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Plants for Christmas gifts

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I see trees of green
Red roses too.
I see them bloom,
For me and you,
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.
— Louis Armstrong

Giving a gift that will stand the test of time is always a challenge, but giving plants is one way to try. Whatever type of plant you choose, it’s sure to last longer than cut flowers will, and often costs the same (or less) than a nice arrangement from the florist. If you have a plant-interested giftee on your list, some of the ideas below will help you on your way — consider giving a nice pot (bigger than the plastic pot the plant comes in) and bag of soil as a way to ensure your gift gets a good start in life.

The most important thing to consider when giving a plant as a gift is where it will live; if you know that your friend’s place is really bright and sunny, then a plant that naturally grows in that environment makes the most sense — like a succulent. If the person you’re gifting has a cool home with a couple bright windows, but no direct sun, an orchid is probably a better choice. Succulents naturally grow in desert-like environments, and orchids grow in damp forests. “Even if a houseplant was born, cultivated, or propagated in a nursery or greenhouse setting, it is still a species that once lived trailing, winding, or vining across a woodland clearing, clinging to rock outcrops or desert landscapes, or maybe even soaring high on branches in the forest canopy. Knowing the natural history of a plant is important, as it can help you understand what conditions it prefers and even why it grows the way it grows.” So, while you’re picking out plant gifts, ask the salesperson at the plant nursery or florist shop for more information, which will help ensure that you choose a plant that’s a decent match for where it will end up. Of course, providing a little info with the plant — its name and details about what it needs — is a great way to help the plant in its new abode.

Whatever kind of plant you choose to give, make peace with the fact that it may or may not survive. Even relatively experienced green thumbs like myself sometimes lose plants. It’s worth remembering that, all plants are prisoners of war inside our homes — a house’s interior is pretty dissimilar to where that plant evolved over the last 50,000 years. So we can all only do our best. The key is to pay attention to plants — really look at them each day or so. If their leaves dry up at the end, they’re not getting enough water. If they’re reaching their little leaves toward the light, they may need more of it. So offer that advice to your giftee, and then let it go.

Here are a few ideas to get you started; all of these plants are fairly easy to keep alive and look lovely. You don’t need to wrap them, a simple bow is enough, or you can always put them inside a paper bag with a bow on the top if you want to keep the gift under wraps.

Thanksgiving/Christmas Cactus
This is one of those plants that’s available widely, especially during the holiday season because it blooms at or around the Thanksgiving to Christmas season. Technically a succulent, this plant needs a bright (but not hot) window to live in — it definitely needs a fair amount of light, but likes to stay relatively cool at the same time. So a window that’s not near or above a heater is ideal. Because it’s a succulent, it doesn’t need constant watering, though it likes a bit more water just before it blooms and during the time it flowers.

Jade Plant (Money plant)
Another type of succulent, these need a fair amount of light, but they definitely want to dry out between waterings. Their thick-skinned leaves mean the plant is able to store plenty of water, so the danger with these is over-watering, which can make them soggy and waterlogged. Jade plants don’t flower, but they have a lovely bonsai-tree-like effect that’s pleasing. They can grow quickly if they live in a spot that’s good for them, but pruning them is easy.

Orchids
These gorgeous plants aren’t as difficult to care for as many people think; those available commercially have been bred to be relatively hardy. They don’t need to be kept at tropical temperatures by any means (and in fact, orchids’ natural habitat is in the breezy and cool-at-night elevated habitat of upper tree branches, where they often grow in between two branches). So keeping one alive throughout it’s naturally long blooming cycle, is fairly easy. A half-cup of water once a week or so is plenty; their strange roots like to keep moist, but not wet.
They need some light, but it can be relatively indirect (no direct sun). Blooms can last three months or longer. An orchid will bloom about once a year, but getting them to bloom again is the trickier part — but it isn’t that hard.

Amaryllis
Amaryllis are one of the favorites plants of the season to send to the special people in your life. Red Lion Amaryllis are sure to be a topic of conversation as they grow and showcase their beauty throughout the season.

Cornstalk Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans)
For a relatively dark spot (yes, you do still need some natural light, but not a lot, and certainly no direct light is necessary), this is a forgiving plant. Dracaena come in a number of varieties and the leaves can display thin or thick stripes of white, yellow, bright green and dark green. They like to dry out between waterings, but you need to keep them relatively damp. They are, like so many of the houseplants on this list, tropical, and are African. If they get more sun, their leaves will adjust to be lighter green or their lighter color stripes will widen to reflect light; if you keep them in a darker spot, their leaves will be darker — the better to absorb whatever light they can find.

Bonsai Tree
If you purchase a mature bonsai specimen, it may already be many years old. Through careful root pruning and shaping, Bonsai trees never outgrow their container, while their trunks become thick and gnarled. What the seller may not tell you is that in spite of their small size, bonsai trees and other shrubs grown in the bonsai method are meant to live outdoors most of the time. Although there are as many ways to care for bonsai as there are species grown as bonsai, consider whether your specimen is tropical or not: tropical trees like ficus can adapt to a bright window indoors, whereas hardy pine need to weather the natural change of seasons to thrive.

