Plants make excellent gifts, and thereís probably someone on your Christmas list who would enjoy receiving a plant this Christmas.

Plants make excellent gifts, and thereís probably someone on your Christmas list who would enjoy receiving a plant this Christmas.  A healthy, vigorous plant is always a welcome addition, both in the home and in the landscape.  My information was provided by Dr. Robert Black Professor Emeritus, University of Florida.

When you go to a nursery to buy plants, you canít assume that all the plants are equal in quality, or have an equal chance for survival.  Plants are available in a wide range of conditions, grades and standards.

Generally speaking, the better a plant is, the more expensive it will be.  But that isnít a hard and fast rule. Sometimes you can find a nursery which offers top quality plants at low prices.  The important thing is to be able to determine what to quality is.

If you visit a nursery which tags plants according to the standards of the Florida Division of Plant Industry, determining quality will be much easier.  A Florida fancy is an extremely healthy vigorous plant that is well-shaped with good strong branches and dense foliage.  A Florida number one is a healthy vigorous plant with a good shape and good supply of leaves.  A Florida number two is a healthy plant that is fairly well shaped with a fair amount of leaves.  All other plants are labeled number three.  These are your cheapest plants with the poorest chances of survival.

If your nursery doesnít classify plants this way, or, if you buy gift plants from a supermarket, discount store or similar outlet, youíll need to be able to identify vigorous, healthy plants on your own.

Look for compact, rather than spindly plants.  Compact plants are more desirable because of their abundance of foliage.  A spindly plant without a good supply of leaves may be the victim of various leaf spot diseases or insect problems which have causes leaves to fall off.  Make sure the leaves have good, uniform color. Check tips of leaves for brown or yellow discoloration.  Inspect the trunk and branches to see that they are well-formed, without crack, peels or scars.

Carefully examine that plant for any signs of insect or disease problems.  Some things to look for are speckling on the leaves which indicates spider mite injury, curled or distorted leaves from aphids, and small umps on stems and undersides of leaves which indicate a scale problem.

Common disease problems show up in yellow or brown leaves, rotting stems, and brown roots.

Check the soil to make sure it has good color, and hasnít been two heavily compacted.  Pick the plant up and check to make sure that roots arenít growing out from the bottom of the pot.

There are other things to consider which depend on where the plant if to be kept once you bring it home from the nursery.  Make sure that the plant is suited to the climatic conditions of your area.  If the plant is to be keep indoors, decide if it is going to need special lighting.  If you think that the plant is going to be put in the landscape, make sure it is adaptable to yearly highs and lows in temperature.  Your nurseryman should be able to help you in making these kinds of decision.

If you can follow these basic guidelines for selecting gift plants, your Christmas gift can be appreciated and enjoyed for many years to come.

For more information on buying plants for Christmas giftscontact the Gulf County Extension Service at 639-3200 or visit our website: