How to Take Care of Holiday Gift Plants

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If you received a holiday gift plant, you are in good company. Countless thousands of people receive beautiful, living gift plants every year . But (especially if you’re not a “green thumb” gardener), the next question involves how to take care of holiday gift plants.

Sure, it was delightful when the doorbell rang to announce the arrival of a gift box that contained your live plant. Straight out of the box it was gorgeous. What a nice surprise!

red velvet amaryllis
Amaryllis bulbs turn into wonderful flowering plants like these. (This variety is called ‘Royal Velvet.’) After the blooms have faded, remove the bloom stalks but keep the leaves. With regular watering and occasional fertilizing, amaryllis will rebloom year after year.

Thoughtful as the gift was, it could lead to a potential disaster. Your thoughts shoot forward to the fateful day next month when that same friend calls and asks brightly, “So how is the plant doing?” Will you have to confess you killed it?

Thankfully, no! Because in this article I will reveal the five keys to gift plant survival—so you can take care of holiday gift plants like a pro.

The tips below apply to all types of holiday gift plants. If you want more information about how to take care of poinsettias, the most popular Christmas holiday gift plant, read 7 Expert Tips on How to Care For Poinsettias.

 

Take Care of Holiday Gift Plants, Part 1: Smart Watering

How to take care of holiday gift plants includes proper watering.
If the top inch of the potting soil is dry, it’s generally time to water the plant.

As soon as you receive your gift plant, check the soil’s moisture. Plants should be well watered before shipping, but sometimes they dry out in the delivery truck.

To check for soil moisture, push the tip of your finger down into the soil. If the top inch is dry, it’s time to water. If water seeps out around your finger, the soil is water-logged and needs to be allowed to drain. Wait until the top layer of soil dries out before watering again.

 

Check for Damage to the Plant

Plant breeders do their best when packing a plant. Unfortunately, shipping a plant can be a bumpy ride that may shake the soil out of the pot or damage stems and flowers.

Check your gift plant’s overall condition. Remove any damaged leaves or flowers. Gather loose soil from the shipping box and put it back in the pot.

 

Take Care of Holiday Gift Plants, Part 3: Read the Plant Label

Most gift plants come with a label from the grower giving you tips on keeping your new plant alive and growing. Read the instructions carefully.

If the instructions seem confusing, or if you have questions about caring for your plant, check the Internet. There are all kinds of online sources for plant care information. Use them!

An African violet plant makes a great gift.
African violets are popular flowering houseplants that also make great gifts. When kept on a sunny windowsill and watered moderately, an African violet can bloom for most of the year.

Floral Wrapping – Beautiful but Dangerous

Beautiful and colorful floral wrapping looks great. But this decorative wrapping can be deadly to a plant. The wrapping is often made of foil that covers the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. As a result, this colorful wrapping keeps excess water from draining away.

holiday gift plants include spring blooming bulbs
The decorative floral wrapping around a gift plant looks great, but leaving it on can keep water from draining away from the plant’s roots.

If you want to keep the wrapping on, open or punch a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out. Otherwise, remove the decorative wrapping. Then place the pot in a drainage saucer to capture the water that drains out. If you wish, put the pot and drainage saucer in a larger decorative basket or pot.

 

Take Care of Holiday Gift Plants, Part 5: Choose the Right Location

Last, but not least, find a good location for your new plant. Near a south-facing window is usually a good choice.

Avoid locations where the plant will be exposed to blasts of cold winter air from open doors. On the flip side, locations too near the fireplace or in the path of hot forced air can cause blooms to drop and leaves to wither.

 

One Final Tip

Once your plant is safely placed where it will get light, you have one last thing to do. Check the soil regularly – weekly is usually a good idea – to see if it needs watering. Experts agree that the biggest cause of houseplant death is not underwatering—it’s overwatering. Unless the plant requires constant moisture (see the discussion of plant labels above), allow the top inch of potting soil to dry before watering again.

Succulents and cacti make great houseplants
If you received a succulent as a gift, place it near a sunny window and water sparingly. Succulents and cacti don’t like “wet feet” and are often killed by overwatering.

Houseplants are a joy to receive during the Christmas holiday season. Or for Valentine’s Day, birthdays, or virtually any other occasion. By following these simple tips, you can maintain the health of your plants. And you can look forward to enjoying them throughout the coming year.

Want to read more about how to take care of houseplants? Read

Ann McCormick’s story, Mid-Winter Houseplant Care

 

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