Published on 12/03/19

Giving a gift that grows: Tips for picking the right plant to gift

By Sadie Lackey

Searching for the right gift for the holidays can be difficult, and if you’re stuck on what to buy for that person who has everything, consider gifting a plant.

There are plenty of options for the perfect gift when giving a plant and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension has plenty of tips to make sure your gift is the right one. Whether it be a college student or a hard-to-buy-for friend, a house plant may be the perfect answer to any gift-buying predicament.

No room is complete without a house plant. Take a look into any home décor magazine and you’ll find house plants adorning most every room, providing a homey, natural look. House plants purify indoor air and provide mood-enhancing qualities to offset harsh winter weather.

UGA Extension has a plethora of information to make sure you give the perfect plant and to ensure that it is well taken care of.

“Most people love their houseplants to death by overwatering them. Homeowners should let their plants dry down until they feel light, then water them well,” said John Ruter, director of the UGA Trial Gardens in Athens, Georgia. “Make sure they drain properly before putting them back in their decorative container. If older plants get dusty, cover the pot and substrate with a plastic bag and rinse the foliage off with warm water in the shower.”

Below are some other helpful tips to consider while shopping for the perfect plant to give a loved one:

  • Get the right light. Generally, houseplants should be kept out of direct, bright sunlight, which can burn the leaves. To ensure your gift stays healthy and lasts well past the holiday season, you need to know the lighting situation it will live in.
  • Know the lifestyle. Will the recipient remember to water the plant? Or will giving a houseplant that can survive weeks without attention be a better choice for them? Answering this question is vital to the survival of your gift.
  • Give it some space. What kind of space does the receiver have? There are plenty of choices, but you have to know if you are buying a plant that will be perched on a small desk or which will hang from the ceiling.  
  • Package it well. The right container is vital to keeping a plant healthy. It’s very important that the plant’s pot has a drainage hole. Many decorative containers don’t have drainage holes, so be sure to check. Not allowing water to drain from the pot creates a perfect environment for root rot and diseases.
  • Give the gift of information. A great way to give your gift even more life, so to speak, is to include a care card that includes the plant’s name and all of the instructions on its water and light requirements.

Once you have your parameters set, select a plant from these UGA Extension recommendations.

Snake Plant, Sansevieria trifasciata

This plant is incredibly low maintenance. It can be found in many airports and only needs to be watered once or twice a month. The long, straight leaves provide a sharp architectural look. The plant likes lower light conditions and will burn in the sun.

Pothos, Epipremnum aureum 

For those who have some room, pothos is perfect in a hanging basket or draping down a bookcase or tabletop. This plant prefers to stay on the drier side, so be sure to check the soil before you water. It also prefers indirect light.

Jade plant, Crassula ovata

Some believe that succulents are easy plants to take care of because they do not need much watering, but they can be picky about water and light. Even so, jade is a relatively low-maintenance plant. It tends to like to be watered a little bit more than other succulents but can tolerate being dry. If the leaves are soft, that means it’s time for water. This is also a good plant for a sunny windowsill.

Dracaena, Dracaena fragrans

This plant has a palm-tree look and comes in a variety of shapes. It can grow to several feet tall and likes indirect light and thorough watering when the soil becomes dry. 

Spider Plant, Chlorophytum comosum

Also called an airplane plant, spider plants are great for hanging baskets or decorative pots. They produce pups that hang down from the plant and can be propagated by placing the plantlet roots-down into a new pot. This plant likes indirect light and should be watered when the soil is completely dry.

Air Plant, Tillandsia

Air plants are quite unique as they have no roots and absorb their nutrients and water through their leaves. They don’t need soil, but this plant requires a bit more maintenance than others. These plants need to be misted outside of their container or soaked for 30 minutes a week. Keep air plants in bright, indirect light. If there’s a window in the bathroom, they’d love this location due to the humidity.

 ZZ Plant, Zamioculcas zamiifoli

Sometimes known as Zanaibar gem or emerald palm, this plant has very attractive glossy foliage that grows well in low light conditions.

For more information on how to grow houseplants, see UGA Extension Bulletin 1318 at

Sadie Lackey is a student writer for the CAES Office of Communications and Creative Services.

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