5 Plants that Make the Perfect Gift

Want to share the love of plants this holiday season?

Me too!! I set out to find 5 houseplants that would work well as gifts because they are beautiful, affordable, accessible, and easy to care for.

Then I wanted to take it one step farther and figure out how to pair these plants with different types of people.

I decided to use a scoring system to determine how a plant’s needs will mesh with a gift receiver’s needs and lifestyle.

This kind of system could be used to find a plant to mesh with your needs too!

The five plants that I chose were: the peace lily, the nerve plant, the snake plant, the common pothos, and the satin/silver/silvery ann pothos.

Table of Contents

What scoring factors did I consider?

  1. How much love and water a plant needs/wants (How much time and attention would a gift recipient want to dedicate to a plant?)
  2. How much light a plant needs (Does someone live in a small apartment with a single, low light, north-facing window? or a large home with floor-to-ceiling, south-facing windows? or somewhere in between?)
  3. How much structure a plant has (Does the gift receiver want something that flows freely and grows wildly or would they prefer a more structural and compact addition?)
  4. How talkative or expressive the plant is (Does it show someone when it needs to be watered?)
  5. How dependent on a person a plant is (Can a plant be left for weeks while a person is traveling for business or does the plant need a person consistently checking on it?)

Each factor will be scored from 1-5.

1 is the least of each category (the least dependent, the least expressive, the least structural, etc.)

5 is the most of each category (the most water, the most light, the most structural, etc.)

Here’s how each plant scored with some information about the plant itself and why I chose the scores I did:

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

Love & WaterLightStructureExpressionDependence
52355

Peace Lilies are great plants because they come in a huge range of sizes, are generally in bloom when you purchase them, and are good at telling new plant people what they need to survive.

Love & Water Score: 5

Peace lily earned a 5 on Love and Water because this is a plant that actually loves to be watered! This gal wants H20 as soon as she’s a bit dry, which makes her perfect for a person who likes to shower pets or plants with attention and love.

Light Score: 2

2 is a pretty low score for light, but that’s because peace lilies thrive in low light and are probably the least light-needy plant on this list! Those dark green leaves can get the light they need from much lower light conditions because they have so much chlorophyll available to them. In fact, high light is often a problem for these plants as they can easily burn.

The one note I would make is that more light will encourage more blooms for a peace lily. Too low of light will not give the plant the energy it needs to push out flowers. So if your gift recipient wants blooms and isn’t getting them, encourage them to try an area with a little more light.

Structure Score: 3

I gave peace lilies a medium score for structure because at peak watering this plant has a lovely structure, but as it begins to dry the leaves begin to droop some.

As a person who appreciates when plants “speak” to them, I am all for it because I can visually see when watering time is coming, but the plant will not always look “perfect.” If this is something you think your gift recipient would not appreciate, you may want to try a different plant.

Expression Score: 5

Peace lilies earn the top score for most expressive. They will dramatically droop when they need water and then come back to life as soon as they get it. It is a fantastic plant for someone who is trying to figure out plants and is confused about how often to water.

Dependence Score: 5

Because peace lilies do need to be watered frequently, they really can’t be left for weeks without watering (unlike some of the plants on this list). You could leave this plant for a week and be fine if it was freshly watered or moved to a lower light location, but longer than that might require a plant sitter. 🙂

Pet safe? No

Bonus category – Variety: 2

Peace lilies are available in some variegated cultivars as well. However, they aren’t as accessible in local stores (at least where I live) and there are only a couple of them. I am super fond of one of them though, a cultivar called ‘Domino’ which has gorgeous white spots splashed across the leaves.

Nerve Plant (Fittonia albivenis)

Love & WaterLightStructureExpressionDependence
43445

The nerve plant has become one of my favorite common houseplants. It is super inexpensive, easy to care for, beautiful, and safe for kids and pets! Additionally, this plant does a great job of telling people when it needs to be watered and tolerating a huge range of home conditions.

Love & Water Score: 4

The nerve plant is another plant, like the peace lily, that loves to be watered. As soon as the top of its soil is dry, it enjoys a good soak. It is another great plant for people who have a lot of affection and time for pets and plants.

Light Score: 3

One of the great things about the nerve plant is how versatile it is regarding light. It can tolerate lower light conditions (but will grow slower and need a lot less water) and thrive in bright indirect light as well. That makes this plant able to be placed in most windows in most homes and do well!

Structure Score: 4

The nerve plant earned a high structure score because it stays pretty compact and beautiful over time, which is fitting for someone who doesn’t want a plant that becomes unruly.

Expression Score: 4

Also similar to the peace lily, nerve plants are very expressive! If you haven’t watered this plant in time, it will DRAMATICALLY wilt to tell you it is time. As soon as you water it, it will begin to perk up and look like nothing has happened within 12 hours or so. Because it is so fantastic at communicating, it is another great plant for beginners!

