It’s the holiday season, and for
the gardener in the family the gift of choice often is a holiday plant. Over
the years, I’ve given and received my share of poinsettias, amaryllis and
Christmas cacti as gifts this time of year. While these colorful indoor plants
are standards, this year why not push the envelope a bit when buying a holiday
Here are some unusual holiday plants
that should be available at your local garden center or florist shop.
Miniature Roses. These
diminutive roses produce flowers for weeks in a wide range of colors on plants
that grow 5 inches to 3 feet tall, depending on the variety. Even though they
won’t flower all winter without artificial lighting, they are worth saving
until spring. Keep the plants humid by periodically misting the foliage and
placing pots on pebble trays filled with water. In spring, move them outdoors
and they’ll flower all summer.
Edible Plants. The holidays
are known for eating. Why not contribute to the food parade by giving a gift of
a perennial herb, such as rosemary, or an attractive edible, such as dwarf
peppers? Rosemary plants grow best in bright light. Mist them periodically
throughout the winter, and water just enough to keep the soil slightly moist.
Once the threat of frost has passed in spring, transplant rosemary into a
window box, container or herb garden.
Ornamental Christmas peppers, such
as “Riot,” grow on compact 1-foot-tall plants that feature yellow, orange and
red edible fruits. In spring, when the fruits have dried up, cut back the plant
dramatically and plant it outdoors. Water and fertilize it well, and it will
revive to flower and fruit again.
Moth orchid (Phalaenopsis).
Photo courtesy of the
National Gardening Association.
Moth Orchid. One of the
trendiest houseplants is a moth orchid (Phalaenopsis). This is the
easiest type of orchid to grow indoors. There are many different colors of
flowers, and the plants only require bright, indirect light and normal room
temperatures to thrive. The flowers can last for months—much longer than
poinsettia or Christmas cactus blooms.
Christmas Rose. Christmas
rose (Hellebore) is a perennial flower that’s more commonly found in
garden centers than in florist shops. Some selections do bloom around
Christmas, but even if it’s not in flower when you give this gift, the dark
green foliage makes it a handsome choice. As soon as the ground thaws, plant
your hellebore in a partly shaded spot on well-drained soil and your holiday
gift will be enjoyed for years.
Orchid Cactus. While
Christmas cactus is a common holiday gift plant, there’s another type of
cactus that’s even more flamboyant. The orchid cactus (Epiphyllum) is related to the Christmas cactus (neither are true cacti) and grows
in similar conditions; however, these plants produce large, flat, fleshy leaves
and huge flowers. Although they may not be in bloom at the holidays (they tend
to bloom later in winter and spring), these easy-to-grow plants will still wow
your friends with the 6-inch-long, colorful, orchid-shaped blooms.
Charlie Nardozzi, a
nationally recognized garden writer, book author, speaker and radio and
television personality, has appeared on HGTV, PBS and Discovery Channel
television networks. He is the senior horticulturist and spokesperson for the National
Gardening Association and
chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.