The gift of a plant signifies a celebration of life to the recipient. Traditional holiday gift plants are foolproof choices. You can give one with confidence to even the trickiest recipients on your list. (What else could you get for your uncle’s mother-in-law?) But for younger, hipper loved ones, you can be sure to exceed their expectations by gifting them one of the trendier plants seen all over Instagram. Here’s some background information for the season’s most popular plants, along with some care tips to jot down inside the Christmas card.
Poinsettias are a standby in the average Canadian’s holiday decor, but their story began in Mexico, where the plants grow natively. It’s said that a poor Mexican girl attended a church service where all the townsfolk had brought expensive gifts to offer at the altar. The girl could afford nothing but a bouquet of weeds, but she offered them with love in her heart. Everyone in the church then witnessed a miracle as the weeds turned to a vibrant red, and henceforth, the road in Mexico are lined with blooming poinsettias every year around Christmas.
While the story is a myth, the facts about poinsettias are almost as strange. Their flowers are actually clusters of modified leaves, called flower bracts, which is why their blooms have such an odd shape.
Poinsettia Options and Care
Holiday red is not your only option when choosing a poinsettia. There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias, in shades from white, to pink, to deep red, and even some speckled and marbled varieties.
First, make sure to protect your poinsettia from the Edmonton winter chill by covering it on the way to the car and keeping it away from any drafts! To care for poinsettias, make sure they get a minimum of six hours of bright, but indirect, sunlight. Let the soil dry between waterings, and don’t worry about using houseplant fertilizer until you start seeing new growth well after the holidays have passed.
Zygocactus, also known as the Christmas cactus or Schlumbergera truncata, is another popular tropical plant that has made its way into Western holiday tradition. Christmas zygocactus originated in Brazil, and have been growing in popularity in North America for decades. They are low-maintenance plants that can outlive their owners if cared for properly.
Christmas Zygocactus Options and Care
Christmas cacti bloom around Christmas time (hence their name and seasonal popularity) with showy flowers that can be just about any colour. Because of their long, draping stems, they look fantastic in hanging baskets. Like poinsettias, Christmas cacti need to dry out slightly between waterings and prefer bright, indirect sunlight.
Mistletoe: History and Meaning
Everyone knows the ancient tradition of kissing under the mistletoe, which dates back as early as 29 BC. Somehow, though, it’s less common these days to spot live mistletoe plants in someone’s home. A perfect reason to gift one!
Mistletoe Options and Care
Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant, and in the wilderness it grows on various tree species, leaching nutrients from their host plants. This means they are invasive plants that shouldn’t be migrated outdoors. The plants, which retain their green colour and white berries long after cutting, can be bought clipped and discarded after the holidays are over.
Holiday Bulbs: Amaryllis and Paperwhites
Amaryllis and paperwhites are bulbs that are easy to care for and quickly blossom into stunning blooms. They both thrive in bright, direct sunlight. Growing amaryllis indoors will yield a single gorgeous pink or red flowers with a sturdy flower stem. Paperwhites are often called “indoor daffodil” due to their similar appearance. You can find both at any garden centre.
Non-Traditional Gift Plants
These plants are all on-trend right now, and they make great gifts for the younger crowd.
Air Plants (Tillandsia)
There are tons of different tillandsia species and sizes, and most just need a soak or spritz in water every few days and a home in bright indirect light. In the warmer months or while growing, you can give them a boost by adding water-soluble fertilizer to your spray bottle.
There are countless species of succulents, but the most popular ones have interesting shapes and curves, like the stunning rosettes of stonecrop or the elegant leaves of the aloe vera plant. Cacti and succulents share the tendency to store water in their leaves and stems, so they require very little watering. Prevent them from growing mouldy with soil that has excellent drainage and a pot with sufficient drainage holes.
Lemon cypress trees, easily identified by their yellow-green evergreen foliage and citrus scent, look a lot like miniature Christmas trees. They are fairly drought tolerant and can be allowed to dry between waterings, but they are sticklers for sunshine and need about 6 hours per day of full sun.
No matter which plants you choose to give this season, do as the girl in the poinsettia story did and give them with love in your heart.