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December Birth Flowers: Holly & Narcissus

Close-up of holly leaves and berries

When you think of December, flowers probably aren’t the first things that come to your mind. Snow, sweaters, hot cocoa, and the end of a new year? Sure. But flowers? While this month is one of the coldest of the year, that doesn’t mean those born in December don’t have their own birth flowers. But what is the December birth flower?

Those born in the last month of the year can claim both holly and narcissus as the December birth flower. We’re going to dive into why these flowers are linked to December and also introduce you to some more information about them.

Primary December Birth Flower: Holly

The first December birth month flower is holly. Yeah, we know it’s not exactly a flower. But this iconic evergreen plant is a must-have for all December birthdays.

After fall flowers like goldenrod and chrysanthemums (one of the November birth flowers) have been zapped by the cold and fiery leaves have fallen from oaks and maples, holly plants continue to enliven landscapes with shiny green leaves and bright red berries.

Holly Symbolism and Meaning

The holly plant’s symbolism varies between cultures. Some people view the leaf’s spiky margins as a symbol of protection while others view the same spikes as signs of pain, evil, and danger. That means you can form your own opinions about the symbolism of holly’s spikes.

In more recent years, people have viewed holly as a symbol of hope and happiness. That means that including this plant in a birthday bouquet can help remind people to keep a positive attitude as they look at the year ahead.

The holly plant also holds specific symbolism to certain groups of people. Christians often use holly to decorate wreaths, garlands, and mantles during Christmas. Some say the sharp holly leaves symbolize the crown of thorns Jesus wore during his crucifixion, and the red berries symbolize the blood he shed.

Holly plants were also an important part of the Druids’ celebration of the winter solstice. These people believed that the Holly King ruled the dark, winter months while the Oak King reigned over the brighter months. They also thought the plant presented protective qualities, so they brought holly leaves indoors to guard against evil spirits.

Holly Varieties

While you may think of holly as evergreen plants with spiky leaves and red berries, holly plants include a whole genus of plants! The genus, Ilex, contains over 500 species that include shrubs, small trees, and vines. All of these plants have glossy leaves, small whitish flowers, and ‘berries’ that are actually a type of fruit known as drupes.

Some types of holly are much more recognizable and popular than others, but you can spend years exploring the different species and varieties without covering them all. We’ve included some of the most popular types of holly below.

American holly (Ilex opaca): a small to medium tree, American holly produces evergreen, spiny leaves and clusters of red or orange fruits.

English holly (Ilex aquifolium): this iconic holly is the species that is often associated with Christmas decor; it has green leaves with curvy and spiky margins as well as bright red fruits.

Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria): native to sandy and salty shores of the Southeastern United States, this holly has bright red fruits and rounded green leaves.

Yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis): you might recognize this holly for its use as a caffeinated herbal tea.

Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata): winterberry has bright red berries and smooth green leaves, making it a great alternative to spiky holly plants.

Holly Fun Facts

While eating a large quantity of holly berries can cause an upset stomach in humans, many types of birds can’t get enough of these small, round fruits. Catbirds, cedar waxwings, and robins love feasting on the berries, especially when other food is sparse.

You know how holly leaves are thick and waxy? Well, this isn’t just for show. This waxy coating helps the plants conserve water, meaning holly is pretty drought-tolerant. While you’ll want to water young plants regularly, older plants can survive moderate and even extreme drought.

Many people see springs of holly and think these plants are quite small. But many species can grow taller than a house! American holly can easily grow over 50 feet tall in its natural habitat.

Secondary December Birth Flower: Narcissus

Narcissus flowers growing in a field

The narcissus is the second December birth month flower. The term narcissus refers to a genus of plants that includes popular flowers like daffodils, jonquils, and paperwhites.

While these flowers wait until the spring to bloom outdoors, you can also force the bulbs to bloom indoors during December. That means you can have this December birth flower on hand just in time to celebrate.

Narcissus Symbolism and Meaning

Since narcissus are bulb flowers that grow foliage and bloom within a few weeks, people see them as symbols of rebirth and new beginnings. If you’re looking for a way to remind yourself or a loved one that change is always possible, a narcissus is a great gift! Giving a bouquet of these flowers as a December birthday gift can help serve as a reminder that a new year brings new opportunities.

The specific symbolism of the narcissus can also vary depending on the exact flower you’re looking at. Remember, there are multiple types of narcissus! Delicate, small paperwhites symbolize purity and innocence, while yellow daffodils are linked to joy and good luck. 

Narcissus Varieties

People can use the term narcissus to refer to the whole Narcissus genus or specific groups or species of plants. All flowers in this genus have trumpet-shaped blooms that grow from bulbs. The flowers have a noteworthy ‘cup’ surrounded by six distinct petals. After the flowers bloom, the plants die back until they reemerge the following year.

Two of the most popular types of narcissus are daffodils and paperwhites. Both of the groups of plants include multiple species and even more individual varieties. We’ve included some of the most popular and interesting types of narcissus below.

Narcissus ‘Angel’s Whisper’: this triandrus daffodil produces multiple flowers on each stem; the blooms have bright yellow cups and petals.

Narcissus Cyclamineus ‘Jetfire’: a sweet daffodil with an orange cup and yellow petals that gently sweep backwards.

Narcissus ‘Delnashaugh’: this stunning double daffodil has layers of cream and salmon petals and a ruffled center cup.

Narcissus ‘Ziva’: a dainty paperwhite known for its prolific display of small white flowers.

Narcissus Fun Facts

While narcissus flowers typically bloom in the spring, horticulturists have figured out how to ‘force’ the bulbs so they bloom during December or January. The forcing process involves placing the bulbs in a cold area for a few months. After they’ve been exposed to cold, the bulbs can be set in a warm, moist area. They will begin to sprout foliage and eventually form their iconic flowers. If you want to grow a winter narcissus at home, look for pre-forced bulbs.

The narcissus flowers’ beauty may tempt you to pair them with other flowers. But before you stick these blooms in a vase with other flowers, beware of their dangerous properties. When narcissus stems are cut, they release alkaloids that are poisonous to many other plants. That means mixing them with flowers like roses and tulips can lead to a bouquet of wilted blooms.

Learn More About Birth Flowers

Now that you know all about the birth flower for December, it’s time to turn your attention to the other eleven months! We’ve written up a handy guide about all birth month flowers to get you off to a good start.

Whether you’d like to order flowers based on birth month or want to pick out a bouquet featuring a certain color or style, The Bouqs is here to help. We have all sorts of arrangements available for birthday flower delivery including timeless rose bouquets and seasonal options.

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