13 Common Funeral Plants (And How to ID Them)

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Plants are thoughtful gifts for those who are grieving. But you may not know what to do with funeral plants once you get them home. So, here’s a quick dive into a few of the most common funeral plants.

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Scroll down to learn about some crucial plant characteristics and how to care for them, whether you keep them in the pot or plant them in your garden.

1. Orchid (Orchidaceae)

What is an orchid?

Orchids are flowering plants that thrive in tropical areas. They’re revered for medicinal qualities and can live between 30 and 100 years in the wild. 

Characteristics:

Highly fragrant. Thick but simple leaf structure. The bloom is bilaterally symmetrical, waxen, and comes in various colors, shapes, and sizes. Each flower has three sepals and three petals—one of which, the labellum, is abundantly colorful.

Care: 

Too much water in a potted orchid leads to root rot and untimely demise. Seat the plant in a sunny window to receive light from a rising or setting sun. Feed with orchid fertilizer and repot using orchid-friendly soil when the orchid no longer blooms

ยป MORE: When grief feels overwhelming, focus on what you can control. Access the post-loss checklist.

 

2. Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)

What is a peace lily?

Peace lilies are tropical plants commonly given as sympathy plants. But be careful with them as they are mildly poisonous to household pets due to calcium oxalate, a respiratory inhibitor found in all parts of the plant. 

Characteristics:

The anatomy of the white and green peace lily bloom is one part spadix and one part spathe. The spadix is a short 2” to 3” column of miniature flowers, while the spathe is large while petal that acts as a sheath to the spadix.

Care:

Peace lilies require consistent, filtered watering as their leaves will turn brown with regular tap water. Place a tray of gravel below the pot to increase much-appreciated humidity. Fertilize every six weeks and keep them out of direct sunlight.

3. White Giant Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

What is a calla lily?

Calla lilies are an herbaceous perennial native to southern Africa and begin their lives as rhizomes, which look like roots versus bulbs. These roots are thick and grow horizontally, sending up blooms and leaves. 

Characteristics:

The simplicity of the calla lily makes it a flower for all occasions. Similar to the peace lily (see above), the calla lily anatomy bloom includes a spadix and a spathe. To tell them apart, you’ll note that the spadix of the calla lily is nestled inside the spathe, nearly concealing it.

Care:

Calla lilies love the heat (80 degrees), humid summers, and shade. So, plant them in an area that will give them reprieve from the full midday sun. They thrive in moist but well-drained soil. But, if kept inside, repot as and fertilize the soil annually to encourage growth or propagate.

4. Dutch Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis

What is a hyacinth?

The Dutch hyacinth is a perennial plant derived from a bulb that blooms in the spring. It’s also known as the common or garden hyacinth. 

Characteristics:

You won't mistake the beautiful perfume of a Spring blooming hyacinth for any other flower. Each has four to six long green leaves and a cylindrical cluster of flowers, each with six petals. Either white or blue are appropriate colors for a funeral.

Care:

Continue to grow them in the original pot or transfer them to your garden approximately 6–8 weeks before the first frost. They will grow up to two feet if you plant them in loamy soil with full sun access. Maintain damp soil, but do not overwater.

5. Dieffenbachia (Dieffenbachia spp.

What is a dieffenbachia?

These tropical herbaceous perennials are also known as dumbcane because chewing on the leaves can make your tongue swell. That toxicity offers enough reason to keep them away from children and pets. 

Characteristics:

The dieffenbachia plant has large green leaves with white and off-white patterns that follow the leaf's veins. This plant's flower is similar to that of the peace lily and calla lily and blooms just once a year. 

Care:

These indoor plants will need partial shade with bright indirect sunlight. They require humidity and a specific water schedule as well. But overwatering will cause root rot, so allow for ample drainage and dry topsoil before watering again.

6. Snake Plants (Sansevieria trifasciata)

What is a snake plant?

These plants come from the succulent family and are native to West Africa. According to NASA's 1989 Clean Air Study, they're well-known for being air-purifiers of toxins and pollutants, including benzene, formaldehyde, xylene, and trichloroethylene.  

Characteristics:

The leaves of the snake plant are green and white with horizontal variegation. The color yellow outlines some of these species' leaves, making them appear to glow at the edge.

Care:

Talk about an easy plant! These are great in indirect light, require little maintenance, and are tolerant to little watering. But they are toxic to both cats and dogs and will likely induce tongue swelling, diarrhea, and vomiting if ingested.

7. Majesty or Majestic Palm (Ravenea rivularis)

What is a majesty palm?

The home of the majesty palm is in Madagascar. After its introduction to Florida in the 1990s, it slowly became a popular and commercially raised house plant in the United States.

Characteristics:

Outside, the non-flowering palm can reach up to 90 feet tall, but inside it’ll mature at ten feet—slowly growing about one foot per year. Its fronds are long and dark green.

Care:

The majesty palm requires regular watering and lots of all-day, indirect sunlight. Give it a liquid fertilizer once or twice during its growing season, re-pot annually, prune any yellow or brown fronds and be prepared for an infestation if there isn’t enough humidity for the plant to thrive.

8. Azalea (Ericaceae)

What is an azalea?

Azaleas are flowering bushes from the genus rhododendron that typically flower in the springtime. 

