Holiday plants make fresh gifts

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 10, 2022

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Poinsettias are thought to be the Cadillac of holiday plants, but Virginia gift givers have plenty of other options as well.

Bulbs that blossom into delicate white flowers or large colorful blooms make delightful holiday gift options.

“Having something beautiful and alive and smells so good … it takes care of the winter doldrums,” said Becky Heath, who owns Brent’s & Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester County with her husband, Brent. Flower bulbs have been the family’s business for three generations, and each fall they sell thousands of paperwhites and amaryllises in time for the holidays.

“You just put them in some water with pebbles, or you put them in soil, stick them in the window, and they start growing,” Heath said.

While they’re a traditional holiday plant in the U.S., the bulbs originate overseas — paperwhites are typically grown in Israel and amaryllises in South Africa or the Netherlands. Millions are imported into the U.S. each year.

“We’ve got 28 different types (of amaryllises) and eight types of paperwhites,” she said. “There’s (an amaryllis) called Merry Christmas, and it’s very traditional,” she said. “It has six petals, blooms quickly — it has the right name, and it’s so pretty.”

When gifting bulbs for the holidays, timing is important, Heath said. Do you want the bulbs to bloom for the holidays, or during January after seasonal decorations are packed away?

South African amaryllis bulbs from the warmer climate bloom earlier, typically in two to four weeks, whereas Dutch varieties take four to eight weeks. Paperwhites, depending on the variety, can bloom in two to five weeks.

And if you don’t want a recipient to wait for the blooms, then a poinsettia may be the way to go.