Dependence Score: 5

This plant isn’t particularly independent. It needs to be watered pretty quickly when its time or it won’t come back to life. So if your gift recipient is a frequent traveler, you might want to choose another less needy plant.

Pet safe? Yes

Bonus category – Variety: 3

Nerve plants come in 3 different colors: white, pink, and red. All are very beautiful and regularly available in stores for great prices.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria sp. / now in Dracaena genus)

Love & WaterLightStructureExpressionDependence
13500

Snake plants are easy to love. They are so darn beautiful and consistent in their beauty. These plants are by far the lowest maintenance plant on this list and also come in a vast array of cultivars as well!

Love & Water Score: 1

Snake plants get the lowest score for love and water because they don’t want either love or water most of the time.

I once heard a plant person say that if you are watering your snake plant more often than you are paying your rent, you are doing it wrong. This is about right. These plants are LOW MAINTENANCE and they want to be loved from a distance.

Light Score: 3

I gave snake plants a median score for light because they thrive and are healthiest in high light, but can technically tolerate low light as well. Because of their adaptability to low light, they are often labeled as low light plants.

They do not thrive in low light, but they do survive. They probably won’t grow, they will need very little water, and some say they are probably just dying extremely slowly over time.

So is low light really ideal? I would argue it’s not. However, they can survive for some time, maybe even a good deal of time. It’s hard to say and it’s up to each houseplant owner to decide what they are okay with.

Structure Score: 5

Snake plants definitely earn the TOP score for structure. They are very statuesque and strong. It is one of the aspects of snake plants that I love the most.

Expression Score: 0

So I know I said I would score from 1 to 5, but this plant really does deserve a 0 for expression. At least in my personal experience, snake plants do NOTHING to show you it is time to water.

These guys are like statues; unless they are dying, nothing changes. This can be a little frustrating if you are looking for specific clues (besides what the potting mix feels like) to know whether to water.

For snake plants, I use a calendar and make sure I never water more than once a month because there just isn’t something visually to tell me and these guys want to be dry a lot of the time so dry potting mix isn’t helpful either.

Dependence Score: 0

Snake plants have also earned the lowest score (and another 0!) for dependence! As I mentioned above, they don’t want our love! They can go weeks without being watered and are perfect for people who travel.

Pet safe? No

Bonus category – Variety: 4

There is a HUGE variety of snake plants available and it seems like the variety is growing each month. These plants are extremely popular so the amount of cultivars that are accessible in the big stores is growing rapidly and that amount is even larger in plant specialty shops. As such, snake plants get a great score for variety!

Common Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Love & WaterLightStructureExpressionDependence
23113

Pothos is common for a reason: it’s beautiful, grows wildly, and tolerates a huge range of conditions. I love that it trails all over the place and can both climb or fall gracefully over a pot. And, you can buy this beautiful babe anywhere!

Love & Water Score: 2

Pothos are not needy when it comes to water. They only need to be watered when their potting mix is completely dry and, even then, they could probably go a little longer.

You can actually see them droop slightly when they are ready for water and their leaves become slightly less succulent and softer, which is after the point that the potting mix has dried.

They prefer to be underwatered rather than overwatered.

Light Score: 3

Pothos love bright indirect light, but can also tolerate low light. In bright indirect light, pothos will give you lush, gorgeous growth with great variegation (if they are variegated). In low light, pothos will probably grow very little, if at all.

A pothos in low light is more likely to produce less variegation because it wants to maximize the green areas to have more surface area that absorbs light for energy.

This is not as big of a deal if you had a jade pothos (that isn’t variegated anyway), but definitely a big deal if you give a gift of one of the highly variegated pothos and the person wants to keep that variegation.

Structure Score: 1

Pothos gets a very low structure score because they really don’t have a firm structure, but that is part of their charm. They grow loose and wild, wandering this way and that.

Some people have them grow across the tops of their windows and doors or let them fall down their shelves and hit their floors. Watching how it grows and trails is part of the fun for me!

Expression Score: 1

As described in Love & Water, pothos do give some indication they need to be watered. However, that indicator is slight and requires careful observation. It took me some time before I noticed the difference between a freshly-watered pothos and a ready-to-be-watered pothos.

Now that I’m super familiar with the signs and symptoms, I can identify them from a distance. I do think knowing what the signs are from the beginning will help to expedite the process of seeing it so if you give this plant as a gift, let your recipient know!

Dependence Score: 3

Pothos can be independent for brief periods of time as they can do perfectly fine when slightly underwatered. So if your gift recipient went on a trip for a week or ten days and moved (or kept) the pothos in low light, it would most likely do well.

