Thomas J. Story
Dwarf conifers (top) come with gold, chartreuse, or deep green needles. Look for 4- or 6-inch pots of Canada hemlock, false or Monterey cypress, and juniper. Place outside after the holidays.
Sold in a standard cell-pack, ready to plant. Fits in an 8-inch square box edged with tissue paper. In mild-winter areas, can be transplanted into the garden after a few days on a sheltered patio; in cold climates, plant in wide pots on a frost-free porch.
Buy plant in a 6-inch container. Assemble a box (available at mailing centers and craft stores) that’s 1 or 2 inches larger than the plant container, then add ribbon. Line with tissue paper, then slip in plant. Water sparingly; temperatures of 60° or so prolong flower life.
Of all the beautiful plants for sale at nurseries, florists, and grocery stores this month, the new Garland clematis is one of our favorites. Bred to thrive indoors, it comes with snowflake-shaped flowers in a range of delicious colors, from Cassis (royal purple) to Pistachio, pictured here.
The vines are trained on circular frames in 6-inch containers and sold through December for about $20 each. To keep the plant tidy, tuck new growth beneath existing stems. Display in bright, indirect light, and water regularly. –Julie Chai
Comes in various sizes and flower colors: bright red, yellow, orange, salmon, hot pink, white. A houseplant in all but frost-free climates; give bright light. In summer can be moved outdoors to a partly shaded patio.
Bulbs planted in a paint can will brighten someone's life for weeks. Cover a 1-quart paint can (about $1 at hardware stores) with wrapping paper, securing the seam with double-stick tape. Guided by the depression in the can's lid, trace and cut out a paper label, write your message, and attach to lid with double-stick tape. Fill can halfway with sand. Place two or three paperwhite (shown below) or other narcissus bulbs (about $5 for a 10-pack) in the sand (roots down, points up). On a paper slip, offer advice for the giftee: To force bulbs, set aside lid and add water until sand is just moist. Place in sunny spot and keep moist; blooms in about seven weeks. Tuck instructions in can, and, covering lid with a dishcloth, gently tap into place with a hammer. –Jil Peters
They’re lovely on their own, but poinsettias can be even better when you combine them with other indoor plants. So toss the foil wrap that adorns their pots, pair them with colorful bromeliads, caladiums, or ivy in a nice container and give it as a gift.
Given their glamorous appearance and considerable cachet, orchids make impressive gifts. Their thick, waxy flowers last four to six weeks, often longer. Many orchids make good house or patio plants ― no steamy hothouse environment is necessary to keep them happy. With reasonable care, they'll bloom again next winter and for years to come.
It can grow on you in more ways than one. Sure, the plants just get bigger and better every year. They pump out masses of delicate jungle flowers in rosy red, white, orange, pink, and pale yellow, depending on the variety, just in time for the holidays. And although they’re true cactus, their spines are so tiny and soft that you’ll scarcely notice them ― and never get pricked.