Good to Grow: Give a gift that grows on you

20191208-gm-garden-Chris's rubber tree.jpg

More than 20 years old, the author’s rubber tree has had many trimmings in its life to maintain its size.

Over the years, I have come to garner quite a collection of flora friends around my house.

I chose most of the houseplants that I own. I tend to have an overindulgence in plant-world oddities when making decisions about what to bring home. I am always picking the odd or the rare over what might grow better or be more economical.

This type of plant profiling has stopped me from buying easily obtainable cultivars for my crowd of houseplants. However, out of the common potted plants I do own, most were given to me as gifts — which makes them some of my favorite to grow and care for.

One of these familiar cultivars is my oldest, a rubber tree going on 21 years of age now. This tree was given to me and now seems like a member of our family. I just cannot help but think about all the things my family and myself have experienced while I have been caring for this tree and living life.

Houseplants can be a great way to mark the end or start of a time period. Some good examples would be: when you got your first place, death of a loved one, or a new job. I feel plants can convey feelings just like songs, smells, places, antiques, etc. I love to hear people go on about a particular heirloom seed that has been passed down from generation to generation. It’s all about the story and feelings the plant invokes inside of people that I really enjoy hearing or experiencing.

With the holidays in full swing, I could not think of a better time to gift a houseplant than now. There are several holiday plants widely available at this time of year.

In my opinion, bulb plants and poinsettias do not make very good houseplants. You still have several easy plant-growing options to pick from, including the Norfolk Island pine, Christmas cactus, rosemary, citrus trees and frosty ferns for good holiday plant choices.

If you want something a little more generalist and for all seasons, then consider gifting a snake plant, pothos, philodendron, rubber tree or a cactus/succulent. Most of these plant varieties can be bought at any local nursery or big-box store. Pot it up in a plain clay pot, write out some care instructions and put a bow on it, and you will likely have a gift that grows for under $30.

If you’re lucky enough to be on the receiving end of the plant gift, then you have a little homework to do and will need to educate yourself on the likes and dislikes of your new plant buddy. Hopefully, it is a forgiving houseplant, if you are one of those self-proclaimed brown thumbs — keeping a gifted plant alive can become a personal challenge.

Growing a specimen into full maturity and maintaining its health and environment can be very rewarding and allow for a little boastfulness here and there. If you have a plant person already in your family and find it hard to buy gifts for them, then you may want to think about nice garden hand tools.

I used to buy a new trowel every two years or so, until I got a nice one that was hand forged — a little pricey but well worth it for something I use a lot. For the plant person who has it all, or if you just want to make a colorful impression, you can also look at logees.com or raintreenursery.com for some rare and odd plant varieties.

Whether you are gifting a plant or receiving one, I hope it brings you many joyful memories. I also want to wish you and your family happy holidays!

Chris Postalwait is the agricultural and environmental research station and greenhouse manager for West Virginia State University Research & Development Corporation. He is also the former owner of Orange Vine LLC., a wholesale commercial pumpkin and vegetable farm in Mason County. Reach him at postalcm@wvstateu.edu.