No guilt gift giving

December is a month for giving gifts. Most of us are probably wracking our brains right now, trying to think of the right gift to give that person who has everything. Do-dads and trinkets just collect dust, food may not fit into the persons diet, its hard to know what style or size of clothing to get, but who doesnt appreciate a bright spot of color in their lives? There are all kinds of plants you can give as gifts this time of year. If your friend is notorious for killing plants, choose something like a poinsettia that can be discarded with no guilt once its good looks have faded. If your friend enjoys indoor plants choose something longer lived. Either way, plants are non-fattening, cholesterol and sodium free, and can be composted when they are no longer needed. Poinsettias are the classic Christmas plant and are a great choice for almost anyone because they usually keep their good looks for weeks or months no matter how black a thumb their owner has. Red or white are classic color choices but there are now pink, salmon and even speckled patterns available now, too. A common misconception is that poinsettias are deadly. Their sap can be irritating to sensitive skin but this should not stop you from enjoying them. Keep them out of the reach of small children and pets and dont prune them without wearing gloves; otherwise you should be okay. Touching the leaves is no problem. When choosing a poinsettia, look at more than just its showy bracts (the modified leaves that provide the color). Look at its lower leaves and choose the one with the healthiest, lushest leaves. This is a good guide for choosing almost any houseplant. The lower leaves tell you a lot about the plants overall vigor. A plant that has begun dropping its lowest leaves may have been subjected to stress in transport or while being held at the store. Christmas cactus are one of my favorite holiday plants. Their initial blooms dont last as long as the showy bracts on poinsettia, so give this plant to friends who like growing houseplants who will enjoy future blooms from the plant as well. Norfolk Island pines never bloom indoors, but they are good stand-ins as small Christmas trees. They are usually available as either smaller, tabletop sized plants or five feet tall or more, best suited as floor plants. In milder climates where they grow outdoors they reach heights of over 50 feet, but indoors it will take years for a tabletop sized plant to finally reach your ceiling. They like filtered light rather than full sun which makes them a good choice for many homes. They are often substituted for Christmas trees, especially in homes where space is limited. They should live for years if watered properly and potted up as they grow. Cyclamen have a reputation as being tricky to grow but all but the blackest of thumbs should be able to maintain them for at least a few months. Their flowers are gorgeous and their beautiful leaves make the plant attractive even when not in bloom. The main trick to growing cyclamen is to keep them as cool as possible in as much sun as possible. A room that you keep cool or turn down the thermostat at night in would be ideal. Lastly, dish gardens make a very nice gift for almost anyone.The combination of different leaf shapes and colors of the various plants in the dish provides a lot of interest even without any blooms. After several months youll need to move the plants to individual pots to give them enough room to grow, so the one dish garden can turn into several houseplants.

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