We all know about Christmas cacti, poinsettias, and amaryllis, the Christmas stars of the plant world, but have you ever seen Christmas clover? Named for it's tiny white flowers that bloom in late December, Christmas clover is easy to grow, deer-resistant, flourishes indoors in the winter, and would fit in nicely with my hot-pink holiday decor..
I first became aware of Alternanthera in Garden Design Magazine's feature on which outdoor plants would thrive indoors in the winter (from the September/October 2011 issue). They had this to say about it: "This mainstay for foliage color in summer plantings also makes a great houseplant blooming in early winter with white flowers, giving it the common name of Christmas clover." This adaptability makes it quite a prize in the plant world, especially since "Alternantheras contribute tantalizing foliage colors--shades of yellow, white, red, pink, and even orange--from the moment they're planted in late spring until fall frost finishes their season", according to Fine Gardening. (Of course, if you bring it inside, or if you live in a frost-free region, the display will go on and on.) Most Alternantheras like morning sun/afternoon shade, and can even tolerate full shade, one of the few colorful plants that can. It grows to be about 18" wide and 18" tall, and does best in Zone 8. Alternantheras come in a wide-range of colors, including almost-black, and Learn2Grow has a very thorough guide 'Party Time', my favorite of the bunch. I think stylishly-potted Alternantheras would make excellent host/hostess gifts, and since the plants can be propagated from cuttings your friends can pass along the festivity.