When it comes to stunning, early-blooming trees, it’s hard to beat the star magnolia. Every March, it showers the landscape in a flush of bright white. For what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in stature. I love how the blossoms hang like fallen stars from its smooth, bare branches.
THE SMALL GARDEN’S MAGNOLIA
Now, even small gardens can have a magnolia! What’s more, star magnolia is slow-growing, so it won’t overwhelm your landscape. Topping out at a manageable 10 to 15 feet, it makes an excellent specimen tree while also providing a great backdrop to any mixed shrub border.
Yet for all that, the tree’s most valuable asset, in most people’s view, is its early spring blossoms. Typically flowering in early March, the star magnolia is lush with blooms when most other ornamentals are scarcely starting to bud. Moreover, the flowers are fragrant. Each is composed of more than a dozen ribbon-like petals. And some varieties boast as many as 30.
And while star magnolias are typically associated with white flowers, there are also a number of pink varieties. All are magnets for pollinators, which gives your other plants an early start on the season.
FOR STAR MAGNOLIAS, THE SHOW NEVER STOPS
But, for those who think star magnolias are all about spring, think again. The little trees offer fall and winter interest as well. In autumn, the foliage turns yellow, then bronze, providing an interesting complement to other fall colors.
And star magnolia’s twiggy, many-branched shape provides great winter interest. Colored a shiny, chestnut brown, the branches contrast handsomely with the tree’s smooth gray trunk, which slowly turns silver with age. As an added plus, the buds, appearing in late winter, are fat and fuzzy, just like pussy willows.
TOP STAR MAGNOLIA VARIETIES TO TRY
Ready to give star magnolia a try? Below are some the most popular cultivars that offer reliable, low-maintenance early spring color. Deciduous magnolias are best planted when dormant, typically in late fall.
‘Centennial’produces fragrant, waterlily-shaped blossoms in early to mid spring. The large white flowers often have a pink tinge at the base of the petals.
Magnolia stellata ‘Centennial’
‘Jane Platt’ produces double, scented, pale pink flowers with long, narrow petals in early to mid spring.
Magnolia stellata ‘Jane Platt’
‘Royal Star’ has pale pink buds that open in early spring to pure white flowers. In particular, this cultivar is known for its almost 5-inch (12 cm) wide flowers with up to 30 petals. ‘Royal Star’ blooms later than the species.
Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’
‘Rosea’ is a pink-flowered variety. It has a rounded shape and dense bushy habit. This cultivar flowers a month later than the species, or in late April.
Magnolia stellata ‘Rosea’
HOW AND WHERE TO PLANT
Star magnolia flowers are vulnerable to damage by late spring frosts, so it’s best to plant the trees in a sheltered spot. While they’ll do fine in full sun, they’ll perform best in morning sun with filtered shade in the afternoon. Generally, the more exposed the location, the earlier the flowers open. Like most plants, star magnolias prefer moist, well-drained soil.
Magnolia stellata really shines when viewed against a dark background. Site it in front of a stand of deep green arborvitae, a yew hedge or even a dark brick house and watch its flowers ‘pop.’ Daffodils with cream or white petals and yellow cups make excellent early-spring companions. Check out Narcissus ‘Sovereign’, ‘Golden Echo’ or the orange-cupped ‘Barrett Browning’ for a dramatic effect.
Want to see more photos of my gardens, including plant lists? Check out my instagram at carole.herebydesign. I post seasonally from spring to fall.
Now that temperatures are dropping and we’re spending more time indoors, almost nothing beats a cup of hot tea. And aside from the warm and cozy feeling a steaming mug evokes, tea has never looked better. That’s because many ‘true’ and herbal teas contain powerful antioxidants and other substances that are great for human health. So before opening the medicine cabinet, why not explore the benefits of medicinal tea? Continue reading →
After this past year, we could all use a little extra luck. And happily, as gardeners, we need look no further than the Chinese New Year for inspiration. Among the many auspicious symbols for 2021 is this year’s lucky plant, the money tree, or Pachira aquatica. According to feng shui principles, it can help ensure a prosperous year ahead. Continue reading →
For me, one of the highlights of December is the arrival in stores of all those winter-blooming cyclamen. Aside from poinsettias, they are my favorite cold-season flowers. There’s just one problem. After a couple of weeks, the plants’ stems often start to droop and the leaves may even turn yellow. But not to worry, there’s a solution! All it takes is an understanding of where cyclamen come from, and why temperature is key to their success indoors. Continue reading →
Updating a home can get expensive. That said, flowering houseplants can offer an affordable alternative. I love how they perk up a room, instantly injecting color into blah indoor spaces. Changed your mind? You can swap things around or change them out completely. And houseplants last a whole lot longer than cut flowers.
