Friday, April 19, 2013

Color is a Good Thing: Flowering House Plants

This entry is semi-related to an earlier entry about the best houseplants for small spaces.  Only this time, it’s all about the flowers.  Having a flowering plant in the house can brighten your mood on a dreary day, and they’re definitely more interesting to watch (in my opinion) than a standard green plant.

Hibiscus- This is one of my all-time favorite flowers, mainly because they look so tropical and big.  At one of my past workplaces, there was a hibiscus plant in the lobby that was taller than I am.  If not pruned, these plants can indeed grow up to 6 feet tall (or more?!).  Otherwise, they can be kept as a bush-type evergreen.  Blooms (which can get up to 8 inches across) last from 2-3 days, and usually they’re in fairly rapid succession. 

Christmas Cactus- My mother used to have one of these when I was growing up.  It never bloomed around Christmas, though.  A Christmas Cactus isn’t really a cactus; it’s actually just a succulent (the difference being how often they’re watered).  Getting a Christmas Cactus to bloom takes a certain combination of conditions at the right times.  Ideally, you forget about it for a month or so (little or no water), then water thoroughly for a month, then “summer” conditions (more sun), then decrease daylight hours, watering, and temperature again for it to bloom.  (While it blooms, you can bring it up to regular temperature and water normally.)  Essentially, you forget about it for a few months, then feel sorry for it.  It will repay your forgetfulness with blooms.

African Violet- Gardening websites say this is an easy houseplant to grow.

… I’ve killed two of them already.

Anyways, African Violets don’t need too much special care (though you can buy special African Violet soil and fertilizer); the only big thing to remember is to never get water on the leaves, as those spots will turn brown.  (Then if enough of the leaf is brown, the whole thing eventually dies…)  It is possible to water them from the top, but I would say to water them from the bottom.  (Submerge the bottom of the container in a shallow dish of water for a few hours, then take it out again to prevent root rot.)  Ideally, African Violets love high heat and humidity, with indirect sunlight.  At home, we kept ours in the bathroom (it’s usually the warmest room in the house, and it likes the steam from the shower.)  Some people say that these should be repotted every few years, but I’ve also heard others say that they can stay in the same container for their whole life (recommending a 4-inch pot). 

Orchids- About three years ago, I bought an orchid from Wal-Mart as a Mother’s Day gift.  The instructions that came with it said to water once a week with two or three ice cubes.  Mother did that faithfully, and it still blooms today.  The flowers on our orchid (of the Phalaenopsis variety) last for months at a time.  Buy flowering orchids from a store; it can take up to 5 years for a seedling to produce a flower.   

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