Q: I'd like to give plants as gifts for the holidays. Many gift plants are treated as short-lived houseplants because they are difficult to get to rebloom or keep alive and are discarded. Can you recommend plants that are easy to grow and that will last more than one season?
A: Several gift plants will last a long time as houseplants and are easier to bring back into bloom. Some gift plants, such as poinsettias and azaleas, are more difficult to get to rebloom than others. Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is a popular gift plant that is available in shades of red, pink, yellow, white, and orange. Kalanchoe is a short-day plant that, much like the poinsettia, requires darkness for 16 hours per day for approximately three months to trigger flower bud production.
Even though they do require a little work to get them to rebloom, their small size makes it easier to transport them to areas inside the home that will provide the darkness that they require to trigger bud formation. And, they are not as sensitive to interruption of darkness as poinsettias are. A poinsettia's bloom cycle can easily be interrupted if the plant is exposed to as much as a single ray from a flashlight. Unlike the poinsettia, the foliage of kalanchoe remains attractive indoors year-round.
Christmas cactus is also a popular gift plant that has attractive foliage and is easy to grow. Buds are initiated with short days and dark nights of 12 hours for six to eight weeks or exposure to temperatures of 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit.