Gifts that Bloom and Brighten Your Holiday

By Dotty Woodson, Ed.D., Horticulturist
December 5, 2022

Photos by Dotty Woodson.

Plants add that extra touch to brighten any room of your house, especially for the holidays. Read on to learn about some of the most popular gift plants available this time of year.

Orchids

The Phalaenopsis orchid flowers last two months or longer; purchase now, and the flowers will last through the New Year. Many colors are available. Orchids are tropical perennials that bloom every year for many years. To water your orchids, place them in the sink to wet the potting material once a week thoroughly. Allow the orchids to drain while in the sink. They should not sit in water. When the flowers drop, place the orchid where it will receive good light. Orchids will grow two new leaves during the summer. Fertilize twice a month during summer.

Anthurium

Anthurium is another tropical perennial plant with bright showy flowers, coming in red, white, pink, and variegated. The flowers are long-lasting and may flower as a house plant for many years. Keep moisture evenly. Fertilize about twice a month.

Amaryllis

Amaryllis is a wonderful holiday gift as a plant or a dormant bulb. Many garden centers a perfect gift! Watching the bulb and the flower grow is a fascinating experience. If you do not buy a kit, plant the bulb in loose potting soil in a pot one inch larger than the bulb. Use a ceramic or clay pot or place some gravel in the bottom of a plastic pot to counterbalance the weight of the plant and flower stem. The flower stem can grow two feet tall with several eight- to 10-inch trumpet-shaped flowers at the top. The flower stem may require staking. Place the planted bulb in a sunny window. The flower stem and foliage will grow toward the light, so turn it regularly. When the flower is fully open, place the pot where you will enjoy its beautiful flowers.

Croton

Croton is a perennial tropical plant with beautiful fall-colored foliage: orange, yellow red. Use as decoration outdoors in containers or landscapes. If in planters, place anywhere indoors when the weather turns cold. Water thoroughly. Keep evenly moist, not wet. Crotons make fantastic colorful house plants. I grow mine outdoors in part-shade all summer. As the plant grows larger, move it into a large container.

Poinsettia

The most popular Christmas plant, the poinsettia is from southern Mexico. It grows into a tall, woody shrub with showy red leaf-like bracts in the winter. Poinsettia bracts will stay colorful for two months or longer and are available in many colors beyond the traditional red. Select a healthy poinsettia with the flower buds tightly closed, no broken branches, no signs of previous wilting, and no missing lower leaves. Place the poinsettia in your home where it will receive good sunlight. Do not allow the soil to dry. The lower leaves dropping off the poinsettia is not unusual if the plant is overwatered, under-watered, the temperature is over 80 degrees, below 50 degrees, and in low light. poinsettias are tolerant of the low humidity in most homes. Keep the soil evenly moist, not soaking wet and keep it out of the drafts of cold and hot air.

Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus has orchid-like red, pink, or white flowers. These plants are tough survivors. Give this plant to your brown thumb friend or anyone with a taste for the exotic. While in bloom, keep the plant moist; it may be a cactus, but it still requires water. After the plant drops the flowers, grow this pretty cactus in a sunny window until spring, then move outdoors to a bright location. Fertilize like other houseplants.

The Christmas cactus requires a short day and a dry dormant period to flower. In the Fall, allow the cactus soil to dry. Add just enough water to keep the plant from wilting. Allow the cactus to remain dry for a few weeks. The dryness will create a dormant period the cactus requires to flower.

Ivy or Rosemary Topiary

English ivy or rosemary topiaries are very popular and decorative. These plants last a long time and can easily continue growing after the holidays. Both ivy and rosemary topiaries are available in many shapes.

Place the topiary where it will receive good sunlight when it is not a decoration. Keep them moist but not soaking wet. Fertilize twice a month with a water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength or add a houseplant time-release fertilizer. For the summer, keep the rosemary in a nice container outdoors, or plant it in the ground in a sunny location. The more you prune this lovely plant with a delicious scent, the thicker it will grow. The ivy topiary can grow indoors or outdoors in the summer. Keep the ivy topiary in a pot so you can place it as a decoration for all events.

Other holiday gift plants include bromeliads, cyclamens, kalanchoe, the crown of thorns, and camellia. Remember to purchase all your holiday plants as soon as possible for the best selection.

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