in the garden | Christmas centered on plants | Gardening


Many of us may have a gardener on our Christmas list or may be looking for items to add to our own list this time of year. Over the past few weeks, I have spent some time chatting with other gardeners, family members and colleagues to come up with ideas for you or that special gardener on your list.

  • Of course, plants are at the top of the list for most gardeners. I think I can speak for most gardeners, new or old, in saying that each new plant brings both enthusiasm and interest. With the long, cold winter ahead and far fewer opportunities for plant contact, now is the perfect time for new houseplants.
  • I know some gifts may think that a gardener already has too many houseplants, but a new plant for the collection is almost always a great gift. For me, the only limitation became the window space in direct sunlight. So a great gift for me or for other gardeners who may already have quite a few is a plant that is tolerant of lower light levels.

If you are interested in something different from the typical plant selection in large retail stores, look for a specialty store.

In recent years, houseplants have grown in popularity and a number of new companies have appeared in our area that specialize in houseplants.

Additionally, local florists have started to have a much larger selection of houseplants in stock.

Since these companies specialize in plant materials, they focus on new and interesting varieties or unusual houseplants that the big chain stores simply cannot stock.

  • Perhaps you have a gardener on your list with no indoor space for plants in full sun. In recent years, LED grow lights have become much more affordable and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

From desk lamps that strike on almost any surface to large lamps that mount to walls, there are a ton of new variations that can help add plants to almost any space, regardless of the sunlight available. .

  • Poinsettias are always a great choice for a less long-term plant option.

I consider these holiday-colored plants as a living floral arrangement for the holidays, as opposed to a permanent fixture in my houseplant collection. They are just too harsh to bloom again in an average household environment.

While we may be able to keep them alive, they sure won’t have the same jaw-dropping spectacle next year around this time.

For a new take on this old favorite, consider researching some of the newer varieties of poinsettia. In recent years, breeders have created some really interesting versions of this holiday classic. New color variations continue to enter the market each year, with interesting twists like the brilliant orange red of “Fall Leaves” which can add a floral touch reminiscent of Thanksgiving and Christmas color themes. Other varieties, like “Winter Rose”, display an interesting tousled margin on their colorful bracts, which reminds me of a twisted, draped knot over a gift.

  • I am always a fan of the latest gardening tool to make my work in the landscape easier.

A new favorite in my tool shed is the Hori-Hori Knife. Invented long ago in Japan, this impressive and attractive tool performs the tasks of many, working perfectly for weeding, digging, dividing or planting.

Some manufacturers are offering gardening tools with more ergonomic designs, such as curved handles for less strain on the wrist, or new designs to eliminate the use of back muscles in exchange for the legs.

Of the gardeners I’ve spoken to, newer products designed to make kneeling easier are the favorites.

Many of these designs incorporate a padded kneeling surface with a small bench, which allows for a variety of positions for working at ground level.

For more great gift ideas and fun chats with other Kelly Allsup and Candice Hart horticulturalists, check out the most recent episode of “Live with the Horticulturalists”.

We discussed a ton of great gift ideas, including cool plants and a lesson on making your own holiday decor from Candice.

All past episodes of our show are available at

Our next show will be on December 16, where we’ll continue our holiday decor discussion with some great ideas on how to “decorate the hallways” with a plant-centric theme.

Ryan Pankau is a Horticultural Educator with UI Extension, serving Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermilion counties. This column also appears on his “Garden Scoop” blog at


Terri S. Tomasini