15 perfect gift plants

For a thoughtful gift that lasts, start with just the right vessel, add the perfect plant, and voilà

Growing gifts: For the frequent mover

Photo by E. Spencer Toy


Lavender fills this surprisingly lightweight pot (Fish Scale; $9.50; pottedstore.com), making it the perfect present for the frequent mover.

Growing gifts: For the quirky

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

Asparagus fern

For a touch of quirky, match a brightly glazed pot (Liebermann Handmade; $15; floragrubb.com) with a Dr. Seussian asparagus fern.

Growing gifts: For the modernist

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

Golden cypress

A graphic white pot (Kapa; $5; ikea-usa.com) plus a golden cypress (aka “European tree”) equal a minimalist’s delight.

Growing gifts: For the soft at heart

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

Crassula muscosa

For the soft at heart, fill this felt “box” (Island Tina from Woolly Pocket; $29; aplusrstore.com) with frilly Crassula muscosa.

Growing gifts: For the recycler

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

Rosemary topiary

A tiny rosemary topiary in a repurposed tea tin is ideal for the waste-hating host or hostess.

Growing gifts: For the naturalist

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

Baby olive trees

Gift your favorite naturalist with baby olive trees, which are right at home in these hefty stone planters (Drilled Rock; from $35 each; floragrubb.com).

Growing gifts: For the dreamer

Photo by E. Spencer Toy

Giant sequoia

Perfect for a dreamer, a cloth bag (Living-Ethos; $28/set of 4 at Reclaim, 650/329-9480) holds a not-yet-giant sequoia seedling ($29; newgrowth.com)—plant it soon!

Evergreens gifts

Thomas J. Story

Mini evergreen

Dwarf conifers come with gold, chartreuse, or deep green needles. 

Look for 4- or 6-inch pots of Canada hemlock, false or Monterey cypress, and juniper.

After the holidays, move to a larger pot or plant in the ground.

Salad greens gift

Salad greens

Cool-season salad greens are often sold in standard cell-packs, ready to plant. The pack will fit nicely in an 8-inch square box edged with tissue paper.

In mild-winter areas, the lettuces 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.

More on cool-season gardening



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 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.



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.




Buy the plant (or budding bulb) 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.

Amaryllis after the holidays

Garland clematis

Garland clematis

Of all the beautiful plants for sale at nurseries, florists, and grocery stores around the holidays, 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.


Winter orchids

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.

Caring for orchids

Cactus pot

Thomas J. Story

Christmas cactus

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.

More about Christmas cactus

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