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Give Romantic Plants for Valentine's Day!

Anyone can give roses on Valentine's Day - so why not think outside the flower box?

Potted plants are beautiful, less pricey, and say "I love you" a lot longer.

On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Master Gardener William Ross pointed to five plants that could show your love's in bloom:

A dozen roses is the usual go-to offering for Valentine's Day. But you have other options.

Valentine's Day is a time to show love and appreciation to those closest to us. Mothers, siblings, friends, co-workers, and sweethearts receive tasty candies, poetic greeting cards, sparkling jewelry, nights on the town, and huggy-kissy snuggles.

Flowers are also a popular way to spread Valentine joy. Their vibrant cheer is especially appreciated now, in the middle of winter. Typically, it's a ubiquitous bunch of roses, but there are other choices.

There's nothing wrong with giving cut flowers. A dozen fresh cut roses in a decorative vase with fillers and trailers make a fantastic arrangement. But if you gave roses last Valentine's Day (and every one before that), it's time to try something new. Fortunately, growers and garden centers are working hard to offer us interesting plants with beautiful flowers and decorative foliage.

Benefits of living plants over fleeting cut flowers include:

•   Bloomtime: Orchids, cyclamens, and others can bloom for many weeks
•   Vitality: Plants are actually alive and can survive for months, maybe even years
•   Air purification: Houseplants filter toxins from the air and release pure oxygen
•   Variety: There's a vast selection of flowering, foliage, and edible types
•   Value: For the same cost or less, you get more

There's still time to give a thoughtful Valentine's gift that's aesthetically pleasing, healthy, and green. Garden centers and stores are stocked with cheerful pots that bring months of ornament for a great value. And these plants are a no-worry gift. If the recipient has a stone-thumb and the plant starts to fade, don't fret. Remember: Plants are inexpensive and plentiful. Just buy them another one for Cinco de Mayo. Get Out & Grow!

Fresh ideas for easy care Valentine's plants include:

Orchids: Beautifully stunning orchids bloom for many weeks in an array of colors, textures, and shapes. Orchid flowers are unsurpassed for exotic beauty. They make a bold statement and are the perfect gift to impress a lover or secret crush. They'll think of you for months as they examine the intricate flowers. Use them as a centerpiece in a bright room or as a pick-me-up in a cubicle under fluorescent lights.

Cyclamens: The decorative rounded leaves topped with long-lasting, bright flowers make this a great Valentine's plant. Crowds of red, pink, or white flowers stand up like flags above the richly mottled foliage. These cute but tough plants make good gifts for family and friends. Place these ornamental plants in a sunny windowsill where people can enjoy the show.

Set cyclamens outside for a summer vacation with only Mother Nature's care. The plant may fade, but the bulb is still alive. Bring back inside in fall then resume watering and feeding. You'll soon have blooms and verdant foliage again.

Flaming Flower: Lush houseplants that have gorgeous blooms for the holiday. Flamingo flowers are beautiful year round with their glossy heart-shaped leaves. The sexy, showy flowers are a wonderful bonus with same heart shape. With its fleshy flower and lurid spadix, flamingo flowers are good gifts for lovers, present and future. Give them bright light and a prime location in an office or on a reception desk.

Besides being beautiful, flamingo flowers are superstars at removing indoor air pollution, especially ammonia and other cleaning vapors. Place them on kitchen or bathroom windowsills to get the most air-purifying benefits.

Pansies: The visual blast of color from pansies is a familiar sight outdoors, but is a novel idea indoors. The vivid hues and sweet fragrance of pansies make them nice gifts for moms, aunts, and other people who bring joy to your life. These harbingers of spring grow best in the sunniest window. Cool temperatures help prolong the blooms. Set the pot outside (or plant the pansies in ground) when the weather begins to warm.

Colorful lettuce and herb bowl: These pre-planted containers are filled with a mix of multi-colored lettuces, mustards, and other herbs, like parsley or oregano. Lettuce bowls are both ornamental and edible. Give a bowl of mixed lettuces to your health conscious friends and family. They can harvest weeks of fresh greens and herbs right from a sunny windowsill, while they enjoy the thick foliage with its various colors and textures. Set the pot outside when the weather begins to warm.

How do we take care of these plants to make sure they last?

These five Valentine's plants are easy to maintain. Give them bright light. Except the orchid, they all would grow happily in a sunny window. The orchid does not want direct sunlight, but will grow just fine near a window. A half-day of fluorescent light (like in a cubicle) is also acceptable to most orchids.

Regular hydration and fertilization help keep plants lush and blooming. Add an oxygenating fertilizer to your watering can every time you water. Depending on the dryness of your house, you'll need to water about once a week. But the hard rule for all plants is don't water unless the soil is dry. Test the soil with your finger down to the first knuckle. If it feels moist (even a little bit) don't water yet.

The only other maintenance task is to prune off spent flowers and leaves. Removing spent flowers keeps the plant looking attractive and promotes more blooms.