Holiday Gift Houseplants

OK, these are NOT just indoor plant suggestions for guys who are spending most of their time at the video store, waiting for the latest volume of "Girls Gone Wild".These plants make great gift plants for everyone who claims to have accidentally killed every houseplant they have ever bought. These are houseplants that can take "benign neglect". They don't require much water (perhaps once every 10 days) and can take low light as well as fluctuating temperature conditions. These indoor plants are great for offices, too, where lights heat and air are turned off for extended periods.

Among the hardiest of houseplants:

The Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum) is a small to medium sized plant, with oblong, lance-shaped leaves 6-9 inches long and 2-3 inches wide. Among all the Chinese evergreens, look for the "Emerald Beauty". Avoid the "Silver Queen" variety, It can't take temperatures below 50 degrees.

The dracaena (Dracaena deremensis) (pronounced "drah-ceena") grows as a single-stemmed plant, sending out long, narrow leaves all along the stem. Of the dracaena varieties, choose the "Janet Craig" or "Warneckii". You can go two to three weeks between waterings with these. In fact, watering more often could be detrimental.

Other easy care houseplants:

Dracaena fragrans massangeana - corn plant
Aspidistra elatior - cast iron plant
Aucuba japonica Variegata - gold dust plant
Brassaia actinophylla - schefflera
Chamaedorea elegans - dwarf mountain palm
Cissus rhombifolia - grape ivy
Crassula argentea - jade plant
Cyrtomium falcatum - holly fern
Dieffenbachia amoena - giant dumbcane
Ficus elastica - India rubber plant
Ficus lyrata - fiddleleaf fig
Howeia forsteriana - Kentia palm
Pandanus veitchii variegated screw pine
Peperomia obtusifolia - ovalleaf peperomia
Philodendron oxycardium - heartleaf philodendron
Podicarus macrophylla - Japanese yew
Sansevieria - snake plant or mother in law's tongue
Scindapsus aureus - devil's ivy
Syngonium podophyllum - nephthytis
Zamioculcas zamiifolia - ZZ plant

Houseplant Care Tips:

* When choosing houseplants, avoid those with no identification tag or simply say, "tropical plant". If they don't know what it is, how can you get help when problems arise?

* Before buying, check the plant on the underside of the leaves and in the crotch where the leaf meets the stem. That's were bugs tend to congregate. Avoid plants with brown-tipped leaves; that's the sign of improper watering.

* The easiest way to clean and water the plant is to take into the bathroom with you, and shower with a friend. Or, in the case of the Kentia palm, shower with a frond.

* Use a container that has drainage holes. Keep a pan (such as a microwave dinner dish) beneath it, with a layer of gravel (or styrafoam popcorn) to catch the runoff.

* Don't fertilize the plant from October through March, let it rest. During the spring and summer, fertilize lightly, if at all. Coffee grounds, applied as a mulch once a month, are OK. Just be sure to remove the coffee filter!

* If the plant is on a window sill, rotate it weekly so it won't start bending in one direction. Great excuse when checking out your hot neighbor.