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Written by J.K. DePeal, Garden Writer   
Thursday, 12 December 2013 15:27

Consider a “living gift” of greenery this holiday season

December is here once again and while we have the anticipation of the holiday season, the last month of the year also heralds the winter season and cold weather ahead.

The holidays will soon be here and, as we consider the gift-giving time, we all face the quandary of finding the right gifts for the names on our lists.

poinsettia
Poinsettias come in such a glorious array of colors and blossom forms.

Why not consider giving a “living gift” this year that will fill the winter months ahead for friends and family members alike with color, interest, and health enhancing benefits. Gifts that, after brightening their winter days, can then move outside in the spring to beautify their yards and gardens.

Colorful flowers and richly textured foliage plants can be a welcome addition to anyone’s home and they make unique holiday gifts as well. Here are 10 great, easy-care plants that friends and loved ones can and will enjoy!

1. Paperwhites. Paperwhite narcissus plants are perky little, bright-white, fragrant darlings that are a touch of spring in the winter. They are grown in garden soil or gravel and are very easy to care for. Keep them in bright, indirect light, evenly moist and away from direct, drying heat. They will provide a season of sparkling color and sweet aroma in the home.

2. Orchids. Orchids come in a wonderful variety of colors, sizes and forms. Their peak bloom season is through the winter months and it will last from four to 12 weeks depending on the variety. They prefer indirect light, watering once a week (or three to four ice cubes laid on the soil once a week), and fertilizing once a month while they are in bloom. They like good circulation and temperatures of 65 to 85 degrees.

3. Norfolk Island pine. Often called the “Miniature Christmas Tree,” this graceful tree likes bright light, good drainage and a moist atmosphere. They need temperatures of between 40 and 85 degrees but can be placed outside in the summer in a part shade location. Bring them inside in the winter. They can live from 20 to 30 years.

4. Christmas ferns. The Christmas fern is a very handsome, broad-leafed, evergreen fern which can be planted outside in the spring. This fern needs rich, loamy, moist soil and prefers part to full shade. Indoors, keep it moist and out of direct sun. The fronds can be dried to use in arrangements. The Frosty fern is another plant that is perfect for the holidays. Its fronds are edged in a creamy-white, which makes the plant look like it is powdered with snow.

5. Cyclamen. Cyclamen produce beautiful pink, white, red, or rose colored blooms born on stalks that rise above the thick, green foliage. They prefer indirect light and a moist atmosphere. Keep the plants on a tray of pebbles and when you water let the water drain through and stand in the tray. This will humidify the plant between waterings. Fertilize the flowers once a month while they are blooming. They can be kept outside in the garden in the summer in a cool, shady area.

6. Christmas cactus. For those on your list who like succulents, the Christmas cactus will be a welcome gift. It comes in a variety of colors and is very easy to care for. Keep the cactus in a sunny location and water when the soil feels dry.

7. Amaryllis. This is a very elegant, showy plant that comes in a wonderful variety of colors and forms. It is a tall plant with lily-shaped blooms that will re-bloom year after year. When blooming, the amaryllis prefers indirect light and a cool location (this will cause the blooms to last longer). Water the plant as needed (do not over-water). Provide support for the stem as the blooms are heavy. Amaryllis can be set out in the summer and brought inside in the fall to bloom again during the holiday season.

8. Poinsettia. What holiday list would be complete without including the poinsettia? Poinsettias come in such a glorious array of colors and blossom forms. These flowers provide bright, bold colors through the winter months if given at least six hours of light each day, temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees, and proper humidity. Keep the plant on a tray of moist gravel or near a humidifier. Do not over or under-water and keep them out of cold or hot drafts. The plant can summer over outside and be brought inside in the fall.

9. Variegated English Holly. This is a very unique plant which sports shiny, waxy, green and cream colored leaves and bright red berries. It prefers part to full sun, watering once a week, and fertilizing in the spring. Though it is a wonderful holiday houseplant, it will need to go into your yard or garden in the spring. There it will grow into a pyramidal-shaped shrub which will provide gorgeous foliage that can be cut for making wreaths, garlands and holiday decorating for holiday seasons to come.

10. Holiday herbs. Many herbs are perennial and varieties such as sage, lavender, oregano, mint and thyme make wonderful potted plants to give as holiday to gifts to friends who love to cook, make teas, etc. The herbs can be transplanted into the garden in the spring or kept in their pots to use indoors. They are attractive, fragrant, and very useful and easily maintained with regular watering, indirect light, and fertilizing as needed.

These plants are all available now in our local shopping and garden centers or online at various websites. December garden tips: Keep snow from building up on low branches and hedges to keep them from breaking, bending and splitting. Use Christmas tree boughs to mulch around hedges and trees to protect roots and provide extra cover for small wildlife and birds. If you have access to wood ashes during the winter, spread them around plants to provide extra nitrogen to the soil.

If you have garden questions or tips for other gardeners, send them in to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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