The second week of December is time to buy potted poinsettias and hellebores as gift plants to add some life to your holiday shopping. Poinsettias are the traditional potted plant for gift giving but hellebores are growing in popularity because they take up less space and can be planted out into the garden after a few weeks indoor. Hellebores are long lived and easy care perennials that will flower every winter — making them the perfect gift that keeps on giving — and blooming.
Gift plants are practical as well as pretty options for office workers, nature lovers, minimalists, environmentalist, decorators, the elderly and anyone that does not want more calories or more things to store. Giving a plant can actually help the recipient breather easier. All plants take in carbon dioxide and send out oxygen.
Here are some do’s and don’ts for the two most popular Christmas gift plants:
These traditional Christmas houseplants originally came from Mexico and the brilliant red leaf bracts made then the perfect color for traditional Christmas decorating. Today you can find poinsettias in pastel pinks, creamy whites, golds and even striped bi-colors.
Don’t leave your poinsettia plant in a cold car overnight or place it near an open window. Poinsettias also hate the dry air close to heaters and fireplaces.
Do remove the bottom of the foil wrapping or at least poke extra drainage holes. Poinsettia leaves will turn yellow if the soil stays too wet or is allowed to get too dry.
The practical perennial and new holiday favorite, the hellebores you find this week dressed up to give as indoor gifts are the same hellebores you can plant outdoors. Hellebores have cup shaped blooms in pure white or soft pink and hellebore plants can stay indoors for a few weeks before they will begin to decline from indoor heat and low humidity. To revive a struggling hellebore plant just place it outdoors in a protected location and water well. As soon as possible after the holidays when the ground is not frozen dig a wide hole at least two feet across in a shaded location. Remove the gift hellebore from its pot and transplant directly into the ground. Enjoy can then enjoy your hellebore in the garden with years of future winter blooms.
Do: Wet the leaves of your hellebore and wipe with a damp cloth to increase the humidity and help prevent aphid and mites.
Don’t: Keep your hellebore plant indoors until spring. They prefer to be outside, even in the winter.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.