Marianne Binetti

When the winter blahs come calling, these flowering houseplants can provide a boost

Got frost?

When the ground is frozen or you see frost on the blades of your grass, try not to walk across the lawn and don’t even think about mowing or edging. Best to let sleeping lawns lie as walking on frozen grass blades or soggy wet soil can damage the structure of the soil profile. This advice gives you a great excuse to stay indoors to garden this week. Or to visit a greenhouse or garden center and invest in some indoor flowering plants.

Kalanchoe

Here is the best blooming houseplants for lazy gardeners.

This is such an easy-to-find (I have seen lovely plants at the grocery store) and long-blooming (I had one in flower for nine months) plant that it should be a mandatory purchase for anyone that likes indoor flowers.

Kalanchoe is a succulent, so it stores water in the fleshy, scalloped leaves. Here is the growing secret: Do not over-water your kalanchoe. Let the soil become completely dry to the touch. Then wait another few days to be sure the soil is dry. Then water with lukewarm, not cold, water and take care not to wet the leaves. Let the water drain from the pot but do not let this plant sit in drainage water.

If you notice a cluster of the brightly colored blooms has faded, just snip off the finished blooms, removing the entire cluster by following the stem deep into the middle of the plant. This encourages more flowers to be produced and keeps the plant tidy.

Did I mention to not over-water a kalanchoe?

Well, do not place this flowering succulent in a full sun window either. More sun just makes the blooms fade quicker. Buy a kalanchoe with lots of flower buds, not one that has all open flowers. Do not over-water (OK that is three times — you have been warned), and I can promise a plant that will bloom all winter with the least amount of care. Go get one now.

African Violets

The African Violet might be the best blooming houseplant for people that love velvet, English dramas, tattoos and multiple face piercings.

The velvet-like blooms of the African Violet thrive in our gray, winter weather, and the added humidity of our rainy winters makes this houseplant happy.

Word on the web is that your grandmother’s African Violet collection is once again considered cool and trendy with young hipsters yearning to grow anything with flowers —anything that is not an orchid that is. (Grandmas are growing sedums, so the rebellious young have taken over grandma’s houseplant.) Part of the popularity are the new, easy-to-grow varieties, along with the dwarf or mini African Violets perfect for a desk or nightstand.

To update the display of a blooming African Violet, set one into a large bowl and surround the plastic pot with moss. You can also hide the plastic pot with stones or driftwood to show off your young and hip design side. Grouping three to five African Violets inside a glass bowl or on a large tray creates a striking centerpiece that will remain in bloom for months.

If you don’t have a window, this houseplant will thrive in the bright light of a desk lamp or fluorescent bulb making African Violets a great plant for apartment dwellers. Take that, winter doldrums.

Like most plants with hairy leaves, do not drop water on the foliage of your African Violet leaves, especially cold water. Unlike the kalanchoe mentioned above, the African Violet loves moist soil.

Got eggs? When boiling eggs, save the unsalted and cooled water and use this to water your African Violets. The calcium from the eggshells is just what this plant needs to initiate more flowers — and feeding this plant organically with egg water is cooler than another nose ring — and cheaper than a new tattoo.

Hellebores

Hellebores are the best blooming houseplant for shady gardens.

Tis the season to find potted hellebores wrapped in red foil and ready to give as gift plants for the holidays.

Don’t be fooled into thinking the hellebores blooming now are poinsettia wannabes. Hellebores are tough perennials that happen to love our climate and really want to grow outside in the shaded part of your garden.

Poinsettias are from Mexico and die outdoors here. You can buy hellebores now, give them as a blooming gift plant, then offer to come take the plant away once the flowers fade.

Even if it is winter, you can move the potted hellebore outdoors to a protected spot in the garden. You can add potted hellebores to your empty porch pots, use them on the mantel or dining table and float their cup shaped blooms in wine goblets or shot glasses. Just know all this indoor enjoyment is a temporary diversion.

As soon as possible let your hellebore get back outdoors where the weather is cool and wet and where it really wants to grow. While indoors, keep the soil moist and the temperature as cool as possible to keep the flowers coming.

The key to keeping this deer- and slug-resistant perennial happy outdoors is to dig a very wide and very deep hole (3feet wide and 1 foot deep is ideal) so that when you free the thick hellebore roots from its indoor pot they can spread out into soft soil, perhaps with some compost added for extra comfort. If you can transplant your hellebore outdoors before it dies from indoor heat, then your humble houseplant will grow into a long lived perennial that will bloom every winter and even cast seedlings about the garden.

The hellebore is about to become your favorite winter-blooming plant.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at binettigarden.com or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022.
  Comments