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    How to Savor That Holiday Chocolate

    December 8th, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows – How to Savor That Holiday Chocolate

    Have you ever caught yourself, mid-December, dipping a chocolate Santa into a mug of peppermint hot chocolate while eyeing a recently unwrapped box of chocolates? Do you ever wonder to yourself, guiltily, “Am I eating too much chocolate?” Well, we’re here to say, “Nonsense!” Chocolate is a delicious holiday miracle that should be savored with aplomb. If pesky old guilt gets in the way of you doing so, just repeat these (mostly true) factoids about the life-giving powers of the cacao bean to yourself until you feel up to having another truffle.


    San Blas, Kuna Yala, Panama (102) by benkucinski, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  benkucinski 

    Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure

    We have the Kuna people of the tiny San Blas Islands to thank for this revelation. Their impressive cocoa habit of 3-4 cups a day has been linked to their uniquely healthy blood pressure levels. Researchers have noted that when Kuna people move off the islands and consume less cocoa they are just as susceptible to hypertension as a typical Westerner, but when they stay on the islands and keep up their cocoa-chugging ways they maintain remarkably low blood pressure levels. Scientists attribute this effect to compounds called flavanols which are found in raw or lightly processed cacao beans and may help relax blood vessel walls by facilitating the formation of nitric acid in the body.

    Run!!! by @Tuncay, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  @Tuncay 

    Chocolate Improves Muscle Function

    Speaking of flavanols, there’s a particular one in cacao beans, called epicatechin, that has middle-aged mice hitting their exercise wheels with newfound vigor. When researchers gave epicatechin to a group of older mice they were able to outpace their chocolate-deprived peers on a fitness test by almost 50%. Now, admittedly, there are only trace amounts of epicatechin — possibly none, depending on the processing method — in your average Hershey’s bar, but it does make you wonder: what if high quality dark chocolate pairs just as well with running shoes as it does with raspberries? Better eat some and then go for a jog to test the theory.

    Chocolate Is a Multivitamin

    Ok, multivitamin may be a bit of a stretch, but technically there are multiple vitamins and minerals in dark chocolate: iron, magnesium, copper, and potassium to name a few. Of those, iron is the most significant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists iron deficiency as a serious problem in the US, one that can lead to health issues such as a lack of red blood cells. Luckily for us, 100 grams of dark chocolate (an average bar size) can contain up to half the recommended daily value of iron. One for me, one for my red blood cells.

    Fresh Cacao from São Tomé & Príncipe by EverJean, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  EverJean 

    Now, these facts are all good and fun, but before you start trying to stave off anemia with bonbons remember that most of these benefits are derived from flavanols found in raw cacao beans. By the time the beans are processed and combined with other ingredients to make commercial chocolate, most of the benefits have disappeared. So don’t go trading your blood pressure meds for chocolate syrup this holiday season. But do indulge responsibly, and maybe use these tidbits to feel a little less guilty as you savor! And, while you’re at it, why not send a package of the so-called “food of the gods” to someone you love? GiftTree has a complete line of designer chocolate collections ready to impress and delight, like The Godiva Chocolatier Collection, complete with some cacao-rich dark chocolate.

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    How to Ace Your Company Party

    December 1st, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows – How to Ace Your Company Party

    Adding a Little more Flair by jdsmith1021, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jdsmith1021 


    Holiday parties are back, America! According to executive search firm Battalia Winston’s annual survey, 96 percent of companies had a holiday bash in 2013, the highest percentage since the boom year of 1996. This only a few years after the same survey recorded a Recession-prompted record low of 74 percent in 2011.

    So whether it’s due to actual rising profit margins or just a newfound sense of optimism, it’s looking likely that you’ll be climbing aboard a corporate party train of one form or another this December. If you’re one of those poor souls who hasn’t punched your office-party ticket since “Macarena” was topping the charts in 1996, then you might want brush up a little first. These three simple strategies will ensure you get the most out of the experience:

    Make sure to plan ahead – The president of Toastmasters International, John Lau, has this to say about office parties: “Preparation is the key to making a good impression. Identify ways you can connect with others in a meaningful, honest exchange.”

