Long-lived perennial plants are a popular choice for florist's gifts, but many times they are treated as annuals because it's difficult to keep them alive for more than a few months. A combination of proper care in the beginning and ongoing maintenance can make a simple gift last for many years.
Step 1: Add Some Drainage
Many small plants that come from the florist aren't potted for long term display. They may have a decorative foil or plastic around the pot, which looks nice on display and keeps store shelves clean, but will lead to rot if you leave it on at home. After removing the wrapping, check the bottom of the pot for drainage holes. If there are no holes, you have two choices:
Remove the plant and drill a 1/2-inch diameter hole in the bottom of the pot before replacing the plant.
Repotting the plant into a pot with drainage holes.
If you decide to repot the plant, you can use a pot smaller than the decorative florist pot. Simply set the plant inside the decorative pot to display it. The decorative pot will also act as a drip tray and collect the water that drains from the soil.
Step 2: Learn About the Plant
Most perennial plants from the florist are tropical or subtropical, so they won't survive outdoors during most North American winters. The plant likely came with a tag that details the exact variety and care instructions. Take a few minutes to search the scientific name of the plant, which is the Latin name on the label, to determine the exact growing zones and needs of the plant. If your plant isn't labeled, you can find out the name by calling your local university or county extension office, where a master gardener can help you identify the plant and its needs.
Step 3: Choose a Spot
After you have the plant details, finding a spot indoors is easier. Most houseplants require mid-levels of sunlight, so placing them near a sunny window is sufficient. Plants that require high levels of light will require at least six hours of direct sunlight, while those that need low light levels grow best away from direct sun.
The spot you choose should be free of drafts, both from heating and air vents as well as from windows and doors.
Step 4: Water and Feed Wisely
Overwatering is one of the main causes of death when it comes to a houseplant. Monitor the soil by actually sticking your finger into it once or twice a week. For most potted plants, water when the top 1 inch of soil is just beginning to feel dry. Cactus and succulent plants require less water, so you can wait to water until the soil in the pot is completely dry.
Use a drip tray beneath the pots to catch the water as it drains. Let the plants drain for 30 minutes after watering, then empty out the drip tray. If your plant is tropical and requires high humidity, try displaying it in the bathroom or near the kitchen sink. You can also group several plants together to raise the humidity in a specific area.
A basic houseplant fertilizer applied according to label directions is suitable for most florist plants. If your plant puts on new growth mainly in the summer, fertilize only during the warm part of the year. Holiday plants that grow in winter and spend summer dormant require winter fertilization.
Step 5: Keep It Clean
Clean, dust-free plants look nicer and are less prone to mite and aphid damage. Wipe the leaves with a damp cloth if they begin to look dusty, or spray them with clear water to clean them off. Don't use a leaf polish – this can block the pores on the foliage and kill the plant.
Some florist plants through a company like Charlotte County Flowers can survive summer's outside, where they benefit from fresh air and plenty of sunshine. If you go this route, remember to inspect them thoroughly for pests before bringing them in before the first frost.