Our favourite festive plants that make Christmas... Christmas!

Christmas is all about the plants! From trees to turkey trimmings, from poinsettia to pine, there’s no doubt that much of our festive inspiration comes from the natural world.

Deck the Halls with … Holly

Evergreen Holly was considered a sacred shrub and a symbol of fertility and life by the Druids, with its red berries and white flowers it remained green and strong while other plants withered. Hanging the plant in homes was believed to bring good luck and safety. In Christian symbolism, the evergreen leaves represent eternal life, while the red berries represent the blood shed by Christ.

Yuletide Yew?

A  beautiful Christmas wreaths, using all sorts of pine, cones dried fruits and seed heads may be adorning your door.  Evergreen trees like pine and spruce have long been considered magical trees with healing powers. Your own wreath may include sprigs from a Yew tree.  Yew is a powerful plant. Two chemotherapy drugs were originally developed from Yew trees. Yew clippings are collected and sold to the drug industry.  Ten Yew trees exist in Britain  that are believed to predate the 10th century. 

The evergreen wreath hung over a window or on the door serves as a symbol that the spirit of Christmas dwells within the home. Both the ancient Druids and Ancient Romans used evergreen boughs in festivals and rituals to celebrate the renewal of life. Many were reluctant to part with the custom of bringing evergreen wreaths inside during the cold winter months after converting to Christianity leading to the traditions carrying through.


Mistletoe is a plant that grows on a range of trees including willow, apple and oak trees. Mistletoe is a semi parasitic plant that has been used for centuries to treat numerous human ailments. The use of mistletoe as a treatment for people with cancer has been investigated. Clinical trials continue to determine more clearly whether mistletoe can be useful in the treatment of cancer patients.

Armed with Mistletoe your Christmas kissing success rate should improve! It is used as a sign of love and friendship in Norse mythology, and that's where the custom of kissing under Mistletoe comes from!  

Love them or hate them? Brussel sprouts

It’s not certain as to why this mini cabbage like vegetables have become a staple at the Christmas dinner table, but it’s likely that they became popular in the late 1800’s and was probably helped along by the fact that prime sprout season is right in the middle of Christmas. They’re an acquired taste but are very good for us with each sprout containing more Vitamin c than an orange! 

Christmas pudding

Christmas or plum pudding originated in the 14 century and was originally a sort of porridge containing meats as well as raisins and spices. It was eaten in various thickened states throughout the ages, often with added booze! The spiced pudding we know today is similar to the type popularised in the Victorian times, as are many of our current Christmas traditions. Mulled Wine

There have centuries-long been traditions of adding herbs and spices to food and drink, both to add flavour and as preservatives.  The type we now drink can again be credited to the Victorians, and a recipe was included in the 1869 edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management which included cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.

 We wish you a very Happy Christmas.

From all the team at Chelsea Physic Garden.