Ask A Plant Queen: Roses Are So Cliché. What Plant Should I Buy For Valentine's Day?

Welcome to Ask A Plant Queen, where with the help of Tula founder and bona fide plant expert Christan Summers, we'll answer every question you've ever had about the care, keeping, and presentation of houseplants. No need for you — or your pretty green pals — to thank us.

Question:

Is there anything more cliché than red roses on Valentine's Day? If there is, I cannot think of it. And yet, there's something comforting about giving and receiving the old plant-and-candy combo. Buying anything more can feel overwrought on what's essentially a made-up Hallmark Holiday, and buying anything less? Well, I'm not looking for a fight. What I am looking for is something beautiful and statement-making to gift to my S.O. But then, I think it should also be relatively easy to care for, since no one wants to receive a present that’s really a chore. Please advise!
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Answer:

I love this question. Step outside of the red rose box!
Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers, but the sad reality is that they are dead in a week. And there was a lot of carbon put into growing and transporting each stem only to last for a few short days. Which is why I love plants, and so appreciate that you are thinking of gifting a plant that will grow, bloom, and thrive for the long run. Your plant could tell a story one day. Now that’s romantic.
As for aesthetic and making a statement, that will always depend on your sweetheart’s style. But I will say that matching a beautiful planter to a plant makes for more of a statement. Just make sure your planter has drainage, you’re repotting with the right soil structure and buying the correct planter size (go one size up from the nursery pot). So, if the plant is sold in a 4" nursery pot then you’ll want to buy a 6" planter and so on.
As always, when choosing a plant, we first have to consider the environment of your beloved. Does they live in a low light with very little sunlight or does sunshine stream through at different parts of the day? The longevity of your gift starts with light.
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Anja Slibar

For medium to low light conditions:

The Purple Heart (Tradescantia pallida): Native to the Gulf Coast region of Eastern Mexico, this beauty is perfect for purple lovers. The leaves are a deep purple and they bloom little purple/pink blossoms that look like hearts. Sometimes you can find plants that are variegated and will have streaks of pink in their foliage.
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Anthurium: Native to the Americas, the most popular Anthurium is the andraeanum which bloom vibrant cala lily looking flowers in red, pink, purple, white, and yellow and will stay in bloom for weeks at a time. As with all plants, you’ll see more blooms with more hours of sunlight. For the plant enthusiasts, there are some really striking Anthurium varieties like the Anthurium clarinervium, Anthurium crystallinum and Anthurium magnificum but these babes are bit harder to come by.
Alocasia ‘polly’: Native to South America and the Carribean, these tropical beauties grow an unique white pattern on their leaves (similar to the harder to find Anthurium plants listed above). They will also bloom, but the leaf pattern is more of a statement than the blooms.
Anja Slibar

For high light conditions:

Any and all Cacti: I don’t like to generalize, but men love cactus. It’s just a fact and we see it so often at Tula. Make sure you identify the specie and find out when it will bloom – cactus blooms are AMAZING! Some of our favorites are the echinocereus, myrtillocactus geometrizans (forma cristata), all Mammillaria species… the list goes on.
Desert Rose (Adenium obesum): Native to East Africa and Arabia, the Desert rose has evolved to live through long periods of drought developing a swollen trunk called a caudex. This acts as the plants water reservoir – a swollen trunk indicates a healthy water storage; a skinny trunk indicates the end of a long drought and a thirsty plant. When grown in full sun the Desert rose will bloom big, beautiful rose shaped blossoms, often lasting weeks at a time. With the correct environment, buds should start growing in late winter.
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Night Blooming Cereus (Epiphyllum oxypetalum): My personal favorite. A subtle and unassuming plant, the Night Blooming Cereus is an orchid cactus native to Central and Northern South America. This beauty blooms only at night, with flowers the size of your hand and an intoxicating fragrance. The blooms will only last 12 hours so you have to catch them when they’re opening. In the right conditions, the Epiphyllum could bloom multiple times through the summer into fall – I’ve had 30 blooms on our Epiphyllum at home in one night. It was incredible!
Anja Slibar
Euphorbia lactea ‘Ghost’: For the true arid plant collector, the Ghost euphorbia is like the unicorn of the Euphorbia specie. Hard to find as a mature plant (they are very slow growers), the Ghost euphorbia lacks the chlorophyll-bearing tissues necessary to produce green stems – which makes almost the entire plant white.
There you have it, lovers. Hope this helps to find your Valentine a green gift that keeps giving.

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