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Choosing Holiday Gift Plants
by Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Educator
Finding the right gift for each person on your list can be a challenge this time of year. But if you have someone with a greenthumb on your list, the task can be made easy by choosing a great houseplant. Many specialty plants are available to choose from during the holidays, so here are a few suggestions to help you choose the right plant for the gardener on your shopping list.
Beginning gardeners can have success with several blooming plants including African Violets and Amaryllis.
African Violet, Saintpaulia sp., is a small plant with fuzzy, dark green or variegated leaves and clusters of flowers. The flowers may have a single layer of petals or multiple layers, with flower colors including white, pink, lavender, purple and bi-color. They thrive in any bright window and require little care other than occasional watering and fertilization. Air temperatures between 65-80° F are required, so make sure they don’t get too cold next to the window.
Amaryllis, such as the bright red Hippeastrum ‘Cherry Nymph’, has long, strap-like leaves with tall flower stalks topped by a cluster of large, trumpet-shaped flowers that can be as large as 8 to 10 inches across. Flowers may be white, pink, orange, salmon, red or bicolor. They are grown from large bulbs, about the size of a large onion, and frequently gift packages that include the bulb, pot and soil media can be purchased together. Choose a large, firm bulb to ensure as many flower stalks possible. Put the bulb in the soil, with half the bulb above ground and water. It's that simple.
Intermediate gardeners might enjoy growing a tropical hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. The large, brightly colored, yellow, red, white or orange flowers are a wonderful sight in the middle of winter. These plants require very bright light, making a south or west window ideal, with at least 4 to 5 hours of direct sun. Fertilize monthly during winter, and be careful not to bring pests like spidermites or whiteflies into the home on other houseplants. Then sit back and enjoy the colorful flowers.
A moth orchid, Phalaenopsis hybrid, is another great plant for the intermediate gardener. The flowers are beautiful and the plant looks very unusual, as if it would need an expert grower to do well, but actually they are fairly easy to grow. Each individual flower may last for a month, so a stalk with multiple flowers will bloom a very long time. Plants prefer filtered light, so a north, east or shaded west window works well.
For experienced gardeners or plant collectors consider a gardenia. Gardenias have beautiful, glossy, dark green foliage topped by wonderfully fragrant, large, white flowers. A truly beautiful houseplant, however, they can be temperamental to grow and require the expert touch. Another plant for the experienced gardener is a Sago palm, Cycas revoluta. A very unique plant with dark green, stiff leaves and deeply divided, needle-like fronds. Very tropical in appearance, Sago palm also requires expert care but is well worth the effort for an experienced gardener.
Photo credit: Mistletoes (Phoradendron spp.) , Paul A. Mistretta, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office
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