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Organic Gardening: Unusual Holiday Gift Plants

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 plant.


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.

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From the Organic Authority Files

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 commonholiday 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 theNational Gardening Association and chief gardening officer for the Hilton Garden Inn.

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