There are aspects of Chinese culture I thoroughly enjoy, the art, the food, and, of course, THE PLANTS! I studied Chinese Brush Painting years ago, I cook Chinese influenced dishes almost every single week and my collection of plants are dominated by species from "the Mother of Gardens".
Plants and flowers play an important role in the festivities for Chinese New Year and there are iconic plants you'll often see at stores such as:
Miniature orange trees or kumquats:
Obviously, mandarin oranges do not grow naturally like this, but you'll see these all over China as they symbolize great fortune. The round fruit also symbolize unity and perfection.
Chinese Sacred Lilies:
So the Chinese started the whole forcing of paperwhites, but they do them more elaborately often carving the bulbs into unique shapes and their flowering is always timed so they're in full, gloriously fragrant bloom come Chinese New Year! Known as Shui Xian Hua (water goddess flower) and botanically known as Narcissus tazetta v. chinensis
Everyone is familiar with Lucky Bamboo (not really a bamboo, but botanically known as Dracaena sanderiana) and you'll see more of them during the Chinese New Year decorated and often contorted in many different shapes and forms. They are easily grown in water and make a low maintenance house plant and as the same suggests, symbolize luck and goof fortune.
The year of the dragon reminds me so many plants that I grow that have "DRAGON" in their name.
The first plant that comes to mind is Poncirus (now classified as Citrus) trifoliata 'Flying Dragon'. It is a hardy plant for us in the Pacific Northwest and it is highly unusual with its contorted branches, dark stems and occasional fruit. I've used it in container plantings, but I've yet to get mine in the ground as it looks smashing in a pot and I'm not quite sure where it'll go in the garden.
An impulse purchase at a local nursery was this rare Polygonatum that I thought I had lost, but I think I managed to save a piece of the rhizome. This is a variety called 'Jeweled Dragon'
Next is a conifer that's readily available in the trade and one I really should be growing, but again, not sure where it's going to go, but this 'Black Dragon' Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) is a handsome plant that doesn't get too large. Getting to about 7-8ft. tall and wide in 15-20 years, which is pretty compact so it lends itself to container work and a small urban garden. So, it's slow growing and quite low maintenance.
恭禧發財!! Gong Xi Fa Cai (mandarin) Gong Hey Fat Choy (Cantonese)
Happy Chinese New Year!