For today’s post, I’ve put together a top ten of my favourite houseplants to give as gifts. Plants make excellent presents for all kinds of milestone moments, but they also cater for those everyday gestures of gratitude too. Congratulatory wishes sit alongside ‘thank yous’ or ‘thinking of you’ sentiments, wrapped up in a plant pot-sized offering of your choice.
And that brings me on to the subject of the post – and a question I’m frequently asked online and in real life too. Here are some things you’ll want to consider when giving houseplants as gifts, (including ones to potentially avoid!), alongside my tried and tested top ten picks.
Let’s get into it…
Plants as Presents: Some things to consider…
The three main aspects to think about concern the recipient, the location and light. Here are some questions to think about before you make a purchase…
Do you know the person well, or is it an old friend, a new acquaintance or a work colleague? Have you any idea what plants they might already have, if any? If so, do you notice a theme at all – perhaps they are into cacti or maybe its leafy plants they love. Have they expressed an interest in any of your plants, or ones you’ve seen when at a shop/restaurant/botanic garden etc.?
TIP: Keeping a notes list on your phone for things like this can provide inspiration for gifting ideas. This is particularly useful if your mind tends to go blank when you enter a shop like mine does sometimes!
Think about the space. Is the plant for someones workplace or office? If so, do you know if there are windows in that room? How about if it’s air conditioned? Is the place looked after during the holidays, or will the plant need to fend for itself for periods of time?
More often than not, I’ll buy someone a plant for their home. If that’s the case, think about their lighting conditions first and foremost (if you know them). A space with decent light levels will make it easier for any plant to thrive. If the room doesn’t get a great deal of light, or if it’s a darker location, I’ve got a dedicated blogpost with plant suggestions here.
If it’s a new home and you haven’t seen it yet, try to ascertain what the light levels are like with some general questions. On the other hand, you might know it’s, say, West facing. If you are picking for a particular space, then I’ll link a few specific posts I’ve put together that you should find helpful here as further inspiration:
- Let’s talk about light: a HPH guide to understanding houseplants, lighting + orientation
- Let’s talk about light Part 2: Plants for… North facing rooms
- Let’s talk about light Part 2: Plants for… East facing rooms
- Let’s talk about light Part 2: Plants for… South facing rooms
- Let’s talk about light Part 2: Plants for… West facing rooms
10 of My Favourite Houseplants To Give As Gifts
1. Crassula ovata / Jade plant
When thinking about houseplants to give as gifts, alongside aesthetics, there are many cultural traditions that can influence the decision making process. A Crassula ovata, or Jade plant certainly falls into that category. You might know this plant as a money plant, a lucky plant or even a friendship tree. From these nicknames alone, you get the idea why they are a lovely choice as a plant present.
This is a plant that always makes me think of my Acupuncturist from when I lived in Wales. She trained in Japan and always had a few Jade plants around her studio. The ovate (oval shaped) leaves resemble jade coins or stones and in Feng Shui, these plants are deemed to be symbolic of wealth and prosperity and give off the positive energy ‘chi‘. As such, Jade plants are an excellent choice as a gift for someone who is starting a business venture, or is going through a transitional period. They are considered to encourage growth and renewal and are a symbol of good luck.
In practical terms, a Crassula ovata is a good option for a succulent lover, or someone who has a sunny windowsill. They are slow growing plants that can be propagated and shared over time so are perfect for small space living.
2. Pilea peperomioides
Keeping on the theme of symbolic plants for a moment, a Pilea peperomioides is a characterful choice of houseplant to gift. Commonly known as a Chinese money plant or coin plant, these are believed to bring prosperity to owners. They are also nicknamed pancake plants and UFO plants – for purely aesthetic reasons I might add! One of their most popular names though is the friendship plant. Pilea plants are renowned for producing offsets, or plantlets around the base of the plant as it matures. As you can imagine, these pups make for great gifts as a gesture of friendship.
I always call this one the plant that keeps on giving and is one of my favourites to gift! Whether you choose to gift someone a larger, more established plant, or a little Pilea you’ve propagated I think it’ll be well received.
