The top five houseplants that make natural Christmas gifts.

Following up on our ‘green Christmas’ tips feature, we thought we’d give you some help over the coming weeks.

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If you shuddered slightly about our (excellent) suggestion to make your own gifts, how about giving those you love some foliage this Christmas? Houseplants!

But don’t go for the usual overstocked Christmas plants like Ponsietta. Low maintenance, easy to buy and something a bit different that people can enjoy every day over the festive season, and hopefully for many months, even years to come is the aim. And some of these little beauties will bring instant colour, warmth and joy to dark winter days.

Most places begin to stock seasonal plants in November, so it’s time get yourself down to your local organic garden centre and follow this list of perfect houseplants for gifts this Christmas.

Top Tip 1: keep costs down by finding your own ‘unusal’ pots in charity shops or car boot sales. Or get cheap, plain pots and add a recycled fabric ribbon for pure rustic charm.

Top Tip 2: Write out or design your own little “Love me, Look after me” cards with the care instructions for each plant. Tie it with fabric ribbon round the plant for the extra personal touch.

Orchids

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Mysterious sounding with glamourous blooms and fabulous colours – Orchids are the UK’s favourite and are in classic festive colours of red, white and green.
The “Moth orchid” is the easiest to grow (Phalaenopsis) in a bright spot with no direct sunlight and only watered if the pot feels light when lifted.
Cymbidium orchids are also in red, white and green and flower just once a year.
Everyone will love this pretty, joyful bloom as a gift.

Croton

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Instant drama for a room with its large, leathery leaves, in rich reds, golds and greens. Perfect festive looks.
Croton likes heat and humidity, so loves a bathroom or kitchen.
Water every two weeks during in winter, mist leaves with rainwater regularly, and it loves bright but indirect light.
Bit trickier, but well worth a little care and attention.

Christmas Cactus

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Why? Because of it’s happy, pretty, red, pink and white winter flowers.
Schlumbergera is a deservedly popular houseplant. Leave it alone when its budding, but for the rest of the year round – it’s really easy to keep.
Give it a nice bright spot on a window sill. Water when the soil feels dry, and feed every two weeks. Come the summer, it’ll thrive outside in a shady spot and is easy to transplant. A pretty little Christmas gift for life!

African Violet

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Delicate little flowers in pink, red, white or purple. Saintpaulia ionantha is a small and beautiful little plant.
The key to success is careful watering – wait until the compost feels dry, then stand the pot in a dish of water and let the roots soak up what they need. African violets need bright light, but not direct sunlight, and flower freely with regular feeding and deadheading. Bright flowers on your table on wintry days!

Unusual Conifers

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Namely, Wollemi pine (Wollemia nobilis) and Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla).
These gorgeous but rare in the wild conifers are festive and can be your compact Christmas tree or gift. Buy potted and transplant them after the holidays and you’ll be doing your bit to conserve these rare trees.
They may not have the colours or blooms of the violet or the cactus, but their festive charm and scent make up for that. Besides, they are perfect to hang your home-made decorations on!
They want a bright spot, away from radiators and fires. Water when the compost feels dry. Both will love living outdoors come spring/summer.

Beautiful houseplants make beautiful gifts this Christmas and won’t break the bank. Thoughtful, living things that people can care for and nurture. (and think of you every time they enjoy the plant).

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