Flowering houseplants add life to interiors
Come January, winter can seem like an interminable wait for a spring package. But flowering houseplants never fail to deliver. I love how they can perk up a room, instantly providing color and dimension to an interior space. Best of all, I can change them up seasonally or make them part of my permanent decor, all while reaping the benefits of increased levels of oxygen and purified air. And flowering houseplants are a whole lot longer lasting than expensive cut flowers.
GETTING STARTED IS AS EASY AS 1-2-3
Growing houseplants can be as easy as 1-2-3 provided you follow these essential steps.
1. Give your flowering houseplants some sunlight. They may vary widely in color and form, but flowering houseplants all need at least some concentrated hours of bright to direct sunlight in order to flower.
Plants need at least some sunlight to flower
Read the label carefully to determine what kind of sunlight your plant prefers and place it in the proper location. Remember, no plant can thrive in a dark corner.
2. Put your plants on a watering schedule. Consistent watering makes stronger plants. Flowering houseplants may differ in how much water they need, but almost all prefer a regular watering schedule. The watering cycle you choose will depend on the kind of plants you have and the level of humidity and amount of light you have in your home.
Plants need water
Some flowering houseplants prefer to have a good soak and then dry out slightly between waterings. This allows them to properly absorb both water and nutrients. Still others like to be kept consistently moist. It may take some experimenting to determine what works best in your home. Either way, good drainage holes are key.
When watering, add just enough to the pot to allow a small amount to run out from the bottom. This will ensure the roots are well saturated and help wash away salts and fertilizers that have built up in the soil.
Good drainage is key
Never leave your plant sitting in water. This will cause the roots to rot and eventually kill the plant over time.
3. Feed your flowering houseplants regularly. Feed your flowering houseplants to keep them healthy and flowering. (I use a balanced liquid fertilizer every other week at half strength.)
Plants need food to flower
Certain species such as African violets, orchids and dwarf citrus trees, though, will prefer their own special blend, so check with your local plant store to see which products best meet your needs.
Adaptable to just about every kind of environment, African violets are one of the easiest houseplants to grow. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from including ruffled or white-edged blooms and variegated foliage. The fuzzy-leaved plant thrives in evenly moist soil and indirect sunlight (best in east or south-facing windows). Water over the soil, or allow the plant to wick up water until the soil is evenly moist. Never allow water to touch the leaves, or brown spot will occur. And never allow the plant to remain standing in water or the roots may be damaged.
Start new plants by cutting off a leaf and sticking it in water until little plants sprout. African violets grow and bloom better in smaller pots.
This beautiful succulent with orange, yellow and red flowers has long lasting flowers and attractive, oval-shaped fleshy foliage. It normally prefers short days, so the plant naturally blooms indoors during winter and early spring.
Kalanchoes need only minimal care and can survive in full or partial sun. Ensure proper drainage of the plant’s sensitive root system by placing pebbles at the bottom of the pot and using a loose potting soil containing peat moss, perlite and sand. Never place a kalanchoe near a draft or cold window, which can quickly kill it.
Jasminum polyanthum is the most common variety of jasmine grown indoors. Highly fragrant, with showy white blooms, the vining plant grows best near a south-facing window. Cool temperatures are essential to encouraging buds to form, which typically open indoors in February.
Grow jasmine in evenly moist soil and prune regularly to keep the vigorous plant in bounds. Repot in the spring, pruning the roots before replanting with fresh potting soil.
Often called shamrock for its purple, shamrock-shaped leaves, oxalis is a small indoor plant that grows to a height of around six inches. The delicate white or soft pink flowers bloom off and on during fall, winter and spring. Leaves fold up at night and open up again in the morning at first light.
Oxalis grows from tiny bulbs in the soil that can be divided at any time when the plant gets too crowded in its container. Water oxalis when the potting soil is dry to the touch or if you observe the plant starting to droop. Look for exotic varieties for best indoor performance.
This beautiful flowering plant loves holidays. There are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter varieties, some of which re-bloom. Flower buds start forming a month before bloom time and darken as they swell, unfolding to reveal a wide variety of colors including, red, pink, orange, purple, orange and cream.