I know… for some, the thought of growing plants in their home can be intimidating. But in fact, it’s easy. All you need to do is follow the three steps below.
1. GIVE YOUR FLOWERING HOUSEPLANTS SOME SUN
No matter the species, flowering houseplants need at least some concentrated hours of bright to direct sunlight in order to produce blooms.
Plants need at least some sunlight to flower
Don’t ignore that label! Read it carefully to determine what kind of sunlight your plant prefers, then place it in the proper location. No plant will thrive in a dark corner.
2. ADHERE TO A REGULAR WATERING SCHEDULE
Consistent watering makes stronger plants. And flowering houseplants 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, then dry out slightly between waterings. This allows them to properly absorb both water and nutrients. Conversely, 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.
Whatever your watering schedule, always add just enough water to the pot to allow a small amount to run out from the bottom. This will ensure the roots of your flowering houseplant are well saturated. In addition, it will help wash away salts and fertilizers that may have built up in the soil.
Good drainage is key
Most importantly, never leave your plants sitting in water. This will lead to root rot and ultimately the death of your houseplant. Yellow leaves are an indicator that this is happening.
3. FEED REGULARLY
Unlike plants grown outdoors in soil, indoor plants are confined to the pot. That means it’s up to you to provide all their water and nutrients. Feeding your flowering houseplants not only helps them produce more blooms, but it also wards of indoor pests and diseases. I use a balanced liquid fertilizer mixed with tap water every other week.
Plants need food to flower
Certain species such as African violets, orchids and dwarf citrus trees prefer their own special food, so check with your local plant store to see which products best meet your needs.
Following are 12 top flowering houseplants for easy-care blooms indoors.
Adaptable to just about every environment, African violets are one of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow. Moreover, there are hundreds of varieties to choose from. The fuzzy-leaved plant performs best in evenly moist soil and indirect sunlight.
Water African violets at the soil surface, taking care not to moisten the leaves. Or, allow the plant to wick up water from a saucer. However, never allow your plant to remain standing in water or the roots may be damaged. African violets grow best in smaller pots.
This beautiful succulent with orange, yellow and red flowers has long lasting flowers and attractive, oval-shaped fleshy foliage. The plant blooms naturally indoors during winter and early spring.
Kalanchoes prefer bright light, but beware – they’ll burn in full sun. Again, proper drainage is key. Use a loose potting soil containing peat moss, perlite and sand and place pebbles at the bottom of the pot to guard against standing water. And never place a kalanchoe near a draft or cold window.
Jasminum polyanthum, also known as pink jasmine or white jasmine, is the most common variety of jasmine grown indoors. A fragrant plant with showy white blooms, it grows best near a south-facing window. Cool temperatures are essential to encouraging this flowering houseplant’s buds to form. Jasmine typically flowers indoors in February.
Grow jasmine in evenly moist soil and prune regularly to keep it in bounds. Repot in the spring, trimming the roots before replenishing with fresh soil.
OXALIS (Purple Clover)
Often called shamrock for its purple, shamrock-shaped leaves, oxalis is a small-sized flowering houseplant that grows to a height of just around six inches. The delicate white or soft pink flowers bloom off and on during fall, winter and spring. And the leaves fold up at night only to open again in the morning.
Oxalis grows from tiny bulbs that can be divided at any time. Water your plant when the potting soil is dry to the touch or if you observe the stems starting to droop. Look for exotic varieties for best indoor performance.
CHRISTMAS CACTUS, THE HOLIDAY HOUSEPLANT
This beautiful flowering houseplant loves holidays. There are Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter varieties, some of which can be encouraged to re-bloom. The buds start forming a month before blooms and darken as they swell. And the flowers come in a wide variety of colors including, red, pink, orange, purple, orange and cream.
