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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Flowering Plants that Do Well in Homes - from Dave Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

Green plants have become very popular in homes. Most gardeners have learned how to handle such plants indoors with little difficulty. These plants are pleasant additions to our homes, but many gardeners are looking for something different—a new challenge.

Flowering plants can provide an added dimension to our indoor gardens. If you can grow green plants, you can grow flowering plants too. However, you will have to learn not only how to grow the plants, but how to get them to flower. There is tremendous satisfaction in getting a plant to grow, develop and burst forth with a profusion of bloom.

African violets are without a doubt the most commonly grown flowering plant indoors. They require 10 hours of light and moderate temperatures, and they resent having wet leaves. Once they become accustomed to their new home, they usually bloom faithfully and nearly year round.

Bromeliads are all related to pineapples. They grow in a similar fashion with a whorl of spiny leaves and a brilliant flower that develops in the midst of the whorl. They need well-drained soil, filtered light and household temperatures. When the plant has flowered, the center of the whorl deteriorates, but the new "pups" grow from the base.

Amaryllis are plants with strange habits. The large 4" bulbs are planted singly in pots with just enough room around them for a little soil. If watered immediately after potting, a bulb sends up a strong stem and, in six weeks or so, several 6-inch flowers. They may be red, orange, white or pink.

As the flowers fade, the bulb sends up several strap-like leaves that persist for several months. Plants sending up leaves in spring can be set outdoors in a protected place for the summer.

Repot, and bring in before frost. Dry off so leaves die back, and keep in a cool dry place for a couple of months. Then resume watering, and the cycle will repeat. Some people time the red flowers for Christmas each year.

There are several flowering shrubs that bloom well indoors. Oleander and hibiscus need only a bright warm place and will flower profusely. However, oleander is considered poisonous and should be kept away from children. Gardenia grows well and sets flower buds easily; but if it is too hot or cold, too dark or light, too wet or dry, it will drop its buds before they open. Azaleas grow nicely indoors and can take a summer vacation outdoors. Flower buds develop during summer but need several weeks of cool temperatures (in the 40's) to break dormancy. Then when moved indoors, the buds break into bloom for a period of several weeks.

Most gardeners consider orchids the maximum challenge, yet there are some species that adapt well to home conditions. Cymbidiums, the smaller colorful corsage orchids are remarkably easy considering the reward for the effort. The plants grow from pseudobulbs in a light potting mix of at least half sand. A shoot of daylily-like leaves develops each spring.

In the late fall or early winter, one or two flower spikes develop from the base of a pseudo bulb. A spike may have a dozen or more flowers which last for weeks. Pick off one or two, and make a corsage if you like.

Cymbidiums like filtered light and cool temperatures indoors. In summer, they really enjoy a screened porch or sheltered spot outdoors. Do not be intimidated by their reputation—the orchids make delightful houseplants.

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