How to Choose the Best Holiday Plant for a Gift

by | Dec 2, 2020 | 0 comments

The holiday season is in full swing, and though we may not be attending parties and get-togethers, we can still buy plants for our families and friends for the holidays. You can have them delivered to their homes or why not buy some for yourself? They will make you happy and add some holiday cheer to the house. There are so many to choose from so how do you know which one to choose?

Factors to Consider

There are some things to think about before choosing your holiday plant and things to look for before purchasing the plant. You want the plant to last through the holidays at the very least.

The person receiving the plant

The first thing I want you to consider is the person you are buying the plant for. Do they love plants and will they want to take care of the plant and keep it for years, or will they enjoy the plant for the season and then toss it? If they are plant lovers and want it to last for years to come, buy a plant that is more likely to last. A poinsettia, for example, is probably a plant that many will toss after the season, even though it makes a beautiful houseplant.

Check inside the pot cover

Check the plant to make sure it isn’t standing in water in the decorative sleeve that is often covering holiday plant pots. If it is standing in water, move on. A plant that is going to experience root rot and premature death is not the plant to buy. Or it may be completely dry and have dead leaves. Check out more about pot coversĀ here.

Keep it warm

When buying a plant during this cold season, make sure it is well wrapped before leaving the store. A paper sleeve is best, but plastic is better than nothing.

More buds are better

Another factor to consider is to buy a plant that has more buds than flowers so you can enjoy it for a long time at home. If it already has most of its flowers open, its bloom time will be shorter in your home.

Thanksgiving cactus buds

Buy a plant with lots of buds for maximum enjoyment of the flowers at home

The plants

Let’s look at some of the choices you will find during this holiday season, and how to choose the best plant.




I love poinsettias. They are the quintessential holiday plant. They are inexpensive, easy to find, and come in a multitude of colors. The colored parts are actually bracts or modified leaves and the true flowers are the small yellowish nubby things in the center of the bracts. Choose a plant like the one above where not much yellow is showing. Once they are completely yellow and pollen is showing, the flowers are nearing the end of their lives and the plant won’t last as long. Poinsettias are the plants to choose for a friend who doesn’t mind treating their plant like a bouquet of flowers and tossing it when it’s past its prime.


amaryllis bulb

Buy the biggest bulb you can afford

An amaryllis (hippeastrum) is a bulb like a daffodil or tulip but doesn’t need a time of cold to bloom. If you can purchase a bulb instead of a plant, that is great. Then the person you are buying it for (or you) can plant the bulb and watch the entire process from the bud beginning to emerge to the flower unfolding. Often, you can find them already in bloom if you want flowers when you give the gift. Read more about how to care for your amaryllis here.



Cyclamen flowers resemble butterflies above the foliage

Cyclamen have beautiful flowers. They resemble butterflies floating over the gorgeous foliage. Even without flowers, the foliage would be enough for me. These plants bloom at this time of year and then after blooming, they die down and rest for the summer. I have thrown many of these away over the years, thinking they were dead, but they will come back after resting in the summer. I leave them in the pot, and usually, they start to come back to life in the early fall. This plant grows from a tuber and when watering this plant, make sure not to get water in the middle of the plant as it may rot the entire plant. These plants prefer cooler temperatures, so this is for your friend at whose home you know you will be frozen every time you visit.

Thanksgiving cacti

Thanksgiving cactus

Thanksgiving cactus

The Thanksgiving cactus is one of my favorite flowers and I wait all year for them to bloom! Purchase one with more buds than flowers so you can enjoy it longer in your home. They will drop their buds if there is too large a swing in temperature, so try to keep them warm from the store to your home. Have them wrapped in paper preferably, but plastic is better than nothing. Take it to a warm car and straight home, not stopping to run errands. These are actually jungle cacti and they would normally grow as epiphytes in trees in the Brazilian rainforest. That gives you a hint about the care they need. They want to be evenly moist in a well-drained potting medium. They neither want to dry out nor stand in water. They also, unlike desert cacti, would like elevated humidity. Make sure to turn them often all year long to ensure they flower on all sides of the plant. These plants can last for years and will bloom reliably with enough light all summer. Many people take them outside, bringing them in before temperatures drop to the freezing point. The shortened days and cooler weather will help them bloom. This plant is for a friend you have on keeping forever, as these plants can last that long.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana


Kalanchoe come in a myriad of colors

Kalanchoe can quite often be found throughout the year as a gift plant but is readily available during the holiday season. These succulents are easy to grow and usually bloom again in the home as long as they have plenty of light. I have never had them bloom as prolifically as when they are first purchased but any flowers are better than none, right? Make sure these are planted in a well-drained cactus and succulent potting medium and let them dry down almost completely before watering again. Even if they never flower again, the thick scalloped leaves make for an attractive houseplant. Give this succulent plant to a friend who may be forgetful plant parent as they can go a time without water.



The patent leather-like spathes of the anthurium are extremely attractive

Anthuriums have become more popular than ever. Though many think the large patent leather-looking spathes are the flowers, they are in fact, not flowers. The knobby spike protruding from the spathe is the spadix or true flower. The spathe is a bract-like structure whose sole purpose is to protect the spadix. I have not had good luck getting these to re-bloom, but I recently bought this pink one as I have a friend that has a mature specimen that is constantly in bloom, so I’m giving it another try. I will keep it in nice bright light and not allow it to dry out. Wish me luck. These “flowers” last a long time on the plant, so this is a great gift plant as they are in color for a long time.

phalaenopsis orchid

The moth orchid or phalaenopsis is a great gift plant

Phalaenopsis orchids used to be expensive to buy, but because of tissue culture, have become affordable for all. Again, buy this plant with plenty of buds so it will bloom longer in your home. This is another plant that is usually in some kind of decorative sleeve. Make sure it isn’t standing in water before you buy it. Place it in nice bright light and run water through the potting medium at least once a week. I take mine out of the decorative sleeve, take it to the sink, run water through the medium, let it drain, and return it to the decorative pot. Blot up any water that may be standing in the center of the leaves or the entire plant will rot…trust me. If treated well, the flowers can last a year or more. They are quite easy to get to rebloom in an east or west window. Give this to a good friend as it will bloom for a long time and they will think of you every time they see it.

Paper whites

Paper whites

These flowers emerge from a bulb that also doesn’t need the cold treatment that tulips and daffodils need. They can be bought and planted right away to have flowers in a couple of weeks. Even one bulb in a jar with a ribbon around it makes a wonderful gift. They are fun to watch as they grow and flowers emerge from the brown, unattractive, papery bulb. They are easy to force in water, so no soil is needed but can be grown in potting medium, too. Set the bulbs in pebbles with their bottom ends (not the pointy end) barely touching the water. They will send out roots and in no time, you have a blooming bulb! I normally toss these bulbs after blooming. These are the perfect gift for someone who would enjoy watching the bulb grow, like someone in a nursing home.

Any plant is the perfect gift

These are just a few of the holiday plants you will find at this time of year. In my opinion, any plant is a great gift. These plants are easy to find at this time of year, so be on the lookout and bring a few home or send one to a friend. I know a lot of people could really use a pick-me-up right about now, so why not send them a beautiful holiday plant. The key is to examine the plant for any stress or insects it may be harboring. Buy a plant with more buds than flowers and keep it warm from the store to your home. At home, don’t put it near a heat vent and keep it in a bright spot with even moisture and you should have a nice blooming plant for weeks to come.

Happy Holidays!


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