Characteristics:

Azaleas have bright and buoyant blooms scattered throughout the bush from top to bottom. They’re not incredibly fragrant, but the sheer number of flowers compensates for the absence of scent.

Care:

These plants require little care once they've taken root. Deciduous varieties will require more sun than evergreen varieties. They need a pH of 4.5–6 in humus soil and will do well if planted near a coniferous tree that can drop its needles, for increased soil moisture retention. 

8. Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)

What is a hydrangea?

Hydrangeas are either deciduous or evergreen shrubs, trees, or lianas native to the Americas and Asia. Chances are that the plant you received is of the cultivated deciduous shrub variant. 

Characteristics:

These popular shrubs bloom from mid-summer to early fall. They have pom-pom (or mophead) blooms of flowers, which make them an incredible gift. Plus, their leaves tend to be rather large in contrast to, say, the azalea.

Care:

Hydrangeas need full sun to partial shade and well-draining soil. Every year, judiciously prune them to maintain their size. The soil pH will notably determine the bloom's color, so your potted pink hydrangea could turn blue if planted in acidic versus alkaline soil.

9. Rose Plants (Rosaceae

What is a rose plant?

Rose plants are perennial flowering plants (shrubs, climbing, or trailing) that will bloom annually. When clipped and presented in a vase, they're among the more common types of funeral flowers.

Characteristics:

Shrub rose plants have prickly thorns, oval but feathery leaves, and multiple scented blooms per plant. Those blooms range from whites to purples and yellows to reds.

Care:

With good drainage, fertilizer, and moist soil, a rose plant will be easy to maintain. Since your plant will likely arrive potted in a container, it'll be easy to plant in your garden (Zones 3–11). Just wait for a cool but cloudy day in the Spring or Fall to do so. Prune as needed to prevent powdery mildew.

10. Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)

What is a gardenia?

The gardenia is a flowering shrub or tree that is native to tropical and southern hemisphere regions. It’s used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat symptoms affecting the “nervous, cardiovascular, and digestive systems (Chen et al., 2020).”

Characteristics:

Gardenias are incredibly fragrant and have shiny dark-green leaves. White is the most common and popular for funerals.

Care:

If they must remain inside, give them 6–8 hours of sunlight daily. Otherwise, please place them outside in the summer, but bring them back inside during the cooler seasons. Gardenias approve of consistent watering, high humidity, and a good misting now and again.

12. Polka Dot Begonias (Begonia maculata)

What is a begonia?

Begonia maculata is one of 1,300 flowering perennial plant species from the Begoniaceae family.

Characteristics:

Bold, stiff, colorful, and upright leaves. The top-side of the spade-shaped leaves offers a polka dot green with a white pattern and a red starburst accents the underside. Its summer to frost bloom clusters on one stem and displays many small white petals protecting cheery yellow stamen.

Care:

Polka dot begonias love the morning sun, but not a full day’s worth. Plant them in the Spring when you can be sure the final frost of the winter has gone. If you can, plant them quickly after the funeral and in moist soil conditions. Otherwise, leave them potted in well-drained, fertilized soil.

13. Succulents (Aizoaceae)

What are succulents?

Succulents are a type of plant that stores water in their leaves, which gives them a plump look and makes them perfectly suited for arid climates. They're found on all continents except for Antarctica.

Characteristics:

These plants are often small (just a few inches in size), drought-resistant, and ornamental. However, they aren't to be confused with cacti. Many succulents are waxy or hairy, a trait that enables them to maintain moisture inside the plant by reducing airflow around itself.

Care:

Succulents are the perfect plant for that person who isn’t much of a green thumb. They can survive without a great deal of watering and will not need to be replanted often due to their size and growth.

Your Funeral Plant and Pet or Child Safety

Some plants are toxic to children and pets, so it's crucial to find out if the funeral plant you give or receive has the potential to be harmful to anyone or any pet in the household. Even if it is, as long as your safe and take the right precautions, your plant will bring you joy for years to come.


Sources:
  1. Chen L, Li M, Yang Z, Tao W, Wang P, Tian X, Li X, Wang W. (2020). Gardenia jasminoides Ellis: Ethnopharmacology, phytochemistry, and pharmacological and industrial applications of an important traditional Chinese medicine. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020 Jul 15; 257
  2. Garden Design Magazine. (2020). Caring for Roses: A Beginner's Rose Growing Guide. Garden Design. https://www.gardendesign.com/roses/care.html 
  3. Garden Design Magazine. (2019). How to Grow and Care for Calla Lily Flowers - Garden Design. https://www.gardendesign.com/flowers/calla-lilies.html 
  4. Hicks Nurseries. (2020). Cacti & Succulent Care Tips: Top 10 Succulents for Your Home. https://hicksnurseries.com/houseplants/cactus-succulents/
  5. Schwartz, T. (2021). Succulent Taxonomy. Sublime Succulents. https://www.sublimesucculents.com/succulent-taxonomy/ 
  6. University of Florida. (2020). Begonias. UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions. https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/begonias.html
  7. Zhang, S., Yang, Y., Li, J., Qin, J., Zhang, W., Huang, W., & Hu, H. (2018, June 25). Physiological diversity of orchids. Plant Diversity. Volume 40, Issue 4, August 2018, Pages 196-208. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468265918300556 

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