It’s hour 23, you’re dressed for your boyfriend’s boss’s | sister-in-law’s | pet vet’s holiday dinner, and there’s no time for Prime to deliver a host gift. What to take? That magnet your kid made in 2nd grade? That block of Humboldt Fog you bought to savor by yourself in quiet after hours of small-talk? That gift card for a sushi bento box from your local fish dealer?
Plants make the perfect gift, as they keep on giving and growing. If you want to keep it festive, consider picking up an Amaryllis, a Cyclamen, or a Christmas Cactus. If you have a bit more time, you could create a “grow” kit, filling a mason jar with rich, organic dirt, to package with a packet of seeds or a box of bulbs, a pretty pot and watering can, and a spade and / or gardening gloves. In your holiday card, you can include the following hand-written instructions for your host to care for her new plant!
Cyclamen are beautiful and delicate, but they’re actually hardy plants that do well in colder climates. HGTV warns that three things will harm your cyclamen: over-watering, heat, and too much light. The coldest room in your house is the best home for your bright plant, which is much easier to grow from one in full bloom than from seed. (But if you like a challenge, check here for tips, and google a “germination chamber.”)
Christmas cactus, or Schlumbergera, a genus of cacti originally found in the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil, are winter-blooming cacti that are easily cared for indoors.
- To propagate, cut a short Y-shaped segment from the stem tip of a healthy plant, and place it in slightly sandy soil a quarter of its length deep, according to GardeningKnowHow.com, who also recommends an even watering, and choosing a well-lit spot for your plant to thrive, but avoid direct sunlight.
- Cut your shoot back at the second joint, and after a few weeks, the cutting will start to show growth, which is the time to transplant it to a larger pot with a potting soil mix of compost, loam and sand.
- Water frequently, especially in spring and summer, the cacti growth period, keeping the soil slightly moist. The plant should not sit in water, however, or it will develop root rot.
- Find a room where the temperature remains between 60 and 70 F. And come fall, when your Christmas cactus has stopped flowering, encourage it to eventually rebloom by starting its dormancy cycle: reduce its light (12 – 14 hours of darkness), temperature (between 50 and 55 F), and moisture.
Do you have a last-minute holiday host to honor? A growing gift will remind them of your gratitude for their hospitality for months to come. Take a photo of your “grow kit” gift and share it with us on Facebook or Twitter. Happy Holidays!
(Photo Credit: Christmas Catcus: New Floridians)