    We couldn’t agree more. If you know you’re going to be talking to a certain executive you’d like to impress, do some research ahead of time to see if you can come up with any clues as to what a good topic of conversation might be. Something as simple as knowing that they’re an avid hiker might be the difference between an awkward silence competition and a genuinely enjoyable conversation.

    Master those names – Funny thing about humans: we love to hear our own names. It literally lights up our brain — the frontal cortex, temporal cortex, and cuneus, in fact — and infants as young as 5 months old have been shown to respond actively to their names. Yet, somehow, we’re almost universally terrible at remembering the names of new acquaintances. The problem is that new names go straight to our short-term memory instead of the more reliable long-term storage areas of the brain.

    One trick to circumvent this problem is to immediately link the new name with an old name that already exists in your long-term memory. For example, if you meet someone named Bill, immediately find a way to associate them with your long-term memory of Bill Clinton. Maybe new Bill has a reedy voice. Think to yourself, saxophones have reeds –> Bill Clinton plays the saxophone. And BOOM! You’ve created a long-term link for new Bill, and he is no longer at risk of falling out of your short-term memory.

    Mix it up – No, not your drink. In fact, it’s best to go easy on those; experts recommend limiting your consumption to one an hour. We mean mix up your social circle. It may be more comfortable to only talk to co-workers that you interact with on a daily basis, but a holiday party is the perfect time to expand your network.

    Go mingle! Make it a goal to meet at least one new person from each department in the company. It may be more difficult in the short term, but by the end of the party you will feel as though you’ve accomplished something worthwhile. And next time you need to reach out to IT or Design or Accounting, you might just find that you have a friend who’s happy to help.

    Oh, and remember, have fun!


    Need corporate gifts, presents for co-workers, or maybe a personalized piece for your boss? GiftTree is here with ideas, know-how, and guaranteed holiday shipping to make company giving as easy as doing the Macarena.

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    How to Find the Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

    November 24th, 2014 admin

    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows – How To Find The Perfect Thanksgiving Wine

    It’s practically a holiday tradition: standing in front of a wall of bottles, knit cap in hand, nose tingling a little after stepping from the crisp November street into the warmth of a heated wine shop, asking yourself “What wine should I bring to Thanksgiving?”

    Imhoff Wine Shop by Blyzz, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  Blyzz 


    The Pilgrims are no help in answering that annual question. There’s very little documentation of that original meal, and the evidence we do have points to hard cider, not wine, as the likely beverage of choice.
    Now, hard cider, that’s not a bad idea. It’s Autumnal, simple, and easy to choose. Can’t we just re-brand it as Puritan Apple Wine and call it a day?
    Maybe, but Thanksgiving is all about tradition, and for many of us a good bottle of wine at the Thanksgiving table is one of them. Puritan Apple Wine just wouldn’t be quite the same. So the quest for a genuine vino that will please both relative and friend, a wine that will flex acrobatically through culinary extremes of salty gravy, sour cranberry, and sweet potato pie continues.
    It may be impossible to find a single wine that can really do all that perfectly, but here’s three excellent GiftTree contenders that will certainly shine with a Thanksgiving feast. Best of all, they’re ready to ship in handsome pine wine crates to friends, family, colleagues — anyone you want to thank with a turkey-ready bottle.

    Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir

    Pinot Noir has long been heralded as the ideal Thanksgiving varietal and with good reason. The inherent earthiness of the grape agrees with herby stuffing and mushroom gravy, while its red berry characteristics complement turkey in much the same way cranberry sauce does. Unlike many Pinots, Meiomi is blended from a range of vineyards along the California coast, giving it a versatile balanced presence that introduces itself with a bouquet of candied apple and fresh cranberry scents. Pass the stuffing, please!



    Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay

    Chardonnay is a much trickier beast: too much oak, and it overpowers the bird; too dry, and it disappears next to the rich side dishes. But this Napa Valley Chardonnay seems to tread the narrow path with ease. Crisp enough to cleanse the palate, but with a buttery hint of brioche that complements the meal like a golden dinner roll. Thanks to the oak aging, there’s even a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg spice leftover for dessert.


