In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
December, 2007
Regional Report

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Hibiscus plants grown from cuttings started in August are in bloom already.

Giving Plants

Your options for holiday gift plants begin with poinsettias, orchids, and kalanchoes in bloom, festive pepper plants, and Norfolk pines festooned with twinkly lights. But think again. Many a lifetime gardener caught the bug with just one begonia, peace lily, or trailing ivy. Giving a holiday plant lets you infect anyone with appropriate glee, and perhaps inspire a new gardener! Even if you're short in the wallet, you can buy small green pots and stencil their sides with holiday shapes to hold pothos slips, a hyacinth bulb, or sweet alyssum seed you've planted.

Start right now by taking 4-inch tip cuttings from vining tropical plants; slip three of them directly into a 4-inch pot, or root in water. Either way, you'll have young plants ready by Christmas. Plant the hyacinth with its "shoulders" above the soil and put it in the refrigerator until time to deliver it. Any time you can chill this bulb, it will have a better chance for neatly compact growth even in a container. Grab a bag of seed-starting mix and plant some seeds, or give the whole packet to each lucky person. Just add a card with care instructions and your best wishes for their future gardens! The personal touch of a plant you've grown yourself never fails to impress.

Power of Plants
You can start or expand anyone's collection, and a particularly rewarding place to begin could be a nearby school, nursing home, or veteran's hospital. If you don't know anyone there, visit the administrator or activities director for guidance. Existing programs always have a wish list. If not, your gift could be a statuesque potted palm for the lobby, or a full-spectrum light fixture and table of African violets for the dining room. Of course, you can always volunteer to stop by and take care of the plants, and that can be a gift to yourself as well as the facility.


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