Living Christmas Gift Ideas: 7 Holiday Plants to Give
Plants Freshen Up the Theme
Christmas is approaching quickly, yet you may have one or two people on your list that are just difficult to buy for. Why not skip buying a trendy gift or another food basket, and give a green Christmas present this year!
Plants are environmentally friendly, and they help purify the air while bringing a splash of Christmas color to any room. Start a new tradition this year, and give a holiday plant that can be enjoyed for years to come. Here are seven plant ideas:
- Christmas Cactus
- Paperwhite Narcissus
A Gift for the Elders and Kids in Your Life
Plants are especially a great gift for the elderly. They need little care, yet they can vastly improve the air quality—something that can benefit the health of elders.
Believe it or not, kids love plants, too! A pretty, non-toxic houseplant in a bedroom or nursery can freshen the air and bring in a little natural beauty. Plus, plants are a great way to start teaching the basics of caring for another living thing.
A Christmas cactus makes a wonderful gift. It can be kept for years and is easy to maintain. As an added plus, the blooms are frilly, and remind many people of Christmas ornaments.
It takes a little preparation to get a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera spp.),to bloom at the right time. However, you can buy them already in bloom if you don't have time to force the blooms yourself.
If you want to try to force your own blooms, (don't worry, this isn't painful to you or your plant!), then you will need to begin about six weeks before Christmas. Place the cactus in a dark place, such as a closet for at least 13 hours a day. The temperature should be very cool, (55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.)
It won't hurt the cactus to remain in complete darkness until it forms buds on the tips of its stalks. As as the buds appear, your Christmas cactus can be moved to a well-lit location. Once exposed to the light, the buds should bloom out within a few days.
Poinsettias are an elegant gift choice. Perfect for mother-in-laws, grandmothers, aunts, teachers, ministers, and any person on the gift list that requires a nice, somewhat formal gift. Poinsettias aren't just a nice plant, they are also a stunning, traditional decoration that looks great in the Christmas photos!
The poinsettia, (Euphorbia pulcherrima), is also a tropical specimen that comes from Mexico. Therefore, it does not like to be cold. When bringing home a poinsettia, you must take care to keep it warm and protected.
Once the poinsettia is safely home, it will thrive in average temperature during the day, but prefers a cooler setting at night, (around 55 degrees). Keep the plant away from cold draughts, and make sure that poinsettias placed in windows are not allowed to touch cold glass.
Make sure that poinsettias are kept safely out of the reach of children and pets. Though their reputation as a toxic plant is often debated, it is better to be safe. The bright colors can be very tempting!
What Color Are Poinsettia Blooms?
Poinsettias actually bloom white or yellowish-white. The trademark red color of the poinsettia is actually due to a special set of leaves, called bracts, that turn crimson and resemble the shape of a flower.
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a succulent with red blooms that naturally appear in winter. Of all the holiday plants, it is the easiest to give as a gift, as it requires no forcing. Simply decorate the pot and give to a friend.
Care of the kalanchoe is easy too. It needs bright sunlight for most of the day, and watering only when the soil is dry. It is recommended that the kalanchoe be fertilized once or twice a month while in bloom.
Kalanchoes won't re-bloom easily, but the plants remain beautiful for years. It is also easy to propagate new plants from cuttings. If you already have one of these plants yourself, consider propagating new plants to give as gifts.
Narcissus tazetta, or paperwhites, as they are commonly known, are lovely flowers that can be forced to bloom in time for the winter holidays. If they don't bloom in time for Christmas, they still make wonderful gifts that the recipient can enjoy for many months. Simply start the bulbs, and include a gift card with instructions on how to continue their care.
To force a paperwhite, you will need a pretty container that holds a shallow amount of pebbles or soil (about 3-4 inches). Bury the bulbs halfway in the pebbles, with the pointed side up. Water the bulbs thoroughly so that water is standing slightly around the bulbs. You want the bottom of the bulb in water to encourage growth, but you want to avoid having the whole bulb soaking in water, as this may lead the bulb to rot.
