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Take plant cuttings now from plants such as spider plant, Christmas cactus, geraniums, etc. to use for quick inexpensive gifts later in the season. Even Dallas/Boston ferns can be divided into smaller plants. That way your cuttings will be established before it's time to give them away.
By Cheryl from Trinity, NC
I wouldn't doubt that many of you have Forsythia. I have the Lynwood Gold Hybrid. Now is a good time to root cuttings for giving to friends and relatives. They are so easy to root, they will root most anywhere, under most conditions, even in a glass of water.
What are you waiting for? Snap off a few pieces, put them in damp soil in a shady place. Within two weeks you should have what I have here, (they do root quickly). You will be remembered fondly every Spring!
Root several plant cuttings in soil in empty sour cream or cottage cheese containers, yogurt containers or cut down plastic bottles. Drill or punch a few drainage holes. Pick up a few cheap pots, large mugs or whatever at yard sales and you have an "almost" free gift.
For a thrifty gift this year, I decided to give pieces of my newly trimmed houseplants that I had rooted with a little poem attached. I ran into an issue finding decent priced pots to plant them in this non repotting time of year. So always looking for ways to recycle, I used some of my rinsed and delabeled aluminum cans in various sizes! Simply turn them on their side and with a metal bit on your drill poke a few drainholes about a quarter of the way up the can (Hence creating a retainer for water without drainage all over your counter). Put a coffee filter in the bottom, just like you would in the basket to make coffee and fill with your potting soil and water.
I often give plants that I have started from cuttings as gifts. To brighten these up I use a water pic from the florist with one or 2 blossoms from my yard to add a bit of color. I stick the pic into the soil, and make a bow that matches in color or compliments the flowers or the pot and voila! This would be at least $20 at a flower shop!
I like Ness's idea on the Mother's Day present for some flowers that she plants in her yard, but I'd like to take it a step further. ANY summer event is good for sending flowers like this. My brother's girlfriend is having a house warming, so I have started a couple of hanging baskets of nasturtium and canary vines that I am taking to her place BEFORE the party. Nasturtium like poor soil and thrive with a weekly (or so) watering. Don't water on a schedule-- water when the plants need it which can be more often than once a week. Water provides turgidity to the plants. So, whenever they seem a little limp and the soil feels dry, water them.
I also a have a few baskets started for some of my husband's coworkers who are going to the hospital for planned operations, having babies and getting married. He just lets them know what I am doing and they either let me drop the plants off at their houses or I stop by work at the end of the day. Or (for those who commute in the OTHER direction) I drive to town at the end of the day with my baskets. Be careful, what you tell people, though -- my husband told some friends that I passed my master gardener class a few years ago, so I often stop by people's houses and I find that they have lots of questions for me!
Other plants that are good for hanging baskets are strawberries-- a few alpine plants are great for laying supine in a hammock and eating like grapes as you spend the day reading! Lobelia can be trained over the edges and made to look like a waterfall and also looks great on rocky slopes.
Don't forget that cuttings of your own plants can be used to start new plants! Take a "pinch" off something like say, mint or basil, pluck off the lower leaves and soak in water -- I like to use the rose stem water reservoirs that come with the roses (that I used to get before I got married,) but you can use a Dixie cup or small glass. Just be sure to keep it in the darkness for a few days, otherwise the plant will go into shock and die. I bought a chocolate mint plant and several friends wanted to try it so I did pinches and planted them in 2" plastic pots when their root systems established! To get a bushier plant from this one little start, when it is four inches high, pinch it back to 2 and it will branch from there-- and you can do a new start with the little pinch!
I also had some snap dragons start successfully from this-- since a big garden costs a lot of money, and I am cutting back flowers until I can plant them outside, this is working well for me. The root systems get established and I plant them in plastic pots until June first. Just be certain that after you are done with your pots and tools that you wash them out -- diseases can spread if you don't.
If you plan a few weeks in advance, you can start plants like lavender with root start hormone (bought in the gardening section -- it is severely poisonous so keep it away from your toddlers.) You prepare the starting shoot, dip it in the hormone powder and then CAREFULLY plant the dirt around the plant, being careful to not disturb the hormone powder. Again, put them in a dark area, only for a bit longer like a few weeks. MAKE SURE THEY ARE WATERED! I don't advocate using peat pots as they mildew and mold too easily-- go for plastic pots.
Alouette of Wasilla, Alaska