Giving plants for Christmas and holiday plant care tips

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Q: What can I give a gardening friend for Christmas that will actually be useful?

A: Doug Welsh’s gardening almanac suggests bird feeders and birdbaths. I think, instead of feeders, the gardener should have planted nectar, fruit and larval plants. I do believe that bird baths in our area are extremely important, however. All sizes are appropriate: large and low for wildlife, very shallow for butterflies, high with a lip for birds. All should be sturdy. My area has free roaming critters that knock over plastic birdbaths.

Another suggestion I have for a gift is a CoCoRaHS rain gauge. CoCoRaHS (which stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network) is a non-profit network of volunteers who work together to measure and map precipitation. I have had one of their gauges for a number of years and find it easy to use. The person who receives your gift will have the opportunity to send data to the network and see how the observations can be used.

High-quality pruning shears can be another gift for your friend. Many gardeners just go to a local big box store instead of researching really quality equipment. Your friend will thank you for many years for a gift of top-of-the-line tools.

A rather strange gift that you might consider is whirligigs. My son knows I love them, so every couple of years he gets me a new one. (He also bought me a garden archway one year.)

If you are a handyman (or woman), a lovely gift would be the offer of a free tool sharpening and oiling. Our shovels, shears, and pruning knives need upkeep just like everything else.

Q: Do you have suggestions for the care of holiday plants? While shopping for Thanksgiving, I noticed a lot of holiday plants in grocery baskets.

A: First of all, be extremely careful in transporting your plant. Those blooms and branches break easily. Next, find a very bright spot in your home where the plant can get at least 6 hours a day of light. (I keep mine near my grow light stand and the window.) House temperatures should be between 68 and 72 according to Extension Horticulturist Doug Welsh. Only water your plant when the soil feels dry one to two inches down. Don’t overwater. I always remove the fancy paper because it can hold water. (If you must use a fancy container or paper, drain thoroughly before you put the plant in.)

Fertilize once during the holidays. Check for insects when you bring the plant into the house because you don’t want to infect your other plants. Remember to keep your plant out of cold drafts or hot air or by heaters or fireplaces. Keep an eye on your holiday plant because the indoor environment is usually very drying or your curious cat likes to chew leaves. Many of our holiday plants, if taken care of, will last way past the holidays. My neighbor gave me a poinsettia last year which sat on the porch all summer. Still in the same pot, it is now putting out red leaves.

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.  If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered.  The website is  The Master Gardener research library is open Wednesdays from 1 to 4, at 210 East Live Oak Street in Seguin.