With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many of us are seeking floral gifts to express our affection for family, friends and significant others.
While nothing beats the spectacular blooms and intricate arrangements that cut flowers offer, we all know their lifespan is limited. This year, consider a much longer-lived houseplant as gift that will continue to add lush greenery and even beautiful blooms for years to come.
Not everyone has a bright, sunny window to place these plants and not everyone is an expert green thumb. So it is important to consider your valentine’s indoor space and experience level to set them up for success with their new plant.
The most common houseplants are popular because they are tough and adaptable to a variety of indoor locations, so there should be plenty of choices for an easy-care plant. Due to the ever-increasing variety of houseplants available, there are also plants with more complicated care that may interest more experienced gardeners as well.
There really is a houseplant out there for everyone. Below I will list a few of my favorites from easy-care, shade-loving plants to the more complicated, flowering orchids.
- One of my favorite houseplants, for its laid back needs and adaptability to a variety of conditions, is snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), also known as mother-in-law’s tongue. It accepts a wide range of light conditions from full shade to full sun and prefers drier soil, making it adaptable to most any space and one of the easiest to care for in my collection. With its upright stance and green foliage dappled with grayish streaks, it provides a great splash of greenery for the dreary wintertime. Some varieties, such as ‘Laurentii,’ have a beautiful yellow leaf margin to add an extra appeal.
- Peace lily is another houseplant adapted to low-light conditions, making it adaptable to most homes, apartments or offices. It has broad dark-green leaves that create a lush and spreading canopy of foliage. This plant does produce a large white flower and can bloom multiple times per year with proper care. Filtered bright light and consistent soil moisture is the key to a healthy, flowering plant, so this specimen does require a little more of a green thumb than snake plant.
- Succulents are plants defined by thick fleshy leaves designed to store water. For that reason, they require very little watering. In fact, overwatering is the most common mistake in caring for these plants. In recent years, they have become wildly popular with an ever-increasing variety available anywhere houseplants are sold. They do require significant sunlight, so a south- or west-facing window is the best location. In summertime, they can be moved outdoors to soak up sun and fresh air, though they are perfectly happy as year-round indoor plants. While a single succulent is a great stand-alone plant, consider creating an arrangement by purchasing several smaller plants and repotting into a larger arrangement. It’s a really affordable way to create a ‘living bouquet’ for your Valentine this year.
- Orchids are beautiful flowering plants that are a great gift for the more experienced plant lover on your Valentine’s list. In recent years, they have also gained wide popularity, so you can typically find a wide variety of these plants at most plant retailers. They are usually sold in full bloom, making a stunning gift of living flowers. However, subsequent blooms are often difficult to come by without proper care, so this gift should really be reserved for a Valentine with a real green thumb.
Houseplants are a wonderful gift for beginning plant enthusiasts and can often be the start to lifetime of plant interest. They are also versatile enough to bring enjoyment to more experienced gardeners as well, making them the ideal Valentine’s Day gift that will thrive for many more Februarys to come.
Ryan Pankau is a horticulture educator with UI Extension, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. This column also appears on his ‘Garden Scoop’ blog at go.illinois.edu/GardenScoopBlog.