New Year’s Plant: What It Is and Why to Give One

Gift giving was once a major New Year's tradition. Give the gift of a New Year's Plant this year.

New Year’s Day was traditionally a time for gift-giving. Romans celebrated with offerings to their god Janus for the sake of good fortune, according to the History Channel, and friends and neighbors exchanged gifts of figs and honey in the hopes of making a positive start on the near year. That’s where the New Year’s plant tradition comes from.

Now, New Year’s gift-giving isn’t what it used to be. However, there’s still an emphasis on making a positive start (that’s where all those New Year’s resolutions come from!). Why not pay homage to an ancient tradition by presenting a friend or neighbor with a holiday houseplant?

New Year’s Plant Tradition

A New Year’s plant is a living symbol of good tidings and fresh beginnings. On a practical note, it offers a welcome burst of color when the outdoor landscape in much of the country is desolate and dreary. Whoever is on the receiving end of your gift plant will likely appreciate having something alive to care for. So, what makes a good New Year’s plant?

What Type of Plant to Give

Lucky Bamboo solarisimages/Getty Images

A New Year’s plant isn’t any one species of plant. It should be something that stands apart from the ordinary. A common houseplant won’t do. Instead, consider a lucky bamboo (shown here), a florist’s azalea, a succulent or a rare houseplant. The lucky bamboo is a symbol of good fortune, azalea is a pretty evergreen full of vivid color when in bloom, and succulents are easy going (and easy on the eyes, too!).

Know anyone trying to eat healthier? Give them an herb basket. You can buy one premade or put one together on the fly. Pick up a secondhand basket at a thrift shop, line it with plastic, fill with potting mix, and plant or sow the seeds of a variety of herbs such as basil, parsley, sage and oregano.

Another idea is bonsai — a tree pruned to mimic a full-size tree on a miniature scale. Bonsai, which are available online, at garden centers and in florist’s shops, represent an ancient tradition of caring for plants that are passed down from generation to generation. That’s a lot of potential wrapped up in one little (and we mean little) plant!

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.