Christmas Cactus likes bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. But, keep it away from drafts and heat sources that can stunt growth and burn leaves. Unlike desert cacti, these tropical cacti cannot tolerate dry soil. Keep the potting soil evenly moist for best growth. And water only when the top inch of the soil has dried out.
ANTHURIUM (Flamingo Flower)
The heart-shaped ‘flower’ of anthurium is actually a modified leaf that grows from the base of a fleshy spike of flowers. The most common houseplant variety is Painter’s Palette, which features long-lasting blooms (usually red) and glossy green, arrow-shaped 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 thrown away after they quit flowering, gloxinias can become great houseplants with proper care. Best known for their large bell-shaped blooms, the dramatic plants come in a wide variety of colors, including varieties with bands and/or white speckles. By contrast, the oblong, fuzzy leaves are a soft gray green.
Gloxinias prefer warm temperatures, evenly moist soil and high humidity (supplement humidity with a 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.
There are hundreds of varieties of this beautiful plant to choose from, most of which will produce indoor blooms all year long. Foliage varies among green, silver, variegated or maroon. And flowers come in a variety of colors, including red, pink, white and yellow.
All begonias prefer medium to bright light and evenly moist soil. However, they can become leggy fast without proper care. To prevent this from happening, keep your plants in shape by following these simple pruning techniques.
Angel-Wing begonia is so-named for the shape of its leaves that resemble wings. Numerous cultivars exist in different sizes with different leaf colors and red, pink or white blossoms. Angel-Wing begonias are some of the easiest flowering houseplants to grow. 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 (outdoor) bedding plant, waxbegonia, also makes a great flowering houseplant. Varieties feature red, pink or white flowers atop 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 produces flowers that can sometimes last up to three months. The long sprays of large blooms flourish indoors under normal light and prefer 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 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 (Urn Plant)
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. It lasts for months and grows to around six inches.
Low-maintenance, silver vase plant makes a great flowering houseplant. Its minimal requirements include bright light and periodic watering (every 2-3 weeks). Watering involves filling the “vase” (and not the potting soil) with water.
KAFFIR LILY (Orange Clivia Miniata)
A member of the amaryllis family, the Kaffir lily can be forced into bloom in winter or early spring indoors. It bears 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.
Kaffir 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.
CALAMONDIN ORANGE (For experts only)
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. In late winter or early spring, fragrant white blossoms appear followed by fruits that may stay on the plant for many weeks. Once ripe, the fruits can be harvested and used like lemons.
For best performance indoors, plant calamondin in a small container. Plants won’t re-bloom if they are potted in a container 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. Rotate the plant a quarter turn each week to promote even growth. Fertilize with a good organic fruit tree fertilizer.
For photos of my gardens, including plant lists, check out my instagram at carole.herebydesign. I post seasonally from spring to fall.
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
I like to think of fall from an Alice In Wonderland perspective. That is, autumn is a time when we shrink in proportion to our gardens while the leaves ‘bloom’ above us. And every year nature charts new territory, unveiling color schemes so daring they leave little doubt as to her ability to create designs far superior to our own. Continue reading →
If you’re a fan of early bloomers, then the crocus is the plant for you. For what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for in impression. Resilient and tough, these diminutive flowers will bloom for weeks, even in the harshest of weather. They’re the perfect way to brighten the last gloomy days of winter. Continue reading →
At the end of summer, daffodils are rarely top-of-mind. But this is precisely the time when you need to be ordering them. And this is especially true for the more sought-after, unusual varieties. Why stick with yellow trumpets when daffodils come in so many other colors, shapes and sizes? See below if one or more of these different types of daffodils wouldn’t be the perfect fit for your 2021 spring garden. Continue reading →
Annuals for the cutting garden/Photo: Julie Hove Anderson Photography
As a landscape designer, I’m well versed in perennials and the kind of annuals you buy from a nursery. But when it comes to growing annuals from seeds, my experience lies mainly with zinnias. So recently, I was delighted to attend a webinar hosted by ButterBee Farm owner Laura Beth Resnick on the top annuals she grows for her cutting gardens. Continue reading →
I always smile when the redbuds begin blossoming in my area. Flowering with reckless abandon, the magenta-colored trees instantly distinguish themselves from other plants in the landscape. One of my friends shouts out REDBUD! when her own dazzling specimen bursts into bloom. That seems to me the perfect way to describe the electric flowering of this upbeat, ornamental tree. Continue reading →