’Tis the season for giving. It won’t be long before the holidays are upon us, and with lists of gifts for friends and family growing by the day, it is time to start giving them some generous attention. Here’s a suggestion: Plants make great gifts. In many cases they are the definition of the gift that keeps on giving.

While plants are not exactly the epitome of “one size fits all,” a plant gift is unlikely to wind up at the returns department after the holidays because it was the wrong size. But choosing the right plant for the recipient can make some folks pause. Not to worry. Chances are there is a plant suitable for nearly everyone on your list, whether or not they are avid gardeners.

Live plants make excellent hostess gifts, whether or not they are holiday standards or unique specimens.

So, let’s get started filtering out the uncertainties by answering a few simple questions. It is important to match the gift plant to the person who will be receiving it. After all, plants are living things that require attention and care. Finding the right mix can help ensure the success of your gift plant.

  1. Is the recipient someone who spends most of their time indoors?
  2. Does the recipient love the outdoors?
  3. Is the recipient a couch potato?
  4. Does the recipient love to garden?

The perfect plant for a house-bound or indoor person is one that they can view out a window. A flowering tree or shrub can add color and interest. A fruit- or nut-bearing or native tree can provide food for wildlife — an extra bonus to add movement and life to the mix while helping out wildlife. If that indoor type is an avid cook, herb plants are always a good choice.

The outdoorsy types will enjoy a perennial, a shrub or a tree with rich sensory appeal. The seasonal color and liveliness of a native mountain ash tree or perhaps a witch hazel is just the ticket to captivating the attention of any outdoorsman or woman no matter the season.

Even a laid-back sort can appreciate the lively color of easy-care houseplants that will thrive with low maintenance. There are many from which to choose and some even succeed in low light situations with minimal care. In fact, some would rather not be fussed over.

And one of the easiest — or most difficult — on your list to please with plants is the avid gardener. You don’t want to duplicate what plants they may already have or present them with something they can’t work into their gardening scheme. A little detective work will be necessary in this case, perhaps even a discreet quizzing of plant preferences or special growing conditions that exist in their garden.

If your gift plant is one that will be grown outdoors, you’ll need to match it to the conditions at the recipient’s home. Sun or shade, wet or dry conditions will need to be considered in your selection, as will growing zone compatibility.

When it comes time to select your gift plants, look for a sturdy trunk (on shrubs or trees), healthy-looking foliage and good branching. If it is a flowering plant, it is preferable to select one with plenty of buds instead of one that is already in full bloom. That way the recipient will be able to see it in bud and through its transformation to bloom.

If after examining all the details you still come up empty — consider a gift certificate to a local garden center or even a mail order nursery. That way the recipient can select exactly which plant they want, one that will be perfect for them and their environment as well.

A little suggestion: When it comes to presenting that gift certificate, you could slip it into a small pot tied up with a handsome bow or attached to a garden tool such as a hand trowel or slipped into a pair of colorful garden gloves.

If the gift is a blooming orchid, for example, include a colorful water misting bottle to keep that plant healthy and happy. Wrapping a living plant can be as easy as adding a bow or slipping the nursery pot into a colorful, decorative ceramic catchpot.

Houseplants make our indoor environments healthier and happier and native plants, trees and shrubs make the environment outdoors better for all. A living plant can be one of the most giving of gifts ever.

Lynette L. Walther is the GardenComm Gold medal winner for writing, a five-time recipient of the GardenComm Silver Medal of Achievement, the National Garden Bureau’s Exemplary Journalism Award. She is a member of GardenComm, the professional organization for garden writers. Her gardens are in Camden.