The rewards of houseplants
January 25, 2011
About this time of year, gardeners crave working with flowers and plants. It’s too early to plant outside and there aren’t any flowers until bulbs come up. A gardener can always do yard cleanup, tool maintenance and pruning in the winter, but sometimes we just need a flower fix. I get my flower fix with my houseplants, particularly geraniums and begonias.
I’m a lazy gardener, so I choose houseplants that are easy to grow and that flower. The sunlight in our house is excellent with eastern and southern exposures. Bright light is critical to successful flowering, otherwise houseplants produce only leaves. Flowering houseplants thrive and bloom for long periods with good light.
I’m fond of geraniums, especially the scented ones such as chocolate, anise, rose and apple. Begonias are rewarding and generous bloomers. I love bougainvillea and hibiscus. Another favorite is the cactus Aporophyllum, even though the plant is large and awkward. It has slender pad-like stems that hang down and out 2 to 4 feet with almost invisible spines, and the whole thing is always in the way. However, the flowers are spectacular, reaching 4 to 5 inches in size in a brilliant fuchsia color. The flowers are short-lived and only occur once per year.
Houseplant care is simple: put them in a sunny window, water a couple of times a week and fertilize every six weeks before spring and then once per month in spring. By summer, water every day. The most tedious part of raising geraniums or begonias is the pick-up of dropped flowers, but the masses of blooms of hot pink or salmon is reward for the bit of extra work. Geraniums need weekly cleanup of aging leaves and flower stalks. Begonias also require regular tending to remove spent parts. Prune heavily once or twice a year to maintain a pleasing overall shape. Prunings make good cuttings to start new plants.
Just as outdoor flowers come in all shapes, sizes and colors, so do indoor flowers. I have listed a mere few of the many available. Many folks specialize in just one type, such as African violets, because there are so many varieties to explore. Brighten up the rest of your winter. Try flowering houseplants with fabulous colors and interesting shapes.
JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.