3. Philodendron brasil
Next up is a trailing plant option and it’s a Philodendron brasil. This is a plant that is interesting to look at, with a mix of mid-green and chartreuse variegated foliage. It’s a little different to the ubiquity of golden Pothos you come across – don’t get me wrong I love these. But I thought I’d offer an alternative for this post.
A Philodendron brasil is a splendid choice for a book lover, or someone who has a lot of shelves. It looks beautiful as it starts to tumble off in a lovely leafy way! I currently have mine trailing off the side of a bookshelf and it breaks up the expanse of paperbacks nicely. The good thing about a leafy trailing plant such as this is that it can grow with the recipient over time. If it gets too long it can be chopped and propagated, or trained around a door frame à la instagram.
4. Aloe vera
Probably the most popular plant I see people pick up for presents come in the form of this juicy succulent. An Aloe vera is a thoughtful gift for a keen cook, a gardener or someone that works with their hands. Aloe vera is a healing houseplant with anti bacterial properties which can help to soothe burns, scrapes and scratches.
It’s a wonderful option for someone with a sunny windowsill that looks like it could use a plant or two. As I write this, I have the urge to get one for my kitchen window in the new place! I gave my plant to a friend before I moved house, but now I’m thinking about it, I do miss growing an Aloe. As Aloes mature, they can look pretty sculptural and can grow into dynamic, mood-enhancing plants.
5. String of Hearts / Ceropegia woodii
String of Hearts, or Chain of Hearts are one of those houseplants that are consistently popular. Granted, it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with those heart-shaped leaves. They have a delicate appearance and are diminutive in scale compared to other houseplants, which makes them a considerate choice for someone with a smaller space. When thinking about houseplants to give as gifts, do consider the person’s space (if you know it) and pick accordingly. Ceropegia woodii also make a lovely combination gift with a little hanging planter if your budget allows.
In my experience, they are loved by all ages, but seem to be having a moment with a younger wave of new plant lovers. So if you are thinking about a present for a houseplant loving sibling, niece or nephew, this is a desirable choice. PS. I’ve got a big post on how I care for my String of Hearts here if you want to point the recipient towards that if they are a houseplant newbie!
6. Fishbone cactus / disocactus anguliger
For a cheerful looking plant with lots of personality, you can’t go wrong with a Fishbone cactus in my opinion. These are happy houseplants to give as gifts because their unique form really can make the recipient smile. I think it’s a good one to give to someone that loves design as it’s a very sculptural plant with a graphic form. It’s also one for lovers of more unusual houseplants! They are fun to grow too – their ‘zig zags’ or ‘fishbones’ spring out from the pot all over the place!
Despite its name, Disocactus anguliger is not a true desert cactus but a type of epiphytic jungle cactus. This means it has an easy going growth habit that’s pretty slow so can live happily in the same pot for a couple of years. It’s a perfect housewarming gift that would look great on a sideboard or entryway. There’s a Fishbone cactus Care Guide here FYI.
7. Cereus forbesii spiralis / Spiral cacti
Cacti make for excellent houseplants to give as gifts for the recipient who is a little forgetful at watering their plants! They are extremely forgiving and would make a good choice for someone who travels frequently or doesn’t spend lots of time at home. Just make sure they have a sunny position as these will not be happy in shade.
Whilst you can pick up lots of quite generic looking cacti, this is a pretty special one. Plus, it always sells out whenever I have stock of these so I can attest to it’s popularity! It’s a Cereus forbesii spiralis, commonly known as a spiral cactus and it looks like a helter skelter. Due to its unique growth habit, this statement cactus will captivate the person who receives it.
8. Asparagus fern: Asparagus densiflorus ‘Sprengeri’
Something for the romantic types next, this particular type of Asparagus fern is a lovely option to give as a present. Other types of Asparagus fern can shed a little, but I’ve found this one is particularly robust in comparison (more on that here if you’re interested). The whimsical, feathery plumes add a real softness to a space.
They would make a thoughtful gift for the person that likes more delicate plants like ferns, but without the headache of something like a Maidenhair. Asparagus ferns aren’t actually true ferns but are part of the Lily family and are easier going as a result. Whereas larger-leaved plants can sometimes dominate, this one is so pretty for smaller spaces. They are adaptable and forgiving to grow too so a very good choice for a gift.
