Contact: Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
This may no longer be the "Age of Aquarius," but if you know the birth dates of your friends, a potted plant matching the recipient's zodiacal sign makes a unique and special gift. You may want to include a card indicating that the plant was chosen based on your friend's sign, as well as information about the care and feeding of the plant.
The following is a list of the signs, the plant designated as most appropriate for each, optimum conditions, and care instructions. Your local garden center or nursery should carry all of these plants and can provide more detailed information about the care of specific varieties.
ARIES the ram (March 21 to April 19): BEGONIA. Flowers range in color from red and pink to shades of apricot, salmon, yellow, and white, depending on the variety selected. Most begonias don't like too much sun though can withstand the less intense winter sun better than summer sun. Keep soil evenly moist, avoiding extremes of too much or too little water.
TAURUS the bull (April 20 to May 20): STAGHORN FERN. This tropical fern is an attention-getter with its antler-shaped leaves. It is often grown on bark or sphagnum moss rather than in the soil. It does best in an area of low light intensity with plenty of water and frequent misting. Avoid misting on dark, damp days, however, as the mist will remain on the leaves overnight leading to mold. Fertilize every six months with a slow release houseplant fertilizer.
GEMINI the twins (May 21 to June 21): PIGGYBACK PLANT. This plant is a hairy-leaved, delicate plant noted for the unusual way it grows. Each leaf produces small leaves that grow, piggyback style, on top of it. When it comes to care, this plant can be temperamental. The soil needs to be kept moist at all times. It also prefers fairly humid conditions although is not picky about the light.
CANCER the crab (June 22 to July 22): MAIDENHAIR FERN. This popular fern with its wiry leaf stems and fan-shaped leaves likes filtered light and consistently wet soil. It needs moist air to thrive, which can be achieved by misting a minimum of three or four times a week. Place the pot on top of a tray of pebbles to prevent the soil from becoming waterlogged.
LEO the lion (July 23 to Aug. 22): CROTON. There are more than 100 varieties of this foliage plant, all with different leaf colorations and shapes. Crotons require full sun at least four hours a day or else will lose their colors and turn green. Keep the soil moist but not wet, and create humid conditions through daily misting. Fertilize alternate months from March through July.
VIRGO the virgin (Aug. 23 to Sept. 22): SANSEVIERIA. This succulent goes by many other names including snake plant, hemp plant, and mother-in-law's tongue. It's a survivor and will put up with haphazard watering, poor light, dust, heat, and dry air. When treated properly--an hour of direct sun every day, low humidity, and a thorough watering every two weeks--sansevieria will grow lush and vigorously and may even produce tall spikes of fragrant, white blossoms. However, it often grows just as well with no direct light, low light, or full sun!
LIBRA the scales (Sept. 23 to Oct. 23): DRACENA. This impressive foliage plant is easy to grow and adaptable to most conditions. However, most varieties prefer an east window with soil moist just to the touch. Fertilize every three months, year round.
SCORPIO the scorpion (Oct. 24 to Nov. 21): SPIDER PLANT. An extremely hardy and easy to care for plant, the spider plant has cream and green-striped, grass-like leaves. It sends out long runners at the end of which small plants, miniature versions of the mother plant, grow. Letting the plant dry out will cause leaf tips to turn brown as will fluoride in water or too little moisture in the air. Spider plants usually are sold as hanging plants and will grow best in filtered light. To avoid overwatering, water only when the soil is completely dry.
SAGITTARIUS the archer (Nov. 22 to Dec. 21): COLEUS. This multi-colored, fast-growing plant can reach heights of two and one-half feet and requires minimum care. It has a tendency to grow towards the light, so the pot should be turned every few days. This plant needs plenty of water and should be sprayed periodically with a soapy solution for protection against mealy bugs. Keep bushy by pinching back often. The more light this plant gets, the better. Too little light will cause lagoons.
CAPRICORN the goat (Dec. 22 to Jan. 19): CHINESE EVERGREEN. This waxy-leaved plant tolerates poor light and low humidity, making it a perfect candidate for most offices, especially those without windows. It doesn't like direct sun. Keep soil barely moist at all times. Several nice varieties are available, so shop around before you buy.
AQUARIUS the water bearer (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18): IVY. Your choices are many although conditions may dictate what you choose for a gift plant. English ivies prefer filtered light, such as that found in a northern window, and cool indoor temperatures. Spider mites are often a problem with this variety, so inspect leaves regularly. Grape ivies need little light but like warm temperatures. Swedish ivies grow best in bright, indirect sunlight. Watering should be thorough and frequent for all varieties.
PISCES the fish (Feb. 19 to March 20): FALSE ARALIA. This upright shrub with bark-like stem and bizarre-looking, leathery, copper-colored leaves is not your typical houseplant. It can grow to heights of five feet or more under ideal conditions--moist soil, bright light, and a draft-free location--and likes to spend its summers indoors. Leaf drop can be a problem if the soil is too wet or too dry.
Return to Perry's Perennial Pages, Articles