Flowering houseplants make terrific Mother’s Day gifts. Three — the 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, bloom again year after year. But which one will be best for May 10?

It depends on your mother’s personality. Here’s why. Some houseplants thrive on attention, and need frequent watering. Others require a hands-off approach: too much water and they drown.

So, think back. Was your mother super-attentive, always picking up after you and remembering to cut the crust off your sandwiches? Or, was she an oh-whatever kind of mom, happy to close the door on your messy bedroom and send you to school with a “Lunchable” in a paper bag?


For those 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 appropriately heart-shaped. The flowers, technically called “spathes,” are bright red or orange and are as shiny and sturdy as plastic plates.

An anthurium hates to go dry, but it can survive an anxious caretaker all too ready with the watering can. Just remind Mom to empty any water in the pot’s saucer. Give an anthurium bright light, but no direct sun, and Mom will be reminded of you past Father’s Day.

Many garden centers now sell a small variety rooted onto a piece of lava rock, which is placed in a shallow dish. Mom can satisfy her nurturing instinct any time by making sure there’s a little water in the dish. Every month or so, she should add a few drops of liquid fertilizer to the water.


If your mother encouraged you to be independent, she will love clivias. These beauties are related to that Christmas favorite, the amaryllis. Clivias have strap-like 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 again.

Clivia often reproduce by generating “pups” that spring from the underground base. Over time, your gift can become a spectacular pot of clivia and a family heirloom.


What about the mother in the middle? My mother adjusted her level of attention to each daughter’s needs. (Thank you, Mom!) It’s a potted “Mophead” hydrangea for her.

Each Mophead stem ends in a dense, spherical bouquet of delicate flowers, which come in a range of colors from blue to white to pink, and even red.

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

Hydrangea blossoms last up to six weeks. But if your mother has a garden, she (or better yet, you — after all, this is a Mother’s Day present) can transplant your gift outdoors where it will flower year after year. Mature plants grow up to 6 feet tall.

Even better, if Mom didn’t love your choice of flower color, she can change it. The Mophead’s color depends on the pH of the soil. For blue flowers, she should add iron or aluminum sulfate to the soil; for pink flowers, she should add lime. The minerals are available at garden centers.

For an accommodating Mom, an accommodating plant!


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