    Argyle Brut Sparkling Wine

    Now being Pacific Northwesterners we may be biased, but this feisty little sparkler from Oregon’s Willamette Valley is getting pretty close to Thanksgiving perfection. A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, the Argyle Brut bubbles with poached pear, honeysuckle, and a palate-cleansing nip of sourdough that cuts right through the gravy. Plus, you have to admit there’s just something festive about the *pop* of a cork before the big meal. Cheers!



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    How to Talk Like a Cheese Connoisseur

    November 17th, 2014 admin


    GiftTree Presents #holidayknowhows — How to Talk Like a Cheese Connoisseur

    Let’s face it: you’re going to sidle up to a cheese platter or two this holiday season. Whether it’s a homely plate of toothpicked Cheddar cubes at Aunt Karen’s sweater-fest or a stately platter of Beaufort d’Ete at a regal Christmas gala, chances are you’re going to have a chance to chat about cheese with someone. Here’s four vocab words that will help you sound like a real cheese wiz, even if you usually only eat Cheese Whiz.


    Rind – Simply put, the rind is the exterior of the cheese. Think of cheese as fruit and the rind as the skin of the fruit. Some fruits — grapes, berries — have tasty edible skin that adds to their flavor and nutritional content; other fruits, like kiwis, have to be peeled unless you want a mouthful of hair. Then there are apples: some people peel them, some don’t — it’s really a matter of taste. Same with cheese. Wax or cloth sealed cheeses are the kiwis of the cheese world; you’re never going to eat their rind. But the majority of cheeses are in apple territory; whether or not you eat the rind is totally up to you. One such cheese you’ll inevitably encounter during the holidays is Brie. Brie has what’s called a bloomy rind, meaning it’s covered in a snowy white layer of cultures. These cultures impart an earthy, mushroom-like flavor to the cheese. Next time you’re at a holiday party give the rind of the Brie a nibble (put it on your plate first, you barbarian) and see if you like it. If you do, then eat away!


    cheese wheel by sarae, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License   by  sarae 

    Paste – The interior of the cheese is called the paste. You might think of it as the center or the flesh of the cheese. The paste can be luxuriously soft and creamy — as it is with Brie, and with fresh cheeses such as Mozzarella — or it can be dense, hard, and packed with wonderful sharp flavor, as in the case of a pressed cheese such as Manchego.

    Pro tip: The paste can sometimes give you a clue as to what kind of milk the cheese is made from. Is the paste a brilliant, bright white? You are probably looking at a cheese made from goat milk, which lacks some of the yellowing components present in cow and sheep milk. Let out your best bleat, grab a handful of figs, and enjoy the interplay of sweet fruit and tangy, creamy cheese!


    Affineur — An affineur is not a what, it’s a who. Affineurs are the patient men and women who age cheeses. Much of a cheese’s flavor is dictated by the duration and conditions of its aging, or affinage. For example, in it’s 12-14 month aging period Comte has the potential to transition from a simple white cheese into a rich caramel-colored wheel with complex notes of toffee, fruit, and nuts. During this time Affineurs will employ everything from cedar planks to caves in a quest to get just the right blend of atmosphere and temperature to make the flavor magic happen. So, if you fall in love with a wedge of perfectly aged Comte at your company party this year, be sure to send a wedding invitation to the affineur.

    Comte by Mr Moss, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Mr Moss 


    Umami — Pronounced oo-mah-me, this word is incredibly useful when it comes to cheese, because it describes that elusive fifth taste somewhere between salty, sweet, bitter, and sour. Sometimes described as meaty or brothy, umami is that satisfying, hearty sensation you get when you bite into a curl of shaved Parmesan cheese or a slice of good sharp cheddar. In fact, Parmesan has some of the highest levels of naturally occurring glutamate, which is the amino acid responsible for umami flavor. Along with words like earthy, fruity, nutty, grassy, and — yes — funky, umami really comes in handy when you’re trying to express to someone just how great the cheese you’re eating is and why. Just beaming with pleasure and gesticulating wildly is always acceptable too.

