Mother's Day: Think Outside the Blooms

Don't settle for a pre-potted plant. Create your own special container arrangement for mom.

Purple Flowers Planted in Boots

Purple Flowers Planted in Boots

Don't settle for a store bought arrangement. Customize a unique vessel in keeping with mom's garden style with her favorite blooms.

Photo by: Imfoto /

Imfoto /

Don't settle for a store bought arrangement. Customize a unique vessel in keeping with mom's garden style with her favorite blooms.

The garden stores are full of plants to give for Mother’s Day—the kind I think of as “buy-me-and-take-me-home” plants. 

You know the ones. They’re blue hydrangeas in matching blue pots. Or hanging baskets spilling over with red geraniums. Or plum-colored petunias. Usually gift plants are wrapped in shiny foil or tucked into a straw basket tied with ribbon.

And they’re gorgeous; I’m not denying it. But when it comes to giving a gift to someone special, I don’t want something straight off the shelf. I want the plant to be special, too. While it can be tough to find a one-of-a-kind plant, it’s easy to add a few touches to personalize it.

This year, try going rogue. Pass up the pre-planted containers and the cut bouquets in the supermarket cases or florist shops. Instead, pot up a flower or shrub, a small conifer, dwarf citrus, or a few succulents in a beautiful container. Add an unexpected ornament or two, and your mom will know that you went to the extra trouble because you love her extra-much.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Tovah Martin, in her new book, The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary choices For Every Spot In Your Home, recommends potting a stately calla lily in an urn for mom’s foyer or dining room. Underplant it with creeping fig or a small-leaved ivy with similar light and water requirements. Callas come in many colors, so look for them in mango orange, white, yellow, pink, red or even black.

A calamondin orange or other dwarf citrus is another wonderful plant Martin suggests for Mother’s Day. Citrus have attractive green leaves and will perfume a room with their sweetly scented flowers. If your mother can keep her plant in a sunny spot in the winter, and let it summer outdoors, she’ll probably have fruit, too. (I’ve made orange marmalade from my dwarf citrus fruit, and I have a dwarf Meyer lemon that produces enough for a few batches of fresh lemonade every year.)

Pot up an ivy in an antique pot or attractive dish (add pebbles to the bottom for drainage, or carefully—very carefully-- drill a few holes.)  Bend a length of thin wire into an arch or heart shape, and poke the ends of the wire into the soil beside the plant. As the ivy grows, train it onto the wire by wrapping it around it. Add a miniature garden fairy, watering can, or a mossy rock. You could also use a permanent marker with a narrow tip to write, “love” or another meaningful word on a flat stone.

Plant succulents in a hypertufa trough. These lightweight containers are made to resemble the stone troughs popular in English gardens from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Heat-loving, drought tolerant succulents are easy to care and look great in these.

Make a terrarium from a glass dome turned upside down on a plate. (Thrift stores are a great place to find cake or cheese domes, although you may have to look around for the size and shape you prefer. You can also find lots of inexpensive plates, and chips and crazes won’t matter, if  you’re going for a vintage look.) Plant a lemon button fern, maidenhair fern, or other small fern in a shallow pot and put it on the plate. Add a tiny bird’s nest from the craft store, or a couple of pretend monarch butterflies for color. Tuck in some sphagnum moss to hide the edges of the pot. Mist lightly, cover the plate with the dome, and tell Mom to open it from time to time to let excess moisture escape. Remind her not to place the terrarium in the sun.

Need more ideas? Wander through the aisles of your favorite garden center or nursery, and take a look at blooming plants like azaleas, topiary hydrangeas, gardenias, and other flowering shrubs. Many of these will also grow nicely in containers that Mom can keep on a patio or porch.

You’ll find the perfect gift when you use a little imagination and remember to think outside the pot.

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