WASHINGTON — Out of ideas for that hard-to-buy person on your list? Need a last-minute host gift that beats the typical bottle of wine?
This season, go green, and give a plant for the holidays.
Washington Gardener Magazine editor and publisher Kathy Jentz shares her favorite flowers and foliage to gift for the holidays — plus care tips in case you find a tree under your tree.
If you’ve strolled through your grocery store’s flower department lately, chances are you’ve seen bulbs potted in pretty glass containers, or simply wrapped in a wax dress. These are likely amaryllis — a popular, winter-flowering plant.
Jentz said the waxed bulbs make for a great gift for beginning gardeners since they require little care.
“You don’t have to water them, you just set the bulb out in the wax container just as it is,” Jentz said, adding that window sills and mantles are popular perching places.
“After the bulb is finished blooming, then you just compost the entire thing.”
Alternatively, if you want to give a gift with some staying power, Jentz recommends potting a bulb for the recipient in either soil or gemstones/pebbles.
“Really, you’re just adding weight on the bottom so [the flowers] are not falling over because they’re top heavy once they bloom,” she said.
After the flower blooms in the winter, trim the stalk and give the plant a “summer vacation” outside, where it can soak in a little heat and humidity — “and that way the bulb replenishes its energy,” Jentz said.
In the fall, bring the plant in and stick it in a dark closet for six to eight weeks (or place it in a file box if you don’t have the room). When its rest time is up, put the amaryllis in a window and it will start blooming again.
“After a few years, it will form an off-set bulb — it will have a little baby to the side — and that’s when you’ll repot it,” Jentz said.
And you can give that new bulb to someone else.
Also common in garden and grocery stores this time of year are orchids, especially the Phalaenopsis Blume, also known as the moth orchid, which ranges from $10 to $20.
These plants thrive in somewhat cool temperatures (in the 60s), so make sure the person on the receiving end knows to keep the orchid away from the radiator or other heat-producing appliances.
A bonus: Orchids don’t need much attention.
“I think orchids thrive on neglect. The more you don’t baby them, the more they tend to come back and bloom for you,” said Jentz, who added that putting them outside during the summer months helps ensure another winter bloom.
Succulents are not only on-trend, they’re also a great gift, since they require little care.
“If you forget about them for a while, they’re going to forgive you,” Jentz said.
Also popular, and in the same category, are air plants, which are often presented in standing or hanging glass containers. These plants thrive off the natural humidity in the air.
And while they don’t need a babysitter 24/7, you’ll still want to give them a drink every now and then.
Christmas (and Thanksgiving) Cactus
If it flowers before Dec. 1, it’s a Thanksgiving cactus; if it flowers after, it’s a Christmas cactus. But either way, it’s a great plant to gift for the holidays.
Jentz said these cactuses don’t require too much watering, plus, they regenerate when parts are repotted.
“If you snap off a leaf, accidentally or on purpose, they’re easy to propagate from those snapped off leaves, so they’re a great pass-along plant,” Jentz said.
“You just stick it in some moist soil and it will take off for you.”
Finally, there’s cyclamen, which Jentz describes as a hearty plant, and also one that will live long after all the eggnog and carols.
“All of the sudden, it will start to die back on you and you think, ‘I’ve killed it,’” she said.
However, that’s not the case. In April, plant your cyclamen outside and leave it there for the warm months. In the fall, you can either dig it up and repot it as an indoor plant, or keep it in the soil as a perennial.
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