Marianne Binetti: Wintertime is great indoor garden time

The beginning of December is the perfect time to grow your indoor garden. Winter blooms are as close as the houseplant section of the nursery or home center. Giving a blooming plant as a gift has three advantages:

Some plants, such as hellebores, can be planted in the garden. Bulbs such as amaryllis can be regrown for years of blooms.

Here are points to ponder when buying a plant as a gift.


If you choose a traditional poinsettia, the good news is that new varieties are easier to grow and maintain.

The new poinsettias can add indoor color for nine months or more — if you like having a poinsettia in bloom for spring. Colors are now available in soft pinks, whites, golds and even pastel blends, in addition to the traditional Christmas red.

You can also find tiny desktop poinsettias or hanging baskets of poinsettia that save on space. Just remember to protect your potted poinsettia from the cold — this means do not let a poinsettia sit in an unheated car while you do errands. Keep a paper sleeve around the plant while traveling to protect it from frosty drafts. Do not overwater. Yellowing lower leaves are often a sign of too much water, so make sure there is a drainage hole in the foil and plastic wrapping.


The holiday gift plant with the fastest growth in sales is the winter blooming hellebore. This perennial has evergreen foliage, long lasting white or pastel blooms and is winter hardy and long-lived in the landscape.

Hellebores have been more popular than poinsettias in Europe for a decade but are now making their budding appearance in American home stores, grocery stores and nurseries, all wrapped up in red foil paper and ready to give as an indoor gift plant.

But wait — there’s more.

Unlike a traditional poinsettia, a winter-blooming hellebore can be planted directly into the garden once the holiday season is past.


For a more dramatic performance, give a planted amaryllis just beginning to show green leaves. The thick stem will emerge bearing huge buds that open to bright red, pink or white blooms. The huge butterfly-shaped flowers never fail to impress and will last for weeks. Set a pair of amaryllis on a mantel or place a single potted bulb in a serving bowl surrounded by sparkling ornaments. Your holiday decorating just went from dull to dramatic.


Dwarf Alberta Spruce can be found at nurseries now often decorated like mini Christmas trees. These will thrive indoors for just a week or so before starting to suffer from the warm indoor temperatures and dry air. Use these evergreens outdoors as porch decorations and then add them to the landscape when the ground is not frozen.