Support a ‘growth industry’ this gifting season | THE COMPLEAT HOME GARDENER

The first week of December is when holiday gift plants appear as the easy and practical solution for Christmas, hostess and personal gifts. So what plant is best to give?

The first week of December is when holiday gift plants appear as the easy and practical solution for Christmas, hostess and personal gifts.

There are many advantages of giving a living plant during the dark days of winter:

• They are easy to find at not just nurseries and garden centers but in December you’ll find these plants at home stores, drug stores and supermarkets.

• You don’t have to worry if a living plant will fit, ruin a diet or need to be exchanged.

• You’ll be supporting a true “growth industry.”

• It is the only gift that sucks away carbon dioxide and replenishes oxygen in a room. (OK, maybe there are machines that do this but they don’t look as festive sitting on a table.)

• Plants are more colorful, personal and smell better than gift cards.

• You don’t have to wrap a gift plant – this time of year they come with their pots wrapped up in festive foil and already adorned with holiday bows – so you can pick one up on your way to an event – perfect for last minute shoppers.

So what plant is best to give?

Holiday Hellebores – the best gift plant for gardeners or anyone that complains about the dark days of winter.

Hellebores are evergreen perennials that bloom in the winter and thrive in our mild moist climate. They live for years and once moved outdoors to a partly shaded spot are slug, deer and drought resistant.

In European countries hellebores have been more popular than poinsettias as gift plants and now Americans are seeing the heavenly traits of the hellebore plant. New varieties are more compact and adapt to indoor warmth – but please place your potted hellebore outdoors after a few weeks inside and don’t let the soil dry out. You can transplant a potted hellebore into the garden any time of the year as long as the ground is not frozen.

You can recognize hellebores – sometimes called the Christmas Rose or the Lenten Rose by the cup-shaped, white, pink or green blooms hanging gracefully from a thick stalk. The foliage is shiny green with pointy tips.

Selfish tip: It is quite OK to gift a potted hellebore to someone without any garden space– then in a month or two when the plant is done blooming offer to take the plant back and plant it in your own garden. Now you can share the winter blooms for years to come with the first owner.

Poinsettias – classic gift plants that now come in many colors and sizes.

Give a tiny pocket poinsettia to brighten an office cubicle or to add to a dish garden. Fill an empty fireplace with classic red poinsettias, hang a huge basket poinsettia from an indoor balcony or march a row of creamy white poinsettias up the front stair case.

Poinsettias also come in pink, yellow and mixed colors.

Just remember that these are tropical plants so protect from the cold – and no, you cannot plant your poinsettia outdoors after it is done blooming.

Amaryllis – bold, bodacious, blooming bulbs.

Long strappy leaves surround a thick stem that erupts with gigantic butterfly shaped blooms in shades of red, pink or white. This eye-catching houseplant can stay in flower for months in a cool room and you have the choice of giving an amaryllis already in flower or as part of a ready- to- plant kit that comes with plant, pot and soil. Just add water.

This is a great plant for college dorms, nursing homes or small apartments as it doesn’t take up much room. Protect from cold and don’t let the bulb’s roots sit in their own drainage water. The tall stem can grow two feet or higher and will lean toward the light so provide support and turn the pot often.

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