Carnivorous Plants
Venus Fly Traps, Pitcher Plants

The cute little sundews, pitcher plants and Venus fly traps grow in cup-sized terrariums, and pictures of animated insect eaters adorn the advertising poster. However, many carnivorous plants are endemic to very small regions like acidic bogs where the moisture, sun, and soil pH is just so. Carnivorous plants need wet conditions, high light, and mineral-free soil and water. Hardy plants also require a period of dormancy that mimics their cycle in nature. Consider these needs before making an impulse purchase for the kids.

Boston Fern
The lush, shaggy fronds of the Boston fern (Nephrolepsis exaltata) look like the perfect green accent for a bedroom or living room. Once in place, the fronds begin to shatter, shedding worse than a golden retriever in July. Likely what’s missing is humidity, and lots of it. If your family can’t live without long, steamy showers, try rehoming your Boston fern in the bathroom. Give it an outdoor vacation in humid summer areas, and supplement with a mister.

Poinsettia
The re-blooming poinsettia: is it the unicorn of holiday plants? Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) have a highly specific photo period that growers adhere to in order to trigger blooming, and even a bit of light shine from a neighboring room can disrupt the plant’s ability to re-bloom. Those that do re-bloom often have smaller bracts and lanky stems, hardly worthy of a holiday table. Best to leave cultivation to the horticulture experts, and treat yourself to a new plant when December arrives.

Bird’s nest Fern
The bird’s nest fern (Asplenium nidus) has the distinction of being an epiphyte, which cause problems right off the bat for some owners, which want to plunk it into a container of potting soil. Instead, look for chunky orchid potting media, or even consider wiring it to a slab of wood to resemble the way it grows in nature. This growing method allows the roots to dry out quickly, but therein lies the challenge: the bird’s nest fern likes lots of moisture and humidity

Florist Hydrangea
Potted Hydrangea

Hardy hydrangeas are some of the most reliable workhorses in the landscape. The so-called “florist’s hydrangea” is usually a Hydrangea macrophylla, Florist’s hydrangeas are forced into bloom for holidays, and do not have a natural all-season blooming cycle. When the blooms fade, frustrated homeowners often trash the plant, but it may have a second life as a garden ornamental in partial shade. The forced blooms mean the plant probably won’t do anything but rest for a year, but where hardy it can thrive outdoors in moist areas.

Gardenia Plant
The intoxicating fragrance of the gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) makes it difficult to resist as a houseplant, which is the only cultivating choice for gardeners north of zone 8. High humidity and very bright light striking all sides of the plant (like one kept in a conservatory) give you a leg up in getting this subtropical plant to bloom indoors.

Miniature Rose
Miniature roses (Rosa spp.) have increased in popularity in recent years as a longer-lasting alternative to cut roses as gift flowers. Their petite stature, even down to teacup-sized, gives them appeal on small desktops or narrow ledges. All roses, large or small, need a full day of direct sun to flourish. Miniature roses also need to stay moist, which can be a challenge in their tiny pots. Stressed plants attract spider mites readily, but if you want your miniature rose to last, plant it outdoors in the garden, and treat it as you would any hardy rose.

Cactus
There are around 2,000 types of cactuses, and most of them are in the succulent family (but many succulents are not cactuses- go figure.)

The mini cactus is a small space favorite. Its compact size makes it possible for anyone to create a modest windowsill garden. They are also really low maintenance — not to mention super adorable.
Many types of cactuses and succulents have root systems that stick to the top of the soil. When these plants are small, they can thrive in vintage coffee mugs
Tree for Urban Dweller, Tree in Living room

Rubber Plant
Just because you live in a small apartment and do not have a yard does not mean you cannot grow a tree.The rubber tree is a resilient indoor favorite that is also low maintenance. The trick is to start with a small young one that you can adapt to your space with pruning.

To keep this plant happy, it needs indirect sunlight in a spot that does not go below 55 degrees or above 80 degrees.You will also want to give this tree’s leaves a little extra TLC by wiping with a clean damp cloth every month. Why? Consider it payback. Each leaf cleans the stale indoor air by scrubbing out nasty

Snake Plant
Snake Plants is a great houseplant for beginning gardeners. It is a very carefree type of plant that likes dry soil and air, which makes it perfect for many indoor environments.

Snake plants are arguably the best plants to suit you any lifestyle and particular needs. For instance, let’s say you are looking for something fuss-free with superior air cleaning skills. Consider the low maintenance snake plant. It is an evergreen with tall sword-shaped leaves that thrives in dry conditions .

Coffee Pot Terrarium with Air Plants
For air plants to thrive there are three must knows. First off, they do not need soil. Second, to keep them hydrated submerge them in a bowl of water for at least four hours. No worries about over watering. They only absorb what they need. Afterward, let them dry off for several hours. Third, they need plenty of indirect sunlight and a light misting every few days.


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