Dakota Gardener: Thoughtful holiday gifts for gardeners

Holiday gifts for gardeners
A hori hori knife can be used to cut, dig and measure. NDSU photo

By Esther McGinnis, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension

For years, I have railed against the encroachment of the Christmas holiday season on Thanksgiving.

As I get older, I just want to slow time and savor each holiday. I steadfastly refuse to put up Christmas decorations until the last of the turkey leftovers and pumpkin pie have been consumed and my family sleeps late on Black Friday.

However, I realized this year that I am fighting a losing battle. I visited my favorite retailer’s website to discover that Black Friday specials were in full swing during Halloween. Knowing that I can’t slow the seasons, I am going to offer a list of thoughtful gifts for the gardener in your life for you early shoppers.

An amaryllis bulb is a great holiday gift for children and adults. My grandmother used to receive a bulb each year in early November and I would avidly watch it grow and bloom by Christmas.


The fast growth rate appears to be magical; the plant seems to grow an inch or two every night. Consider giving an amaryllis bulb to a child with instructions to measure the growth of the enormous flowering stalk on a daily basis. For best results, choose the largest bulb available.

Tools always are appreciated by gardeners. A high-quality bypass pruner is a welcome addition to the toolbox. The scissor action of the bypass blades yields a cleaner cut than the anvil-style of pruner. Anvil pruners are less desirable because they may squash the stem instead of affording a clean cut.

A hori hori knife is a unique tool for the gardener who has everything. This multi-functional knife of Japanese origins is unusual in that it has two different edges. One edge is serrated and the other is straight.

The hori hori knife can be used to dig and weed. The serrated edge is useful in cutting open a plastic bag of potting soil or mulch. To top it off, this versatile knife also has a built-in ruler to measure the planting depth of bulbs.

If the gardener in your life has arthritis or carpel tunnel, ergonomic tools may reduce barriers to gardening. Tools with curved handles result in a more natural grip that minimizes stress on the wrist.

More and more ergonomic tools are being designed to enable gardening as we age. Studies have shown that elderly gardeners score higher in many health indices. That’s more reason to continue gardening!

Succulents continue to be trendy for the holiday season. You will see succulent wreaths and Christmas trees at many retailers. For a more reasonably priced gift, consider making a live succulent tree ornament. The ornament can be a single succulent placed in a hollow glass globe or it can be planted in a tiny clay pot with a festive ribbon.

Finally, if you want to send a Thanksgiving gift, a blooming Thanksgiving cactus is very appropriate. People often confuse Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus. They are technically two different plants.


The Thanksgiving cactus can be differentiated by a difference in the pad shape. If the pad has serrated points, it is a Thanksgiving cactus. A true Christmas cactus has a smooth, scalloped edge.

Happy shopping!

For more information about gardening, contact your local NDSU Extension agent. Find the Extension office for your county at .

Esther McGinnis
Esther McGinnis

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