Flowers or bulbs always make great gifts. They can also be given where they will brighten the wintry days of January. Regardless of whether you want a flowering gift to be enjoyed now or later, here are a few tips to make a good purchase.
Poinsettias – This is the most popular flower of the season and prices vary all over the place. When buying poinsettias make sure the little flowers in the center are not open or just beginning to open. This means the flowers are fresh, as the color of the plants is not from the flowers but from the colorful leaves. Also avoid plants that have yellow leaves or torn leaves. The most common problem with buying poinsettias from a big box store is they are shipped in and poorly cared for once they arrive, so try to find the freshest, if this is where you are buying a plant.
Paper Whites – These daffodil bulbs are easily forced in water, if you only allow the water to touch the base of the bulb (called the basal plate). Do not let the water get above this area of the plate to keep the bulbs from rotting. These bulb like sunny spots for best growth and flowering. If they do not have enough bright light they will become leggy and unattractive. I buy bulbs that are not packaged, so I can make sure they are firm and the leaves coming from the center are green.
Phalaenopsis Orchids – These are long lasting beautiful blooming plants that I have had last for months if I care for them properly. First, buy plants that are in bud and the flower stalk has a good green tip and the tip flower bud is not dead or injured. We have ours in a room with good light and water them weekly. Here is how I water. With tepid water I use about a 1/4 cup of water for the small plants. Pour over the bark and wait a couple of minutes and either empty the saucer of the collected water, or if in a container with no hole, turn upside down and drain the water. That is really all we do to enjoy them for a long time.
Christmas Cactus – This is a plant that can keep on giving for years. These plants are easy to grow indoors, and if you do not over water them they will grow and eventually need dividing. You can end up with gift plants, or like the ones in the image, many that cover a whole credenza.
Amaryllis – These bulbs can make a spectacular show if you purchase good firm bulbs or ones that are potted and the the flower shoot is showing. Either way grow these bulbs in bright light to keep them from becoming leggy. Blubs can be grown either in soil or water. If growing in water or water with gravel make sure, just like the paper white, only the basal plate touches water. Be sure to pull off all the old dead roots before placing the bulb base in water to prevent rot.