After the bulbs are planted, keep the container in a cool room until the sprouts are over 2 inches tall. Move the baby paperwhites into a warm room, and enjoy watching as they continue to grow. Keep the bulbs close together, as the flowers look better in small groups.
Move the plants back to the cool room, (55-65 degrees) at night to promote a full, compact plant with a large, healthy blossom. Keeping them too warm will make them leggy. After the Paperwhites bloom, which occurs about three weeks after planting, keeping them cool will prolong their life.
Tip on Narcissus Care
To prevent Paperwhites from becoming too top-heavy, change out the water for a solution of 4–6% alcohol after the bulbs have sprouted. Use this solution whenever the plant requires watering.
Amaryllis is another bulb that makes a great interactive gift. Amaryllis can be forced to bloom in the winter just like the paperwhites. Unlike the paperwhites, however, Amaryllis comes in a variety of colors, including red, orange, and pink. There also speckled varieties.
For this plant to be in bloom on Christmas day, the amaryllis must be started in early November. However, if you want to start a bulb now, they can still produce a lovely bloom in the late, gloomy days of winter. A great way to relieve some of those post-holiday blues!
Begin this project as you would for paperwhites, by burying the bulbs halfway in soil. Unlike paperwhites, amaryllis bulbs require drainage holes. Water the bulbs well. There is no need to water the bulbs again until the first sign of growth appears.
The bud of the amaryllis forms before the leaves, and will bloom in 4-6 weeks after planting. Keep the plants in a sunny window for a few hours a day and turn often to promote straight growth. After the amaryllis has begun growing, keep it watered by moistening the soil when needed, and fertilize monthly.
The amaryllis is a gift that can be enjoyed for many months, even after the bloom has died. It can be kept as a houseplant until spring. Once the danger of frost is over, the bulb can be transplanted to the garden.
Ivy and Holly
What would Christmas be without the natural greenery of holly and ivy? The use of these plants pre-dates the Christian celebration of Christmas, and their use was more symbolic than decorative.
Whereas holly is seen more often than ivy in modern Christmas décor, both of these plants have a place in the holiday home. Rather than cut the plants for temporary use, purchase or grow potted versions that can be given special mementos of the season.
Ivy, or Hedera helix, can trained around plant forms for use as a houseplant. Since they are outdoor plants, they will thrive in a cool room, well away from any heat source. Make certain they are watered well.
Even though potted ivy is beautiful and traditional, it does have some downsides. First of all, it can attract spidermites. Be certain to check the leaves often, and treat at the first sign of infestation.
Also, ivy can be toxic, so it needs to be kept well out of reach of animals and children. Luckily these plants look great on decorative Christmas shelves, and are the perfect place to display some hand-crafted plant pokes. Delight someone on your Christmas gift by presenting ivy in a foil-wrapped pot, complete with a bow and a snowman plant poke!
Holly (Ilex spp.), like the poinsettia, is one of the most recognized Christmas plants. With its shiny leaves and bright red berries, it brings cheer to the season and a refreshing touch of the outdoors to a room.
Many places offer small potted holly trees. Some already come in decorative containers. If you have access to naturally growing hollies, you could pot one yourself. There are many tutorials online for shaping a holly into different forms.
Before gifting the holly, you can decorate it with small ornaments and tinsel, so that it can be used as a holiday centerpiece. Wrap the container in cheerful Christmas paper, or foil and tie with a large bow. After the holidays are over, the recipient can transplant the holly to their garden or yard.
Have a Green Christmas
Your choices aren't limited to holiday-themed plants. There are many great plants available even in the winter that can be given for Christmas gifts. They make a great, eco-friendly alternative to plastic junk and other disposable items. Take a stand against the commercialism of Christmas and celebrate the simplicity of the season by gifting your loved ones with a touch of nature.