Have you ever seen or gotten a plant gift basket from a florist? In my small plant-care business, Good to Grow, I see them in offices all the time. They’re a sweet idea, but usually poorly executed. Florists don’t do a good enough job of making sure the baskets are waterproof, and they often neglect to give care instructions. To be fair, their forte is flowers, not plants.

Gift baskets full of plants are supposed to be temporary. You put a few different plants in one container, but eventually, the recipient is supposed to separate the plants and put them in their own containers. Most people who receive the gift baskets don’t realize this, so the plants stay cramped and unhappy for years to come.

So when I decided to build a plant basket for my friend Libby’s birthday present, I wanted to do it the right way. I also wanted it to be more high-end than a typical florist basket. And I would not make the mistake of neglecting to show her how to care for her new houseplants.

Plants make great gifts, so if you want to build a basket for someone you love, I’ll show you how.

How to Create a Plant Gift Basket

The first step is to pick pretty plants. They also have to be compatible. I have two Dracaenas (one deremensis warneckii, one reflexa Song of India), a Fern (Pteris cretica) and a crazy Corkscrew Rush (Juncus effusus ‘Spiralis’). The Dracaenas and the Fern require the same water and light needs, and offer wonderful color and height variances. The Corkscrew Rush requires more water, but the texture fit so well that I decided to include it.

The next step was finding the right container. Now, containers are always going to be more expensive than the plants. If you decide to build your own gift basket, you’ll have to decide what container works based on your budget, and the gift recipient’s tastes.

My friend Libby just moved into a new house, so I wanted to build this gift for her but I haven’t been to the new house. I knew she likes a modern look, and because I couldn’t find anything unique in the stores around Albuquerque, I ordered this container from NewProContainers, a wholesale supplier based out of the Midwest. The manufacturer is Lechuza. I chose the pearl white because I didn’t want it to clash with her decor.

This container is sleek and lovely. The company not only understands aesthetics, but they know plants, so for a little extra, I bought a growers container that sits inside the decorative container. That means no water leaking, and reduced chance of root rot.

There’s no way to entirely eliminate the chance of root rot from over-watering, but you can make it easier for the new plant owner by placing something at the bottom of the container. Your Grandma might’ve used pieces of terra cotta, but I like styrofoam because it’s lighter. The decorative container is a lightweight plastic, so I didn’t want to make it any heavier. If Libby gives the plants too much water, the styrofoam creates a space between the water and the roots, thereby reducing the risk of root rot.

I filled the pot about halfway with soil. You don’t want to put too much soil in at the beginning, because you’ll be adding more as you go along.

The next step was to remove the plants from their grower pots and clean up the roots.

It’s ok to trim the roots to make a smaller ball. Don’t worry, they’ll grow back. Think of it as a haircut.

I started with the Song of India because it had the biggest roots and was the tallest plant. I put it in the container and added lots more soil, pressing it down firmly as I went along.

This Warneckii has small roots, so it went into the pot after its taller cousin and the added soil.

A cautionary note here – if you have allergies, you should use gloves whenever you handle plants. I knew that I wasn’t going to have any problems with these plants, so I didn’t bother. But I did wash my hands a million times and avoided touching my face. If you don’t know whether or not you are allergic, err on the side of caution and wear gloves – you don’t want to irritate your skin or eyes.

This Corkscrew Rush also has smaller roots than the Song of India, so it went it next. I bought this at Jericho Nursery (2nd and Alameda). One of the employees said it was considered a noxious weed in some parts of the country, like Louisiana where it’s taking over swamps. That gave me pause when deciding whether to buy it, but I couldn’t resist. It has adorable corkscrew foliage that makes the whole container interesting and fun.

I added the Fern last (it had the smallest roots), and really like how all the plants look together. The fern will eventually trail down the container, while the other plants will grow taller and stronger.

The gift has height, color and texture. And it’s in a beautiful container. I hope she likes it!

I love how cheerful it looks!

It’s intended to be a floor container. I’m going to tell Libby to find a nice bright spot for it in the new house, and I’ll give her instructions on how and when to water.

One Gift for You, One Gift for Me

One nice thing about making a gift for someone is that you can make one for yourself at the same time. Or maybe that’s just me being selfish! Hahaha!

I sorta fell in love with this adorable Fern, so I split it in half. I planted half in Libby’s gift, and then went looking for a container for the other half so I could keep it for me.

Cute, eh? This is a candle holder I found at a thrift store.

But would it work? Hmmm…

Not so much. First, it obscures the cute colors of the container. Also, I know it’s going trail down so I really needed a taller container. But I liked playing with the idea.

In the end, I married it to a plant I already had, which I think is a Peperomia. I love how they look together.

And here it is in its new home, nestled between Rosa the jade and Easter the Christmas cactus.

I hope this helps if you want to make a plant gift for someone you love. Happy Birthday Libby! I hope this is your best year ever! And thanks, I love my new Fern!

I’ll be back tomorrow. Until then, happy indoor gardening everyone!