However, if they are gone regularly for longer than this, they might want someone to check on the plant and give it some water.

Pet safe? No

Bonus category – Variety: 5

Common pothos earns a high variety score because there are tons of varieties out there and they are available everywhere!

Satin, Silver, and Silvery Ann Pothos (Scindapsus pictus)

Love & WaterLightStructureExpressionDependence
23243

I am going to refer to Satin, Silver, and Silvery Ann Pothos as Scindapsus pictus for most of this section (as they are all different varieties of this plant species and it is much shorter to write and read the scientific name).

Of the plants on this list, Satin, Silver, and Silvery Ann Pothos are my favorite! Many people lump this pothos (Scindapsus pictus) in with the common pothos above (Epipremnum aureum) because the basic care requirements are very similar and some of the biological traits are as well.

However, Satin, Silver, and Silvery Ann Pothos have a different type of variegation than the Common pothos above. The variegation of Scindapsus pictus is silvery and sparkly.

Scindapsus pictus also has its own unique, more expressive way of communicating when it needs to be watered (which we will discuss below).

All of these characteristics make for an exceptionally beautiful, easy-care plant that can be purchased at most greenhouses now.

Love & Water Score: 2

Scindapsus pictus like to be watered when it has used up the water reserves in its leaves. The leaves are somewhat succulent, kind of like the common pothos, and hold extra water even after the potting mix has dried.

As such, you can water when the pot has dried, but the plant technically doesn’t need it yet. I wait for the plant to show me it needs water – which is where the sides of the leaves begin to curl under.

Light Score: 3

Lighting for Scindapsus pictus is identical to common pothos – it can thrive in bright indirect light, but can survive in low light as well. The lower the light the less growth and the less variegation a plant owner will see.

Structure Score: 2

Scindapsus pictus, like common pothos, can trail gracefully over the edges of a pot or climb a wall or moss pole and look absolutely beautiful while doing so.

It doesn’t have a stagnant form, but is more flowing and free.

Expression Score: 4

These plants score high for expression because they tell you exactly when its time to water by curling the sides of their leaves. If you wait until the leaves curl to water, you will have a very happy plant.

You could also try to track when the leaves curl and then water a day before you’ve learned the leaves typically show signs of thirst. I personally just wait for the curling. 🙂

Dependence Score: 3

This plant can go a short time without being attended to, especially in low light. However, if the gift receiver is gone for more than 10 days, they probably want a plant sitter to check on it.

Pet Safe? No

Bonus category – Variety: 3

The three plants listed as the header for Scindapsus pictus (Satin, Silver, and Silvery Ann Pothos) are the three readily available currently. So while there is variety, it isn’t as massive as some of the other plants on this list.

There are also some rarer types of Scindapsus pictus that you can obtain, but they are VERY rare and wouldn’t be something I would recommend buying someone as a first-time plant.

However, maybe you want to buy someone a rare plant as a first-time plant parent gift and know it will be awesome. Well, you know you and your gift recipient best so you should do it! 🙂

Final Thoughts:

This was a really fun post to create and I hope it helps some of you, as it helped me, to decide what plant might fit into the home and life of a certain person. Thanks for spreading the love of plants and nature. It is such a beautiful gift to give and receive!

Here’s a chart with all of the plants and their scores so you can assess them all at the same time (with some category winners below because why not!?).

(On mobile, the chart can be dragged/scrolled if your screen is smaller than the chart displays).

PlantLove & WaterLightStructureExpressionDependenceTotal Scores
Peace Lily5235520
Nerve Plant4344520
Snake Plant135009
Common Pothos2311310
Satin, Silver, Silvery Ann Pothos2324314

Winners!

Winner of lowest maintenance: Snake Plant at 9 points

Snake plants don’t have to have a tremendous amount of light, water, or love. The downside is that these plants aren’t great at communicating when they do actually want attention.

Winner of attention lover: It’s a tie between the Nerve Plant and Peace Lily at 20 points

Both of these plants love to be regularly watered and attended to. They also are great communicators, telling you exactly what they need and when they need it. The nerve plant also deserves a bonus mention for being pet and kid-safe; it is the only plant on this list that is!

Winner of most structural: Snake Plant at 5 points

Winner of least structural: Common pothos at 1 point

Bonus Category Winner of most variety: Common pothos at 5 points

There are just SO MANY pothos available!

Winner of best plant overall: Satin, Silver, and Silvery Ann Pothos at 14 points!

This plant rides the middle of the road in most categories and is absolutely stunning. It’s a good communicator, is tolerant of a new plant person learning how to water, tolerates a variety of lighting conditions, and can be kept compact for those who prefer less whimsy or allowed to go wild for those who appreciate the trailing.

“See” you next week!

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