Today’s Solutions: September 25, 2022

This holiday, consider making the lives of your loved ones a little greener with a festive houseplant! Plus, with a little TLC, a houseplant is a gift that keeps on giving all year round.

Here are eight beautiful houseplants to give as gifts this holiday season and tips on how to take care of them.

Christmas cactus

This vibrant plant (which is also called a crab cactus for its long stems that resemble a crab’s legs) will get anyone into the holiday spirit with its red, pink, and lilac flowers. Christmas cacti should be watered every two to three weeks, but to be sure, you can tell the lucky recipient of this beautiful plant to make sure the top one-third of the soil feels dry to the touch before watering. It should also be placed away from direct sunlight or heat sources.

To get a Christmas cactus to rebloom depends on light (it needs 16 hours of darkness and eight hours of light for eight days consecutively to form buds) and temperature (around 15 to 17 degrees Celsius or 59 to 62.60 degrees Fahrenheit). Once the buds start to form, the plant can be placed in its original location.

Rosemary

For the history buff in your circle, rosemary is an appropriate gift, because in medieval times, smelling the sweet scent of rosemary on Christmas Eve meant that the next year will bring health and happiness.

Rosemary will continue to thrive for years if placed in a bright and sunny location and spritzed with water every couple of weeks or so. When the holidays are over, rosemary will live happily indoors on a sunny windowsill where it can be snipped and used for cooking, making essential oils, and more.

Norfolk Island pine

While not an actual pine, a Norfolk Island pine (or araucaria heterophylla) resembles one with its pine-like soft green branches. This plant is a good one for a green-thumb beginner because it’s quite forgiving. It prefers to sit in a sunny spot but can handle dim light on a temporary basis. It should also be watered every one to two weeks.

The Norfolk Island pine can be taken to a warm and shady spot on your patio if it’s hot out, but make sure to bring it in once temperatures drop at night.

Orchids

Orchids vary widely in size and color, are allergy-free, non-toxic to pets, only need water around once a week, and will re-bloom, which means that there’s a perfect orchid for everyone on your list!

To make sure the flowers re-bloom, cut the stalk down to just over an inch above its healthiest green node (the small bump in the stem) once the flowers fade. If the stalk is brown, then cut it off at the base.

This plant likes being in a room with windows and no artificial lighting. It also likes cool temperatures that hover around 16 degrees Celsius or 60.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cyclamen

Cyclamens are fantastic plants for the winter months because contrary to most other plants’ growing cycles, they grow fall to spring and bloom for an extended period starting in November and ending in January.

Indoor cyclamens like a cooler location and indirect light and should only be watered when the soil is dry to the touch. This plant may be for the more advanced plant parent as it may be more of a challenge to get it to re-bloom, however, with the proper care, it will flower again.

Amaryllis

These beautiful and enormous red to blush pink flowers are generally planted in early fall, so they are often available for purchase in full bloom around the holidays and will make an elegant ornament for the recipient’s festive dinners.

While in bloom, this plant prefers the same temperature as the Christmas cactus and should only be watered around once a week.

Once the flowers fade away, the bulb can be saved for next year. Cut the stalk, but not the leaves as they revitalize the bulb’s blooming cycle. Place it in a sunny spot (the more sun the bigger the blooms!) and water it as normal. Once August comes around, stop watering, and let the leaves die, then place the dormant bulb in a cool dark place for 8 weeks. Around Thanksgiving, move it back up to its sunny location and restart the watering process. In around six to eight weeks, brand new blooms will coincide with the next holiday season.

Frosty fern

Like the Norfolk Island pine, this plant is not actually a fern, but rather a variety of spike moss (which also isn’t moss). It does look frosty and festive though, with its delicate green leaves tipped with the white patches of new growth.

Frosty ferns thrive in moderate temperatures between 15 and 27 degrees Celsius or 59- and 80.6-degrees Fahrenheit, and humid conditions, which can be difficult to maintain in the dry winter months. That said, if you put a container on top of its tray of pebbles and water, or in a terrarium, it will get the humidity it needs.

Poinsettia

Red, pink, white, and sometimes blue and gold sparkle-leafed poinsettias are holiday classics in terms of festive plants. Poinsettias, which love semi-cool locations, lots of water, and bright indirect light, have blooms that will last for weeks as long as they aren’t overwatered and live in containers that drain well.

Once the leaves revert to green, a poinsettia can exist happily indoors all year round but may turn color again under the right care. To get a poinsettia to rebloom, sub-tropical conditions need to be reproduced. To do this, place the plant in a cool place with exposure to light for 10 hours a day and then total darkness for the remaining 14 hours at the beginning of October. Water sparingly, and four weeks later the leaves will start to turn. In eight weeks, the poinsettia should regain its vibrant colors for the holidays.

A note for pet owners: Amaryllis contains lycorine and other noxious substances which can be toxic to pets, so skip this gift for the dog or cat owner on your list. Although not as dangerous as amaryllis, poinsettias can also be potentially toxic for pets. 

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