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Choosing Holiday Gift Plants
Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator
Choosing Holiday Gift Plants
Moth orchids have beautiful flowers which last a long time, and they are easy to grow! Image from Pixabay.com.

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, Amaryllis or Peace lily.

Image of an African violet. 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. African violets are available in a wide array of forms and colors. While some older varieties bloom just once a year, newer African violets flower year-round, given good growing conditions.

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.

Image of a peace lily. Peace lilies, Spathiphyllum or spathe flower, need a north window or bright, indirect light to bloom. They develop elegant creamy white flowers, a bit like jack-in-the-pulpits, each with a little stalk protruding from its base. Flowers last several weeks, then gradually turn green as they mature.

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.

With the same care, and only a little more light than you need for African violets, you can grow Streptocarpus successfully. This plant, also known as cape primrose, blooms for months on end, and will re-bloom year after year if you divide it or move it to a larger container.

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.

Image of gardenia flowers. 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.

A visit to a florist's shop or garden center will also present you with a wide variety of "gift plants" – plants that bloom beautifully for a few weeks, then are generally discarded. These plants could include kalanchoes, begonias, hydrangeas, cyclamen, azaleas and chrysanthemums.

Images - feature image is a moth orchid from Pixabay.com. 

  1. African violet
  2. Peace lily
  3. Gardenia

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Associated Video

Holiday Plant Selection & Care

170 views Dec 20, 2022
Nebraska Extension Associate Educator Scott Evans discusses Christmas Cactus, Amaryllis, Norfolk Allen Pine and Poinsettia ornamentals for the holiday season.

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