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5 great alternatives to a fake Christmas tree

By Ela Das

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When it comes to Christmas decorations, our friends in the West are far more ambitious than us. Every year, on the weekend that follows Thanksgiving, a typical suburban family in the United States will get together and drive off to their local Christmas tree farm to get the best live tree that can fit in their home.

In India, we’re humbler with our Yuletide décor—some bring out the string of lights they used to make their balconies and outdoor porches more festive for Diwali, while others go the extra mile with sparkly stars and festive signages on their front door. But, most often, our first thought is to go out and buy a plastic conifer tree from the local market. From pint-sized fully decorated ones that can sit on a side table to larger-than-life trees with the tips of the leaves covered in fake snow, the options available are endless. And, unsustainable.

There are a range of plant alternatives you could use around the house to bring in the spirit of festivity. We spoke to Adrienne Thadani, founder of Fresh and Local, to help us navigate our options.

Thadani, who moved to India 10 years ago, realised that even in the smallest of homes you can grow your own produce on a budget with the least amount of chemicals. Creating awareness for urban farming in the big cities, today, she helps restaurants in Mumbai such as The Table, Rue du Liban, The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro grow and serve the freshest quality of microgreens.

Her advice for anyone looking to grow their own garden is not to be too ambitious and unrealistic. “If you start off with big ideas, you may cut corners, not get it right immediately, and get dissuaded. Learn what grows best with the soil and space you have, and go nuts with that first,” she suggests, adding, “It’s easier to begin with a potted sapling or plant from your local nursery first, before starting from scratch by sowing seeds.”

Here are five plants she suggests for your home this festive season.

While being a symbol of hope and peace, this flowering plant is also one of the best natural air purifiers for any home. 

Why it works…
Relatively low maintenance, this plant can grow anywhere—even in small spaces with barely any sunlight.

Where to get it…
Every local nursery should stock it.

How to decorate it…
Wrap a simple gold ribbon around the pot. Its noble 

Image courtesy, New Africa/ Shutterstock.com

white flower is the perfect festive decoration for any minimalist’s home.

When Christmas is over…
Continue using it as a floral decoration in any part of the house through the year.

Image courtesy, Amazon.in

This unusual fern, and one of Thadani’s favourites, reminds her of The Grinch.

Why it works…
Another easy-to-care-for evergreen plant, this also works in a small home but requires a little sunlight.

Where to get it…
Not a plant that thrives in colder climates, you can find it in local nurseries in our warm-winter cities.

How to decorate it…
A decently-sized foxtail fern will be able to support ornaments at the ends of its branches; but Thadani also suggests painting its pot in red and white candy stripes, with a single lone ornament on one of its branches (as a secret Grinch reference or a great conversation starter if you’re hosting a party).

When Christmas is over…
This can also grow through the year and be kept for next Christmas, while doubling as an air purifier.

A full-grown pot of this herb will add a wintery, woody fragrance through the home.

Why it works…
Better for homes in colder areas, you could also use twigs from it for your Christmas cooking.

Where to get it…
Since it is a slow-growing plant, and needs a bit of care, you could pick up a pot of it at a well-stocked food store like a Foodhall outlet or nurseries that have them.

Image courtesy, Shaiith/ Shutterstock.com

How to decorate it…
If your plant is big enough, hang the tiniest of ornaments at the ends of the branches or give it an ethnic twist by laying out wooden Indian figurines at the base of the stem.

When Christmas is over…
Leave it on the windowsill in your kitchen to continue garnishing your food with fresh rosemary.

Image courtesy, Michal Ludwiczak/ Shutterstock.com

A differently shaped alternative to a Christmas tree, this plant can grow up to six-seven feet when potted.

Why it works…
For bigger homes with balconies or sunny spots, the broader leaves of this tree will add an unconventional twist to your festive décor.

Where to get it…
Ring up your local nursery to enquire if they’re growing it.

How to decorate it…
Wrap fairy lights all around the stem and branches of this tree to create a twinkly silhouette. “You could also go heavy on the DIY with paper pom-poms or streamers made from colourful waste cloth,” adds Thadani.

When Christmas is over…
…and as the plant grows bigger, plant it in your garden or building compound. It is a great source of shade in the summer.

A colourful alternative for a maximalist looking to brighten up a home.

Why it works…
Another relatively low-maintenance plant, this needs a bit of sunlight but can work indoors, and it is sturdy enough to handle unconventional decorations.

Where to get it…
Easily available in nurseries across the country.

How to decorate it…
If you have the space, keep a bunch of these plants together for an instant pop of colour (especially if Christmas red is not your colour of preference). You could also add a small spotlight below to create interesting shadows and play with the colours of the leaves.

When Christmas is over…
Either plant it outside your home or use it as a New Year’s gift for a garden-loving friend.

Photography by Madhurjya Saikia

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