Houseplants | Giving Gifts That Grow
Photo/Art by Brenda DarrochHouseplants make thoughtful presents to put under the Christmas tree if they’re chosen with care. It’s easy to think of plants for the accomplished gardener, but not so easy to find the right one for someone with less experience or less time to devote to the plants. Here are some suggestions for giving gifts that grow to folks who fall into the latter category.
For beginners of any age, here are four plants that are long-lasting and fairly easy to care for. I stress the long-lasting part because beginners can be put off if their first plant dies and they end up blaming themselves for it. Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) is an easy plant that goes on for years. Crown of thorns (Euphorbia splendens) will bloom off an on throughout the year in a sunny window. Pepromia is a large family of unfussy succulent plants that are fun to collect and offer great variety in the different species. The bird’s-nest fern (Asplenium nidus) is easier than many of the fern family and more interesting. The bird’s nest appears at the base of the leaves.
Here are five good choices that are easy to care for: bunny ears (Opuntia microdasys), a sturdy cactus whose new growth resembles rabbit ears; panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa), a fuzzy-leaved succulent with black spots; piggyback plant (Tolmiea menziesii), especially good for children who like to water plants often; strawberry begonia, also called strawberry geranium (Saxifraga sarmentosa), which has little plants at the ends of runners that are fun to propagate; jade plant (Crassula argentea), a big favorite with boys and girls. They all do well in a sunny window, and since most children seem to like to keep their plants right on the windowsill, these varieties can stand a fair amount of cold draft, too.
Miniature African violets are not as fussy as you might think, and they look adorable when set into a delicate tea cup. Follow these instructions on how to grow healthy African violets.
When giving plants to someone who lives nearby, it’s a nice added touch to include a saucer for the water to drain into. For friends and relatives far away, plants can be wired by your local florist, or you may send a gift certificate to a nursery or plant shop local to that area.
Adapted from “Giving Gifts That Grow,” by Helen Tower Brunet, December 1979