Presents come in all sizes and colors. If the requirements include brightening a room and emanating a feeling of love for years, consider a potted plant! The most rewarding foliage will match the caretaker’s lifestyle, space limitations and attentive maintenance requirements. A monthly responsibility, such as a water-sipping succulent, may be ideal for anyone on-the-go while a tray of four herbs would be perfect for the friend who loves to bake. While a potted, flowering perennial or succulent has the magical abilities to ward off seasonal depression and improve air quality, it takes thoughtful consideration to choose the perfect one!
The color red is often associated with Christmas plants. For instance, Amaryllis begins as an enlarged bulb that will flower in warm temperatures after seven to 10 weeks. Even after cutting old flowers at the stem near the top of the bulb, new shoots will appear! Easy to care for, the Amaryllis only requires sparing amounts of water!
- The Christmas Cactus: As a non-prickly succulent with arching, flower stems, the beautiful Christmas cactus produces red, pink, white, purple or orange flowers between November and January! Easy to maintain, the cactus needs to be far away from drafty doors and windows, receiving bright but indirect light. Depending on the location, water requirements range from once weekly to once monthly.
- Kalanchoe: A beautiful succulent of the stonecrop family with red petal flowers, appearing only in winter! One of the easiest plants to maintain, requires bright sunlight and water when the soil is dry to the touch.
- Rosemary: Purchasing Rosemary near the Christmas holiday, it appears in the shape of an evergreen tree! A beautiful gift for the man or woman who enjoys spicy-sweet, edible spices! Fortunately, frequent cuttings maintain their size while maintaining its year-round beauty! Consider setting the pot on a container filled with pebbles, providing natural humidity! Watering needs occur weekly!
Four-legged friends and young children must be taken into consideration when purchasing a plant. Always check whether your selection has a toxicity value. Fortunately, the elegant orchid is nontoxic; yet, it can have a reputation for being difficult. The green thumb on your list would love to add the beautiful orchard to their collection. To thrive, it prefers a fast-draining pot, partial to locations promoting warmth and indirect life. And, when the soil dries, add an ice cube!
- Air Plants: Similar to succulents, the epiphytes survive without soil in little glass orbs, often hanging or placed near a window. The popularity stems from its low-maintenance requirements – an occasional mist!
- The Resurrection Plant: A native of the Mexican desert, the plant adapted to extreme drought by curling into a ball. As a houseplant, it revives within hours, unfurling its limbs and transforming into a green moss! A wonderful gift for anyone who often forgets to water! This miraculous foliage can remain in a lifeless state for years, if necessary.
- Bird’s Nest Fern: Adapted to live in the forest understory, the plant thrives in low-light locations; therefore, consider this gem for a shady home or apartment dweller. Ferns seeking occasional mist and humidity would enjoy the environment of a full-sized bathroom!
Buyers Warning: If you decide to bring home a tropical plant, please consider the environmental changes from store to vehicle to home. An enlarged plastic bag will protect the foliage from cold temperatures and forceful winds. Also, take notice of the plant’s location within a store! If it is positioned near drafty entrances, it may already show signs of stress; therefore, take time to assess the limbs for any indication of brown or soft leaves or limbs.
Add a laminated label to your pot, indicating specific care instructions. For example, if a plant requires watering once or twice weekly, perhaps write, “Water me every Tuesday and Saturday,” or “… on every Sunday morning!” Most plants, however, only need a drink when the soil becomes dry. Inform the recipient to insert one finger into the potting soil to measure dryness levels. If soil flakes adhere to the finger, then, it’s perfectly happy. Over saturating a plant often leads to signs of stress!
Beloved family and friends, who live at a distance, would love to receive a potted delivery. Florists would be happy to appease your wishes, include a note and hand-deliver the perennial with the same tender care as you would!
*Lisa is a N.C. State Master Gardener Volunteer.