Home & Garden

Giving a houseplant for Mother's Day? Pick one for her personality

Flowering houseplants make terrific Mother's Day gifts. Three — anthurium, clivia and "mophead" hydrangea — are especially beautiful and easy.

Unlike cut flowers, they will keep charming your mother for many weeks, and with the right care, they'll bloom year after year.

But which one will be best for Mom? It depends on your mother's personality. Some houseplants thrive on attention and need frequent watering. Others require a hands-off approach: Too much water, and they drown.

Here are a few suggestions.

Anthurium: For hovering mothers, I suggest an anthurium. These Hawaiian natives range from 10 inches to 2 feet high. Their leaves and flowers, held aloft on long stems, are both heart-shaped. The flowers, called spathes, are bright red or orange, and are as shiny and sturdy as plastic plates.

An anthurium hates to go dry, but if Mom is all too ready with the watering can, remind her to empty any water in the pot's saucer. Anthuriums like bright light but not direct sun.

Many garden centers sell a small variety rooted onto a piece of lava rock in a shallow dish. Mom just has to make sure there's a little water in the dish, and every month or so, add a few drops of liquid fertilizer to the water.

Clivia: If your mother encouraged you to be independent, she will love clivias. These beauties are related to that Christmas favorite, the amaryllis. Clivias have straplike leaves that shoot from a central base. Every spring, they send up a stalk topped by as many as a dozen long-lasting, bell-shaped flowers in bright orange or yellow.

Native to the dry plateaus of South Africa, clivias need little water and only an occasional dose of fertilizer and thrive in low light. In winter, put them in a dim, cool basement and ignore them. Retrieve them in the spring, water and feed them, and by Mother's Day, they will be in bloom.

Clivias often generate "pups" that spring from the underground base. Over time, your gift can become a spectacular pot of clivia and a family heirloom.

Hydrangea: A potted "mophead" hydrangea is for the mom who can adjust to a plant's needs.

Each mophead stem ends in a dense sphere of delicate flowers, which range in color from blue to white to red.

The soil in the pot should always be kept moist. But if your mother forgets, her mophead will remind her by going into a gentle wilt. All she has to do is add water, and your gift will perk up promptly.

Hydrangea blossoms can last six weeks. But if your mother has a garden, she (or better yet, you) can transplant your gift outdoors, where it will flower year after year. Mature plants can grow to 6 feet tall.

The mophead's color depends on the soil pH. For blue flowers, add iron or aluminum sulfate to the soil; for pink flowers, add lime. The minerals are available at garden centers.