    Parmesan by cyclonebill, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  cyclonebill 

    No doubt, cheese is a world of its own. If you’re interested in venturing further, or sending someone on an expedition of their own, GiftTree has created a passport to the world of cheese with fine food gifts that combine world-class cheese collections, heritage charcuterie, tailored isothermic coolers, and artisan tasting boards. What better way to explore?

    18710 18706

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    Thanksgiving Centerpieces

    November 14th, 2014 Alicia

    During this time of year, we all look forward to the festive decorations at the Holiday table. The red and golden hues of the season are brought indoors, and although it’s cold outside, the colorful decorations, seasonal feast and gathering of family bring feelings of warmth and comfort. But, have you ever wondered where we get the idea of using fruits and vegetables as decoration instead of part of the meal?

    Most of us know that the “First” Thanksgiving was a banquet between the pilgrims and Native Americans in 1621 as a celebration of a bountiful harvest, and you may know that President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863. What you may not know is that the cornucopias, or “horns of plenty,” that we still adorn our tables with today, date back to the 5th century B.C. Many cultures around the globe used these decorations as symbols of abundance, plentiful harvest, and fertility during autumn feasts.

    Fall flowers are another great way to bring the spirit of the season inside to the dinner table. Orange, red, and yellow represent the colorful foliage outside that can only be seen this time of year. GiftTree’s Classic Cornucopia and Harvest Home Cornucopia are perfect examples of these festive colors.


    corncopia19243a_Harvest-Home-Cornucopia (1)


    Most of us have fond memories of previous holidays with family and friends, and we want to honor the timeless traditions that helped create those memories. Fortunately, This doesn’t mean you can’t put your own unique spin on things and create new traditions in your own home. Try surrounding your floral cornucopia with small white pumpkins and gourds (the white will contrast against the darker shades and create a brighter and more modern look). You can take this idea up a notch by carving designs or small holes into the gourds and inserting a tea-light candle for an inviting dining atmosphere. Also, don’t hesitate to expand your bountiful spread by adding succulent plants to the centerpiece or placing them around the table. Carving out the tops of pumpkins and using them as planters for the succulents is another great way to feature traditional décor while adding a unique, modern touch. More ideas and inspiration can be found online on our Pinterest board Thanksgiving & Fall to help you create a timeless yet unique holiday atmosphere that the whole family will be thankful for.



    Follow GiftTree’s board Thanksgiving & Fall  on Pinterest.

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    Halloween 2014 Costume Contest

    October 31st, 2014 Alicia

    Halloween 2014 Costume Contest

    With the Christmas and New Years rush coming up quickly, at GiftTree we like to squeeze in as much Halloween fun as we can in one day! Specifically we host an annual costume contest with prizes for both the best individual costume and also the best department/group costumes. We have had all sorts of entries over the years ranging from the truly terrifying to hilariously funny and our dogs join in too!

    We also end up with an enormous variety of tasty treats both of the homemade and store bought, and plenty of sugar rush to go around.


    Happy Halloween From GiftTree!

    Collage (2)Collage copy


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    Top Ten Carved Pumpkins (Rated 1-10)

    October 25th, 2014 Alicia

    Top Ten (Mind Blowing) Pumpkin Carvings (Rated 1-10)



    1. This pumpkin features a portrait of one of America’s favorite celebrities, and her hair is exquisite.



    2. Iron Man has never looked this good. well… maybe.




    3. This individual replicated Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” using various carving tools.


    4. I think everyone has seen this movie or read the books at one point in time. Afterall it’s the Hunger Games! Bonus: Lesson Included at the link below.



    5. This is a classic movie, that still has appeal in todays’ society.



    6.  Will Star Wars ever go out of style? Not for pumpkin carving… Check out the link below for more complicated Star Wars Ideas.



