With graduations, First Communions, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, the next few months are full of gift-giving opportunities! This year, don’t overlook plants. They can make great gifts, and the fond memory of your present grows each year. Not only will you be giving a memorable gift that keeps on giving, but you will be a good steward of the environment!
Hydrangeas provide beautiful summer flowers and thrive in partial shade. Different types of hydrangeas bloom at varying times, with lacecap or mophead flower shapes in colors like pink, blue, cream, chartreuse, or white. Virginia native Hydrangea arborescens blooms on new growth, providing white or light pink summer blossoms fading to chartreuse. The Japanese Hydrangea macrophylla blooms on growth from the previous year, making the blue or pink flower buds susceptible to harsh winter temperatures and late spring frosts. (Note: In summer, a good layer of mulch over the roots reduces wilting in the heat of the day.)
2. Rose Bushes
For something different, why not give a rose bush rather than a dozen roses? I recommend choosing a cluster flowering rose like a floribunda type or a groundcover rose (Carpet Rose is the brand you’ll see) rather than a hybrid tea, which produces single large flowers. Roses require full sun and cannot be ignored. You might pass that detail along by purchasing some rose fertilizer as part of your gift.
3. Flowering Perennials
For a fun gift, combine different flowering perennials in a colorful container. Do a little research and choose plants that meet the same growing requirements, i.e. full sun, partial shade, or full shade. Choose complementary colors or go wild with contrasting colors and foliage to match the celebration! Most garden centers will plant them up for an extra fee if you can’t. Consider adding the new SunPatiens (these are annuals) for a splash of colorful foliage and bright, large flowers. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on the container either – buckets, baskets, or resin pots are all good choices.
4. Blooming Bulbs
On your gift quest, don’t walk by those pots of blooming bulbs! They make great countertop decorations, and if kept out of direct sun, the blooms will last even longer. Once the flowers fade, plant the bulbs in the garden. When planting, leave the green foliage on each bulb to put fuel back into the bulb for next year. And of course, the bulbs will be back, reminding the recipient of your gift each season as they bloom.
5. Dwarf Trees
Many people want to give trees as gifts, and that is fine, as long as there is plenty of room for the tree to grow at their new home. Trees are life-long memories, but they need room to spread. For limited space, look into dwarf Japanese maples, Acer palmatum cultivars. These small, graceful trees can be planted in a large decorative container and placed on a deck or terrace. These plants require partial shade and will need watering regularly and feeding periodically. However, the owner is rewarded with gorgeous fall leaf color after a season of green, creating a unique specimen.
Easy-care succulents make great gifts. Planted as a dish garden, these plants thrive indoors in a sunny window. Low light will cause these plants to discolor and grow thinner as they stretch for light. The good news? Overwatering is the big problem with care of succulents, which is why I consider this a low-maintenance gift.
7. Cast-iron Plants
Another houseplant that almost guarantees success is the cast-iron plant, Aspidistra elatior. This plant will thrive in even the darkest areas of a home. Aptly named, they take low light inside and grow in full deep shade outside. Hardy to zone 7 or 8 (most of Virginia), these plants are relegated to the indoors for zones 6 or lower (western Virginia).