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Gift Plants

Contributed by Lyssa Peters, Master Gardener

 
 

Flowering plants are available everywhere during the holiday season. Supermarkets, garden centers, and of course, florists have a great selection from which to choose. But if you don’t know much about plants, how do you know which plant to give as a gift? I’ve given that question some thought, and have come up with several suggestions.

 

First, consider poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). They are plentiful, inexpensive and come in some beautiful colors, from peach to pink, from cream to a purple-mauve, and of course, bright red. They make a nice hostess gift or holiday plant for seniors, for they require virtually no care and stay colorful for months. But don’t expect your gift poinsettia to live on as a houseplant. These plants are mass produced in greenhouses for the Christmas market. They are grown quickly and brought to flower (actually, what we see are colorful bracts; the flowers are the greenish yellow nubs in the center of the bracts), but their root systems are tiny. They don’t do very well in the average house. I love to get several each Christmas for decoration, and then toss them into the compost pile when the season is over.

 

If you want to give a houseplant that will live happily for many, many years, you might consider another commonly seen gift plant, the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera). My mother-in-law had one that had been her mother’s. It is probably 40 or 50 years old! And still blooms every year. Despite the common name, this species comes from the jungles of South America where the plants grow in the crotches of trees. And unlike true cactus, schlumbergera do best in indirect sunlight, not full sun. Potting soil should be kept evenly moist during the growing season, but these plants will take a lot of neglect and are not fussy. I put mine on a screened porch for the summer, and leave them out until the end of September. They set their buds when the temperature is around 55°. Bring them in before there is danger of frost!

 

Amaryllis bulbs make great gifts for almost anyone on your list. They are fun to grow and are incredibly beautiful in blossom. Everything you need for an amazing bloom is right there in the bulb. Just follow the easy directions on the box. Buy one for yourself, too!

 

And always, before you buy a gift, consider your recipient! As I was thinking about writing this article, I remembered some of the plants I’ve received as gifts. One came to mind and made me smile.

 

In the early years of our marriage, my husband and I rented a tiny house on a lake in Upton, Mass. It had been built by the property owner with “found” items. No two windows were the same size and if a glass of water was spilled, the puddle ran in a little river from one end of house down to the other. (I was told the house was exactly the size of a World War II Quonset hut; some old-timers may remember those.) Our bedroom was just big enough for a double bed, the headboard touched one wall and the footboard touched the other. I climbed over each morning to make the bed.

 

My brother Dave, a generous fellow who likes to wow his gift recipients, gave me an enormous hanging plant for my birthday. I’m still not sure what it was; I haven’t encountered one like it since. The leaves were a bright purplish pink. It was at least 2-1/2 feet across and hung down a foot. The tag said it needed bright light. I had to hang it in the only space available, directly over our bed. It made an interesting focal point, I have to admit, but climbing over the bed and under the plant each morning was a challenge!

 

Some, not many, plants are poisonous for children and pets. Here is a list of common indoor plants you might want to avoid as gifts for parents of small children and pet owners.

 
Botanical Name
Common Name
Poisonous Part

Strelizia regirae

Bird of Paradise All parts

Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Boston Ivy All parts

Caladium

Caladium All parts

Glecoma hederacea

reeping Charlie 
All parts
Dieffenbachia
Dumbcane All parts

Philodendron hastatum

Emerald Duke All parts

Philodendron hastatum

Majesty All parts

Philodendron hastatum

Red Princess   
All parts

Philodendron selloum

Saddleleaf All parts

Hedera glacier

Glacier Ivy   All parts

Philodendron cordatum

Heartleaf   
All parts

Philodendron cordatum

Parlor Ivy All parts

Hedera helix

English Ivy All parts

Scindapsus aureus

Marble Queen 
All parts

Scindapsus aureus

Pothos All parts

Monstera deliciosa

Splitleaf Philodendron All parts

Cyperus alternifolius

 Umbrella Plant 
All parts

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