons, indoors.

Alternatively, you can have the big fake tree at a corner and add the indoor plants that will make your home pop this holiday season.

So what trees and flowers can stand as alternatives to plastic trees?

Lucy Wairimu Kioi, the founder of Planty Kenya, a shop that sells potted plants, says there are many non-traditional Christmas tree ideas to help you make your holiday merry and bright. Here is a list:

The poinsettias: Commonly referred to as the Christmas plant, this is a unique plant that features beautiful red leaves. Some come in white and pink while others have a mix of colours.

“But my personal preference is the natural red poinsettias,” says Ms Kioi.

This plant does not need any decor for you to notice that it is indeed a Christmas plant. Its red leaves when in bloom show off.

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Poinsettias can make a stunning and unique Valentine's Day gift. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

It does well indoors but place it in a location with bright direct-indirect light.

Anywhere near a bright window is ideal and water it once to twice a week. You can place many poinsettias strategically in the house.

Plant them in big pots or small pots that you can place on table tops, counters, and dining tables.

“Our small poinsettia currently goes for Sh1,980 in the nursery planter. You can add a basket for Sh1,100 or a fibre pot for Sh1,400,” she says.

The lemon cypress tree: The best part about the lemon cypress is its characteristic small stature and full density which makes it perfect for many homeowners with limited space.

It has green leaves that make it stand out from the typical Christmas tree and it grows in a cone shape.

The lemon cypress needs bright direct light. It is ideal to put it on a balcony or patio where it can receive good direct light.

Water it two to three times a week depending on how the weather is.

The lemon cypress can be transformed into the best festive tree by potting it into a beautiful decorative tree like the bow lemon cypress Christmas tree.

Add your favourite display of decor, and waterproof lights. Put it on your balcony, veranda, or patio and enjoy the merriness and cheer of the Christmas season.

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The Bow Lemon Cypress is an alternative plant to the traditional Christmas tree, at Planty Kenya, along James Gichuru Road on December 8, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

The tradition of bringing greenery into the home began before the birth of Christ, but celebrating Christmas with a tree was closely allied to the Reformation. It is an alternative to the Catholic crib.

History has it that Martin Luther was the first person to put candles on his tree.

So you can add scented candles next to the lemon cypress tree.

The bow lemon cypress tree: Grows to about two to four feet tall in size. At many plant shops, you will find it in different sizes depending on your preference.

The two-feet option ranges from Sh3,900 while the four-feet one feet goes for Sh5,950 with the plant, lights, decor, pot, and topping stones.

It is one of the outdoor plants that can survive indoors during the Christmas season.

If you have it outdoors, bring it in and add the decorations.

These plants need to be watered once weekly and then can be moved outside after the holiday season is done. The large trees range from Sh3,500.

READ: Nairobi Christmas trees light up as hotels launch festive season menus

Best part

What is the best part about the lemon cypress? It is one of our best-seller plants even in the normal season. It’s a sticking mini tree that even without the Christmas decor is stunning in its own right.

“All our previous clients who got the lemon cypress just need to add the decor to enjoy some merry and cheer,” says Sharon Chebet of Qwetu Home Décor.

Rosemary shrub: With its fragrant, green, and spiky leaves, rosemary can be trimmed making it an easy alternative Christmas tree that serves double duty.

With the Christmas décor of ribbons, beads, tree balls, and lights your house will welcome the festive feeling.

Once the festive season is over, you’ve got a useful culinary plant that can live in your home or outside when then temperatures rise.

READ: Newbies gardener's paradise offers vital growth lessons

It can survive under extremely dry conditions and requires medium to bright light. At Qwetu, it goes for about Sh1,000.

Alcaria: The ornamental tree pops up in stores every year and makes an excellent living Christmas tree. Its steady branch holds the weight of lights and ornaments so firmly.

When the holidays are over, it makes excellent houseplants as it is evergreen all year round. It also grows to a height of about three metres as a houseplant and six metres after 10 years.

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The Alcaria is an alternative plant to the traditional Christmas tree. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

It is a resilient plant that thrives well in medium-light conditions and only needs water when the topsoil is dry. It costs about Sh3,000 depending on where you buy it.

Snake plant or mother-in-law’s tongue: Also known as Sansevieria trifasciata, it is the easiest and most popular houseplant that does not disappoint or die easily.

It thrives on neglect and it is hard to kill. It grows up to three feet tall, an under very low light.

It goes for Sh2,000, but this depends on how many pieces you want in a pot.

The fuller the pot, the more money you will spend. Its sword-shaped foliage makes it an excellent décor for the living room or outdoors if you are entertaining or what to do for Christmas dinner or lunch outdoors.

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Depending upon the variety you choose, the plant can then be planted outdoors after the holiday.

A win-win since you get a real plant for the holiday and the plant gets to clean your home, it is one of the best plants to filter indoor air and remove toxic pollutants.

Others include calla lilies, crotons, eugenia and anthurium and weeping fig trees.

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