Christmas Cactus likes bright, indirect light and cool temperatures away from drafts and heat sources that can stunt growth and burn leaves. Christmas cactus varieties are tropical cacti and unlike desert cacti, cannot tolerate dry soil. Keep the potting soil evenly moist for best growth. Water when the top inch of the soil has dried out.
The red, heart-shaped “flower” of anthurium is actually a spathe, or type of leaf that grows from the base of a fleshy spike of flowers. With a little encouragement, anthuriums can remain in almost continuous flower, with some blooms lasting two months or more. The most common indoor variety is Painter’s Palette, which features arrow-shaped glossy dark green leaves.
Anthuriums grow best in medium to bright light (avoid direct sunlight, however.) Keep the potting soil constantly moist and for best results, use tepid water. A consistently warm temperature is key to achieving good growth.
Often given as gifts and thrown away after they quit flowering, gloxinias can become great houseplants with proper care. Best known for their large bell-shaped blooms that open in late winter to early spring, the dramatic plants come in a wide variety of shapes and colors, including flowers with contrasting bands or speckles of white. Leaves are oval and fuzzy gray green.
Gloxinias prefer warm temperatures, evenly moist soil and high humidity (supplement humidity with an humidifier or tray with pebbles and water). As with African violets, it’s important to keep water off of the foliage to avoid brown spot.
Unlike African violets, gloxinias require a period of rest in order to bloom again. Once flowers fade, reduce watering to about half and resume regular watering when new growth appears.
Hundreds of varieties of this upright growing flowering plant exist and most will provide blooms indoors all year long. Foliage can be green, silver, variegated or maroon and blooms come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, white and yellow. All begonias prefer medium to bright light and evenly moist soil.
Angel-Wing begonia has wing-shaped leaves and red, pink or white blossoms. Pinch back tall stems to keep the plant bushy.
Rieger begonia is a winter-blooming variety with clusters of camellia-like blossoms in fiery colors of red, yellow and orange atop glossy green leaves.
The popular bedding plant, Wax begonia can also be grown successfully indoors. Colorful red, white or pink flowers bloom over waxy green foliage. The plant needs good air circulation to thrive.
Arguably the most recognizable of all the orchid varieties, the easy-to-grow Phalaenopsis orchid (also known as Moth orchid) has flowers that will sometimes last up to three months. The long sprays of large blooms flourish indoors under normal lighting conditions, preferring the same temperatures that humans do.
Place the plant in indirect sunlight and water once a week, making sure the soil remains moist just under the soil surface. Be careful not to overwater the plant or the flowers will wilt and fall off. Good drainage is essential to guard against root rot. After the last flower finishes blooming, cut the stalk in half and wait to see if the plant re-blooms.
Silver vase plant is a type of bromeliad that is grown both indoors and outdoors depending on the climate. The common name comes from the structure of the plant, the center of which resembles an urn or vase. The plant produces a large pink spiky-shape flower above stiff, silver and green foliage, growing to about six inches.
Low-maintenance, silver vase plant requires bright light and periodic watering (every 2-3 weeks), which involves filling the “vase” (not the potting soil) with water.
A member of the amaryllis family, the Kaaffir lily can be forced into bloom in winter or early spring indoors where it will bear clusters of up to 20 reddish-orange tubular flowers with yellow centers above glossy green leaves. The plant is also available in red, peach, yellow and white varieties.
Kaaffir lilies need cool and dry temperatures for 6 to 8 weeks in fall in order to bloom. Water sparingly until the bloom appears (keeping the soil on the dry side), then increase watering midwinter. Place in bright light, but keep away from direct sun.
The Calamondin Orange is actually a hybrid between a mandarin orange and kumquat. The dwarf citrus tree has woody stems covered with oval, glossy green leaves that give off a citrusy aroma.
Fragrant white blossoms appear in later winter or early spring followed by fruits, which may stay on the plant for many weeks. Once ripe, the fruits can be harvested and used like lemons.
Calamondin Orange prefers to be kept in a small container. Plants won’t re-bloom if they are potted in a pot that is too large. Make sure there are good drainage holes in the bottom of the container to protect against root rot. Place the tree in bright light, with at least four hours of direct sunlight a day, turning the plant a quarter turn each week to promote even growth. Fertilize with a good organic fruit tree fertilizer.