By Jennifer Pelham, UF/IFAS Osceola County Extension
Looking for that perfect gift for someone special? Plants can offer a great solution to any gift-giving dilemma. A healthy, vigorous plant will provide enjoyment to any home or landscape. Plants are available in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and prices. There’s a plant that fits all needs and all budgets, whether you want to buy a nice small houseplant or a large tree for the landscape. But, before you rush out to buy that perfect gift, you should know what to look for and what to avoid.
The most important step in purchasing a plant is to be able to identify a quality plant. It can sometimes be difficult to tell which ones have the best chance for survival. The price of the plant does not necessarily correspond to the health of the plant. Less expensive plants can offer the same survival advantages as the expensive plants, if you are careful to choose the right ones.
Look for plants that have a compact growth habit and an abundance of foliage. Spindly and leggy plants with few leaves are most likely victims of disease and insect problems. Leaves should be uniform in color, without brown or yellow discoloration on the tips. Make sure that trunks and branches on trees and shrubs are well formed and without scars or cracks.
Pest problems are a nuisance to you and your plants, so carefully inspect the plants for signs of insects or diseases. Healthy plants now are fewer problems for you in the future. Be sure that the soil in the container has a good color and is not heavily compacted. Roots of the plant should not be growing out the bottom of the pot.
Another consideration before purchasing a plant, is where the plant will eventually be placed. If indoors, determine if it needs any special lighting conditions in order to thrive. If outdoors, make sure it is adaptable to the landscape and climate conditions. Also, be aware of the mature size of the plant. A small, petite tree now may grow up to be fifty feet tall!
Plants given as gifts may be enjoyed for weeks, months, or even years. Next time you need a gift idea think about a plant, but always remember, it’s the thought that counts.