9. Snake plant
Snake plants are resilient houseplants to give as gifts for the absent-minded plant waterer! They are super easy-going and really can tolerate periods of neglect with aplomb. Today you can get loads of different varieties to suit most tastes too. Two particular favourites of mine are Black Coral, which is a deeper green colour and Moonshine, a light, minty hue. Both are a little different to the more common types if you are looking for a twist on a classic. There’s a photo below of both of mine for reference and a care guide here.
Snake plants are perfect for windowsills or smaller spaces due to their upright growth habit. They are also slow growing and don’t require frequent repotting either. Even smaller pots can be impactful in an interior due to their interesting, sculptural form. A truly fuss-free plant pick to give as a present.
TIP: Snake plants, which were commonly called Sansevieria have been subsumed into the Dracaena genus in recent years. Plant labelling can take a while to reflect these botanical shifts so if you see your labels changing when plant hunting, that’s why!
10. Maranta leuconeura var. kerchoveana / Rabbits tracks Maranta
Lastly, we have a pick for pattern enthusiasts. Prayer plants or ‘Marantaceae‘ as a group include the popular jazzy-looking leaves of the Stromanthe, Maranta, Ctenanthe and Calathea. The foliage of this plant gang are ever so pretty but they can be notoriously tricky to keep happy in typical household conditions. Not what you want to give someone as a present!
Saying that, out of this colourful group a Maranta is the easiest going of all, followed by a Stromanthe, in my experience. As a result, I’d recommend the green-blue tones of the variety of Maranta which is commonly known as Rabbits Tracks. And yes, the botanical name in the subheading is quite a mouthful isn’t it!
This cultivar is a real eye-catcher and looks equally lovely against both dark and light walls. The leaves are marked with brown splotches (hence the nickname, rabbits tracks) which vary in intensity depending on the light conditions. What’s more, at night the foliage lifts up and closes, as if in prayer! The underside of the leaves have a dusky purple hue too – a serendipitous surprise to notice in an evening. It can also occasionally bloom with delicate white flowers (see below). These make for truly interesting houseplants to give as gifts I think, and something a little different.
Some plants to potentially avoid…
When gifting houseplants, there are a few that you might consider steering clear of. As a disclaimer here – I’m not saying to categorically dismiss these plants without thought. But as kind gestures to acquaintances, I’d potentially avoid the more high maintenance diva plants. This is particularly the case if it’s a present for someone you don’t know well, if they are a newer plant lover or you don’t know their environmental conditions etc. There’s nothing worse than giving a plant to someone to later discover that it was a headache to look after, or worse, that it died after a few weeks!
Typically, I’d say that diva plants are ones like: Calathea – pretty leaves but hard to care for, especially the ones with lots of colourful variegation. Things can get really crispy really fast. Ferns – I’m talking true ferns, with delicate fronds. Maidenhairs can be a handful unless your recipient is very attentive. Alocasia – another houseplant with leaves that are wild. Especially the ones like Dragon Scale, Silver Dragon, Cuprea Red Secret and Zebrina. You really need decent humidity for these. An Alocasia Amazonica Polly is probably the most forgiving. But growth can be sporadic and sometimes frustrating. String of Pearls are beautiful, but can be troublesome if they don’t receive enough light!
Other than more troublesome plants, I wouldn’t suggest buying someone a large plant unless you are confident they will love it. I’m used to being surrounded by some sizeable plants, but that’s my personal choice. Not everyone likes big plants. I’ve learned that first hand! Quite a lot of people will prefer a smaller scale offering that can grow with them over time.
As with all the best presents, plant gifting is not about what’s the most expensive or flashy choice – those implications seem irrelevant somehow, it’s much more about the thought. That’s also why sharing one of your propagations is always a lovely gift – passing on a plant you’ve nurtured has an inherent kindness I think. On a personal level, there might also be plants that share a significance with friends or families of course. It might be a specific plant that has a story for you or a loved one which will always make for a thoughtful present. I hope you liked seeing ten of my favourite houseplants to give as gifts today and that it’s provided some inspiration or ideas for you. I’ve really enjoyed putting this one together. Here are some pins to save or share :