    7. Pumpkin carving is a form of artistry, even Especially creepy things.



    8. Pumpkin carving is fun for storytelling too!



     9. Or use it to show Brand Pride.


    10. Or if you run out of ideas. Disguise your pumpkin… Sesame/Pumpkin seeds. Clever.



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    Halloween Party Guide: Tricks and Treats

    October 23rd, 2014 admin

    Halloween Party Guide: Tricks and Treats

     Are you haunted by the ghosts of Halloween parties past? The time Uncle Dave cornered your guests and lectured them about honoring the spirit of The Great Pumpkin? The Halloween bash you attended where the only thing to eat was “brains” made of uncooked ramen noodles? Well fear no more, our Halloween Party Guide is here with tricks and treats to ensure both guests and hosts are just the right amount of scared. Check out these Halloween gifts and party tips:

    Halloween by greger.ravik, on Flickr

    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  greger.ravik 


    Tricks for Hosts

    The trick for really getting your guests into the Halloween spirit is to set the atmosphere—literally. We’re talking about frozen carbon dioxide, a.k.a. dry ice. Typically used to keep food cold during shipping, dry ice evaporates into a gas as it melts, creating a spooky mist perfect for Halloween party decoration. Dry ice can be purchased at several major grocery chains including Walmart and Safeway. BUT BE WARNED: Dry ice is so cold that it will burn your skin if you touch it in its solid state. Use caution and place it well out of the reach of children and pets. Never consume dry ice or use it for beverages.


    dry ice is fun by Herkie, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Herkie 


    Treats for Guests

    Themed treats are all well and good, but you want to make sure the food just looks, not tastes, scary. Cold spaghetti is great for making a pot of “guts,” but the problem is no one actually wants to eat it. Instead, give your guests a Halloween gift that is delicious AND festive, like these Halloween Cake Pops:



    Tricks for Guests

    The worst faux pas you can make at a Halloween party is to not dress up, or to be lazy about it (I’m looking at you, wears-a-suit-and-calls-himself-a-businessman guy). So here’s a trick: go the extra mile by adding a unique sense element to your ensemble. Dressed as an apple pie? Spray yourself with apple cinnamon air freshener, or tuck a satchel of cinnamon potpourri beneath your crust. Going as a penguin? Bring a bucket of ice to fling at people (trust us; they’ll love it). Even better, if you have a sociable pet—and the host is ok with it—dress them up and bring them along too.

    dog dressed like pirate by http://www.petsadviser.com, on Flickr


    Treats for Hosts

    Don’t show up to a party empty-handed (unless you’re trick-or-treating, of course). Always bring a beverage and a Halloween gift for your gracious hosts. Pumpkin spice beer or a nice freshly-pressed apple cider are great choice for Halloween beverages. For the Halloween gift, consider a Halloween-themed arrangement.

    Flower Bouquets: Bouquet on Haunted Hill


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    Boss’s Day Is Almost Here

    October 14th, 2014 admin

    Do you have an awesome boss that deserves to know how much you appreciate all they do for you or your team? Of course you do, and that’s exactly what Boss’s Day is all about – but what if you don’t know your boss well enough, on a personal level, to pick out a perfectly unforgettable gift that will put you in the front running for that big promotion? Here at GiftTree, we’ve made it easy to give your boss a memorable gift that will not only leave a lasting impression, but also make them feel truly appreciated.


    Even if you recently started working with your boss, you know by Monday morning whether they choose coffee or tea as their preferred wake-up beverage. If your boss is coffee-crazy, the Peet’s Coffee Chest (Gift #7825) will perk them right up! This gift is filled with gourmet Coffee, coffee-themed sweets and treats. The gift comes in a beautiful, wooden attaché with an old-world map design and sturdy leather handle (appropriate for a male or female).



    If your boss prefers tea, we’ve got you covered too. The Traditional Teatime Basket (Gift #16105) is a timeless, reusable picnic-style hamper filled to the brim with teatime treats and assorted organic teas. Customer’s favorite part of this gift is the single-serving teapot/teacup combination that is the ideal size to keep handy at your Boss’s desk, allowing them to steep and serve the perfect cup of tea without hassle. Giving this gift to your boss will surely make them exclaim, “This is exactly what I needed! You know me so well!”




