Plants as Gifts

Humans use Kingdom Plantae in a variety of ways: as food, medicine, structure, & clothing. The conveniences plants provide are so embedded in our day-to-day lives that we hardly think about their origins. For this reason, sometimes simply incorporating plants into our homes and offices so that we can appreciate them is their best use of all. Studies show that plants in your inside environment can reduce anxiety, depression, and the risk of dementia and can increase concentration and our ability to care for one another. The joy plants can bring us, either aesthetically or by tending to them to produce food or homemade products, means that they make great gifts! As the holidays approach, consider choosing a plant as a gift for someone you care about. There are several different ways to gift plants that can please a variety of people, no matter their ‘green thumb’ or horticulture interests.

Fruit trees are a great gift for families or households that are interested in building their landscapes for the long-term or increasing sustainable food output. Fruit trees that do well in our cold hardiness zone (8b) include satsumas, pecans, persimmons, Meyer lemons, figs, muscadine grapes, pears, mulberries, kumquats, and loquats. For planting dates and care information, call your local extension office, the UF/IFAS Extension Leon County Office at 606-5202 or visithttp://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/mg248.

Succulents and houseplants are quickly becoming one of Florida’s highest selling nursery products. They’ve become popular as plant choices due to their aesthetic quality and ease of care. Many local nurseries offer already established arrangements of succulents or individual succulents that you can creatively plant in several types of containers, such as glass terrariums, shells, watering cans, saucers, and more. Common succulents that do well in Florida include flapjack plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora), Sedum spp., ghost plant (Graptopetalum paraguayense) and easy houseplants include Begonia rex, fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata), and bird’s-nest fern (Asplenium nidus). Both categories of plants do better with minimal water, but succulents thrive in the sunniest spots of your house, such as a windowsill that gets full morning sun.

Looking for a holiday favorite with a twist? Poinsettias, a staple for Christmas color, are plants that do well in the home or garden as long as prolonged freezes do not occur and a consistent warmer/humid microclimate exists around the home.  Native to Mexico, these tropical plants are short day bloomers that flower when the nights are long and the days are short. Keeping them in an area that isn’t interrupted by artificial light during their normal dark period will ensure steady flowering. Local nurseries will be carrying various poinsettia varieties in the coming weeks. In addition, the 2016 Poinsettia Sale on December 8th and 9th in Gainesville, Florida, hosted by the University of Florida’s Environmental Horticulture Club, is an excellent place to find over 40 varieties of red, yellow, salmon, orange, and red poinsettias for sale. Dr. Jim Barrett and his research team will lead a plant show of over 5,000 poinsettias during the sale, which is the largest poinsettia show in North America. Visit https://sites.google.com/site/gatorpoinsettias/home for more information on this event.

Other gift ideas include wreaths made with local plant elements (acorns, pine cones, or muscadine grape vines as the structure, to name a few ideas), orchids, bonsai trees, rosemary Christmas trees (be careful to not overwater), or a local farm Community Supported Agriculture share to give the gift of North Florida vegetables that keeps on giving week to week as the seasons change. As you can see, the possibilities for plants as gifts are endless, so get creative! Happy Holidays!