The History and Mythology of Holiday Houseplants wallacegardencenter

The History and Mythology of Holiday Houseplants

The history and meaning behind these classic houseplants mean the holidays wouldn't be the same without them.

There is a long history of houseplants being used to celebrate the holidays. Rich in significance and origin, these plants go a long way toward making your home feel like Christmas! Create a cozy atmosphere in your home and infuse your Christmas arrangements with a bit more meaning this holiday season by reading more about the history and symbolism behind a few common holiday houseplants.


These days, Poinsettias at Christmas might evoke images of a winter wonderland, but these common holiday houseplants actually have their origins in Mexico's sunny, tropical climate! The Aztecs once cultivated them as a natural medicine and clothing dye; however, following the introduction of Christianity to the region, they were quickly adopted as a symbol for Christmas, with its star-shaped leaves said to represent the star that led the three wise men. Over time, Poinsettias gradually gained significant popularity in Western culture and quickly became a mainstay in contemporary holiday decor; the rest, as they say, is history!

The Peace Lily

While it's probably not the first houseplant that comes to mind when you think of the holidays, the Peace Lily nonetheless represents the spirituality and peacefulness of Christmas time. Peace Lilies are traditionally seen as peace offerings and symbols of purity and are said to bring good luck to their owners. For these reasons, Peace Lilies remain a popular gift to give during the holiday season.

Wallaces Garden Center-Iowa-History And Mythology of Holiday Plants-mistletoeMistletoe

The history of Mistletoe is probably one of the most fascinating out of all the holiday plants. The ancient Druids believed Mistletoe had unique healing properties and associated it with health and luck. Because of this, they would hang the plant above their doorways to grace their home with good fortune. Eventually, early Christians adopted this practice as their own. It's believed that the modern practice of kissing underneath the Mistletoe began as early as the 1720s, when it was seen as a good omen that marriage was in the kissers’ future. Alternatively, if a woman refused a kiss under the Mistletoe, it was believed that bad luck would surely follow her. The custom’s scandalous and superstitious nature made it a hit, especially among the young people of the time, and helped the tradition—and the houseplant that inspired it—remain a holiday classic to this day!

Winter Holly

Winter holly is another holiday houseplant staple for which we can thank the Druids. They believed Holly was a symbol of fertility and eternal life, so much so that—as with Mistletoe—they began decorating their houses with it to bring them good fortune. As early Christians began embracing and adopting Druidic traditions over time, this practice continued as a way to celebrate Christmas.

Wallaces Garden Center-Iowa-History And Mythology of Holiday Plants-live christmas treesChristmas Trees

The Christmas tree tradition can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt, where people used palm rushes to celebrate the solstice. Our modern idea of Christmas trees, however—thick, beautiful evergreens decked out in shiny ornaments, garlands, and lights—originates in 16th-century Germany. The priest Martin Luther is often credited as the inventor, though no one is 100% certain. It's believed he started the tradition after noticing how the stars twinkled through the evergreens on his way home one winter's evening. Enamored by this vision, he decorated a tree with candles in his home to try and recreate the sight. Fellow Germans quickly began to follow suit, and a new holiday tradition was born! Nowadays, Christmas trees have become so widespread they have influenced an entire subcategory of holiday houseplant décor that includes live greenery wreaths, swags, garlands, ornaments, and more. Whether real or artificial, it's safe to say no holiday festivities feel complete anymore without a Christmas tree; check out these design tips to make sure yours' is center stage!

Wallaces Garden Center-Iowa-History And Mythology of Holiday Plants--christmas cactusChristmas Cactus

Though not typically considered a traditional Christmas houseplant, the early 1800s saw Christmas cactus flourish in popularity during the holidays, as they were prized for their fall and winter blooms. Though their initial popularity was short-lived, they came roaring back in the 1950s when people yet again began to adorn their Christmas displays with the prickly plants. These days, Christmas cactus continue to be loved as a more contemporary holiday houseplant option, and are sure to make quite the statement piece in anyone's arrangement this season! The history and meaning behind these classic houseplants mean the holidays wouldn't be the same without them. Luckily, we carry plenty of these and other great holiday houseplants at Wallace's Garden Center in Bettendorf, Iowa to help you get your home into the Christmas spirit; stop by and check them out today!
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