12/12/2011 09:56 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Sprout Home Guide To Holiday Plants

Photo by Sprout Home

Want to spread the holiday love by giving the gift of blooming green? There are a lot of options to choose from so here is the 411 on holiday blooming plants:

AMARYLLIS: Perfect plant gift for the person who you know does not want to care for a plant long term. When you see an amaryllis at a garden center this time of year they have been forced through their dormancy period by the grower and all they want to do is start flowering for you. Many garden centers will have them pre-potted but if you plant them yourself make sure you use a well-draining potting mix, the amaryllis does not appreciate having wet feet. Let the soil go dry to the touch before watering again. Keep them out of direct sun rays once they start flowering - this will prolong the bloom. Most bulbs will send out more than one set of flowers so once the first round has stopped blooming cut the stock and prepare for another. If you need it blooming for a certain time period keep in mind it takes about 4 weeks to give you a show. If your gift recipient decides to keep it they can force it through another dormancy period of cool, dark and dry for 2-3 months and start the cycle again.

PAPERWHITES: Have a friend who is addicted to scented candles and loves the effect of having a sweet scent waft through their house? A grouping of blooming paperwhites would be a proper selection for this occasion. On the same note, do not select this gift option if your intended recipient has a sensitive nose - when the paperwhites are in bloom the scent is hard to miss. They are a member of the daffodil family that the grower has tricked via dormancy to bloom for the holidays. The bulbs can be planted in soil or rocks with water. Keep them out of direct sun rays once they start flowering to prolong the bloom. The can get a little top heavy so stalk support might be needed at a certain point. Once they are done blooming they are just that, done. Get the scented candle back out.

POINSETTIA: The plant equivalent to fruitcake. Don't get me wrong, I like fruitcake, really. There are so many colors to choose from but they all like to kept in a bright filtered light and away from drafty areas. Let the poinsettia go dry to the touch in between watering and never waterlog it. It is hard to know how fresh a poinsettia is just by looking at the leaves but there are two things to look for -- little or no yellow pollen in the center of the plant and that the plant is compact as comparative to leggy. For a different twist, literally, pick up the Winter Rose poinsettia which looks like a crinkled flower.

CHRISTMAS CACTUS: This tropical cactus is a perfect selection for your plant enthusiast friend, easy to care for and stunning when in bloom. Unlike most true cacti keep this plant out of direct middle of the day sun. The Christmas cactus has also been forced through a dormancy period and will be popping out a plethora of blooms at your garden center this time of year. Light and temperature are important factors to get your Christmas cactus to bloom again -bright indirect light during the day but absolute darkness at night and temperatures around 50 degrees with limited watering. When the Christmas cactus is growing and actively blooming let the plant dry out by about an inch from the topsoil in between watering.

HOLIDAY GREEN ALTERNATIVES: Norfolk pine for the lumberjack friend, mistletoe Ficus for the girl or guy you want to give a not so obvious hint too or try a Frosty Fern for the terrarium enthusiast.