Want to gift a plant that also has a special meaning? Try one of these options.

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Last week I visited my local nursery, looking to get a houseplant for a friend who is going through a hard time. While I have my go-tos in terms of looks and how easy they are to care for, I realized I had no idea if any varieties held any specific meaning (kind of like how flowers have had assigned meanings and symbolism throughout time). So I dug in. Turns out certain plants are said to bring luck, for instance, while others can inspire feelings of gratitude or peace (which was perfect for my friend). Each of these six houseplants below have special symbolism, and they're easy to care for to boot. So, if you know you want another houseplant but aren’t sure which to get, one of the meanings behind these popular plants might speak to you, or whoever you're looking to gift it to.

pilea peperomioides in grower pot on table on plain background
Credit: Courtesy of The Sill

1. Pilea Peperomioides: Prosperity

Also called the coin plant or the Chinese money plant, Pilea peperomioides “symbolizes the wish for financial stability and wealth,” says Magda Lindstedt, a plant specialist for Horticure, which specializes in plant delivery and providing expert care advice. It grows thin stems that end with large, rounded leaves that look like green coins, and some folktales say that planting a coin in the soil alongside your plant will help it attract wealth. This cute plant is easy to propagate, and usually stays less than 12 inches tall. Place in bright, indirect light and let the soil dry out between waterings for a coin plant that truly thrives, but this pet-friendly houseplant can also tolerate medium indirect light.

Peace Lily Spathiphyllum wallisii 'Domino'
Credit: Blaine Moats

2. Peace Lily: Sympathy and Peace

Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum wallisii) are a common gift at funerals, because they’re known for symbolizing sympathy. But in the past few years, “it’s transformed its perception as the grief plant, to one more connected with peaceful spaces,” says Gretchen Sword, a plant specialist on Horticure’s New York-based team. Peace lilies are easy to care for, and like to dry out a little between waterings. They can reach up to three feet tall, and grow best in bright, indirect light (though they’ll tolerate low-light too). Without much attention from you, a peace lily will brighten your home with large white flowers and shiny, dark green leaves.

aloe plant
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

3. Aloe Vera: Healing and Protection

Unsurprisingly, Aloe vera plants are usually associated with healing and protection. These plants have been used around the world for thousands of years, and their clear gel is still used today for soothing sunburns and other skin conditions. Growing your own aloe plant is simple as long as you have a bright, sunny window to place it in. Most varieties of aloe will stay less than three feet tall, thrive in bright, indirect light, and only need watering when the top inch of soil gets dry.

prayer plant maranta leuconeura
Credit: Scott Little

4. Marantas (Prayer Plant): Gratitude

Also called prayer plant, Maranta varieties earned their common name because their leaves curl up each night, almost like they’re praying. “This movement common to Marantas symbolizes the reflective action of a daily prayer of gratitude,” Lindstedt says. If you want to give someone a “thank you” gift, a Maranta can help symbolize your gratitude. Depending on the variety, Marantas can grow in low, medium, or bright indirect light, and usually need water just before the soil starts to feel dry to the touch. Some Marantas can grow up to 12 inches tall, and can have shades of pink, red, and silver streaking its green leaves.

Credit: Dean Schoeppner

5. Oxalis: Luck

Also commonly called shamrock plant or false shamrock, Oxalis varieties are sometimes said to bring good luck. Sometimes sold as houseplants around St. Patrick’s Day, Oxalis triangularis grows triangle-shape leaves that can be shades of green or dark purple, and tiny white flowers. Usually, Oxalis will stay less than 12 inches tall, and thrive in bright, indirect light, only needing a drink when the top inch of soil gets dry.

strelitzia reginae bird of paradise
Credit: Ed Gohlich

6. Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise): Freedom

Though it’s native to warmer regions like South Africa, bird of paradise (Strelitzia) can also be grown indoors as a houseplant. “Strelitzias generate incredibly striking flowers, resembling an exotic bird ready to take flight when blooming,” Sword says, which is why bird of paradise plants are usually linked to freedom. In order to bloom, Strelitzia plants need bright light (including a few hours of direct light) in order to bloom. Keep the soil consistently moist, and mist once a day to help maintain humidity. In ideal conditions, bird of paradise plants can grow up to five or six feet tall, so make sure you’ve got plenty of space!

Comments (1)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
February 21, 2020
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