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Replacing your Christmas tree for the new year

Plants for New YearHere’s a thought. If you’ve got space for a Christmas tree in full fig, you’ve got space for another plant.

Every time the Christmas tree comes down, it’s a sad moment. All that greenery and life now exiled to the patio, shredded for mulch, or dumped on the kerb for the council. And only a big empty space to show for it. So why not replace it?

We all know, thanks to decades of research, how healthy plants are for us – they clean the air of toxins and chemicals, they refresh oxygen levels making it easier to breathe, they help us relax and feel happier. So why not replace that tree with a lovely green indoor plant? This one will last longer than 30 days, too.

What – you didn’t know about all this research? Oh yes. NASA has for many years been finding out the best houseplants for sucking up harmful chemicals, and pumping out oxygen. It’s even grown plants in outer space, to see if they can provide clean air for space exploration missions.

Some of the best green plants to try include philodendron, yucca, dracaena, kentia palm, and peace lily. Philodendrons have thick, glossy, heart-shaped leaves, and usually grow twining up a mossy pole. (In the wild, they cling to handy tree trunks, but this is a little difficult in your average living room.) There are a couple of handsome varieties with burgundy or bronze leaves, worth looking out for.

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Yucca and dracaena have a central trunk, so look more tree-like, and are both topped with a shock of long, strappy leaves. Dracaena – dragon trees – usually have stripey leaves of yellow, red, or cream; yucca are plain green.

Kentia palms are probably the most forgiving indoor palms, not needing high levels of light or humidity, and not being too stiff of leaf either. In fact, they are more like ostrich feathers than paper fans, and very elegant.

And last but not least, the peace lily (Spathiphyllum). Dark green leaves; white sail-like bracts; flowerspikes tucked inside like corn-on-the-cob in a napkin - they make a handsome plant. Spathis come in all sizes from miniature to impressive, and flower better in shade than bright light, making them ideal houseplants.

None of these are quite as large as the average Christmas tree, but all have a presence that will enhance your home. All are pretty easy to grow, don’t mind the lower light levels indoors, and will put up with some neglect if other members of your household aren’t very green-fingered. What more could you want to kick off a healthy 2019?