Plants make great gifts

Plants make great gifts

Photo courtesy of Ellen Goff | Give a savory gift this holiday season by presenting pots of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano to your favorite chef.

by Ellen Goff

When it comes to green giving, the epitome of the gentle earth gift is a living plant. Blooming, edible, ornamental or fragrant, you have numerous choices with prices from modest to extravagant.

The real art in this style of holiday giving is in matching up the right plant with the person and his or her household. Consider that a bustling household with two careers, kids and pets has little spare time to monitor soil moisture and humidity - ditto for retirees who split their time between two homes.

You also may need to consider the plant lover who kills everything in a pot, the cave dweller whose home has dim lighting or the professional who spends long hours under office florescent lights. Despite these gifting challenges, there are creative and gracious botanical presents to be enjoyed throughout the holidays and for months to come.

But first a word about poinsettias. Like fruitcake, they're traditional, predictable and "reinvented" every few years to disguise their identity. Yet for many homeowners, it wouldn't be December without them. If you're one of these traditionalists, remember to avoid direct sunlight, over-watering, cold drafts and heating registers.

Looking beyond the poinsettia, consider the following plants and the notes on their care requirements:

Give a peace lily, corn plant or golden pothos. These low maintenance houseplants thrives in low to medium light and they purify the air. Be sure to include a copy of Dr. B.C. Wolverton's book, "How to Grow Fresh Air" (Penguin Books, 1996).

If your schedule allows for watering every four to six days, you can grow an amaryllis. Bulbs can be grown in potted soil or on a layer of stones in a container filled with enough water to wet the bottom of the bulb. Place in bright light (no direct sun) and keep the soil moist. Bulbs do well under office lighting and provide a dramatic display that lasts for weeks. Fragrant paper white narcissus can be grown following these same directions.

A Moth orchid will bloom for months in bright light (no direct sun) and a watering every one to two weeks. Plants are available in bud, with one or several blooms open. It isn't unusual for this orchid to remain in bloom for two to four months.

If you have a vacant and sunny windowsill, consider a pot of mixed cooking herbs including rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage. Let the pot dry out completely before watering.

For an abundance of color in full sun with minimal water, select a Kalanchoe. And if you're still completely at a loss as to which plant to give, the understated elegance of an ivy topiary or potted dwarf conifer are always festive and welcomed gifts.

Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She is passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she's stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C. 

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