    If you’re not sure about your boss’s morning choice of drink or whether they have dietary restrictions, it’s still easy to give them a gift that they’ll cherish. Every executive needs a fancy pen, right? How about an elegant Bettoni Peruzzi pen (Gift #7444) with their name or your special message engraved right on it? With a solid brass cap and barrel, gunmetal finish, and arriving in a stylish gift box with a hand-tied ribbon, this is a gift the boss will be proud to display!



    Or perhaps your boss spends a lot of time out making contacts and networking. If so, they’ll be delighted to receive a Personalized Business Card Holder (Gift #18010) that just happens to be an adorable miniature briefcase with working latches. Made of sturdy brushed aluminum with a black velvet interior, and with their name engraved on the lid, this is a fun, yet useful and professional gift that just might earn you a new parking space.



    If a personalized travel mug, desktop organizer, or golf log won’t do the trick, a fantastic gift (that’s also a must-have in the office) is a beautiful dish garden or potted plant. Your boss will feel extra-special when a lush plant with your personal message on a card is hand-delivered right to the office. Not only will this gift be a daily reminder of appreciation, but it will really help to brighten up those drab, beige cubicles too!


    plant3plant113134b_How-Sweet-It-Is  plant2 18742a_Autumn-Amor6215c_From-the-Garden

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    Succulents- The Perfect DIY Gift!

    September 5th, 2014 Alicia

    Missing Someone who has gone back to school… Perhaps miles away to college? 

    We have the perfect gift to send them and show them how much you care! Introducing the Love succulent! or… congratulations? ok miss you Succulent!

    Alright while you fill in the ______, here’s the how to!

    Succulents make the perfect gift even for those college students that have no green thumb, they bring life to the desk, where your friend will be spending hours building their brain cells, or the the bathroom where they will be regretting the late night party they attended. Either way these are perfect gifts to send their way!

    What you will need:


    Cactus Palm & Citrus Oil





    Believe it or not Petsmart or another pet store is the best place to buy gravel for cheap, and there are fun colors if you want to steer away from brown and black


    brown gravel black gravel



    Charcoal Conditioner

    This will help keep the soil fresh and prevent bacteria.




    Amazon, Etsy, or any craft store will work. 

    jar dino k teacup



    The best places to get these are local garden centers, hardware stores, and department stores that have similar garden sections.

    *Tip: Pick Succulents that are slow growing and stay small.  Also, Consider the light available and where you plan the terrarium will be displayed.



     HOW TO:


    1. Select your container

    • Make sure to clean it well with hot, soapy water and dry it completely.

    2.  Create a drainage layer at the bottom of your container using gravel.

    • It only needs to be about a 1-2 inches thick.

    • Next add 1/2 inch layer of ground charcoal over the Gravel.

    3.  Pour 2-3 inches of fresh potting soil over the drainage layer.

    • Use a soil mix specifically with a citrus soil blend as shown above.

    • The soil and drainage layer should take up to about 1/4 of the terrarium container’s space.

    4.  Plant succulents

    • Decide how you want to arrange your succulents before you start planting. Ie. Larger plants often look best at the back or middle with smaller plants around the large plants.

    • Remove the plants from their containers.

    • Trim off any yellow or brown foliage.

    • Remove any extra soil from around the roots and gently tease the roots apart.

    • Dig a small hole, position the plant and cover the roots with the soil mixture.

    5.  Water sparingly

    • Wait at least two days before watering the succulents after placing them in their new terrarium to prevent root rot a little mist with a misting with a spray bottle is okay.

    • Always start with a little water and add more if needed.

    • Don’t let more than 1/4 inch of water accumulate in the bottom of the terrarium.

    • A easy way to test moistness of the soil is to simply insert a pencil to the bottom of the container. If Soil clings easily to the pencil there is still ample moisture.

    6.  Place succulent where it will thrive!

    • Place the succulent where it will receive adequate light.

    • Watch for the development of yellow or brown spots. The appearance of either of these spots indicates that the plant is receiving too much light and needs to be moved.

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