This time of year, though there isn't much happening in the garden, there are lots of options for perking up your indoor spaces. The shops are filled with lots of colourful indoor flowering plant options. Here's a list of beautiful bloomers that stand out:
Big, bold and beautiful, amaryllis are the easiest and most dependable of all indoor plants. They are a great plant for even the brownest of thumbs. In fact, they are so easy they will bloom in the box! Typically sold as bulbs, you just pot up the bulb and water it. In a few weeks you'll be rewarded with one or more spectacular blooms. To encourage your amaryllis to re-bloom, keep it in a sunny spot and water and feed it regularly to promote foliage growth. It's the food that is manufactured in the leaves that nourishes the bulb and creates another bloom. In the spring put the amaryllis outdoors and then in September bring it inside and stop watering it. Store the plant in a cool, dry location out of direct light. When signs of new growth appear (around January), give it light and water. With a little luck your amaryllis will bloom again.
The exotic bromeliad makes an impact wherever it is placed. These plants are just the thing for those who have low light conditions and very little humidity. Requiring very little attention, they are good companions for people who have a tendency to neglect their plants. The leathery foliage forms a rosette in the centre of the plant and serves as a funnel that holds water. Because bromeliads don't have an extensive root system, they should be watered about once a week. The 'funnel' should always contain water.
The true Christmas cactus, (Schlumbergia 'Bridgesii') is magenta and normally blooms in December or January in response to shorter days. But, there other members of the of the Schlumbergia family that are also are referred to as Christmas cactus. Their flowers vary in color from pink to deep red. Most of these hybrids tend to flower sometime around the holidays. Christmas cacti demand little more than average temperatures, bright light, and a good watering when the soil's surface feels dry. Christmas cacti re-bloom when the nights get cooler and they have 13 uninterrupted hours of darkness.
Cyclamens, available in white and shades of pink and red have delicate flowers that resemble butterflies. The blooms sit high above beautifully patterned, heart-shaped leaves. I think cyclamens are one of the best floral values around. As long as you give them bright, indirect light in a cool room, they'll bloom for months, (usually from mid- November until mid-February). Putting them close to a north or east window provides the bright light and cool nights that makes them thrive.
Kalanchoes are succulents that bloom in vibrant oranges, yellows and reds. The flowers can last for several weeks. Put several in a basket to make a striking centerpiece. This easy care plant requires only light watering (the succulent leaves give you this hint). If you notice the flowers dropping, however, it is probably due to under-watering.
Roses of any kind lend an elegant and romantic feel to a room. Miniature roses are widely available and reasonably priced. Minis adapt very well indoors if they get lots of very bright light (a south or west facing window) and sufficient humidity. Though they may be delicate looking, they are anything but. In fact, miniature roses are winter-hardy. If you keep your minis growing until spring, you can plant them in the garden where they will live happily for many years.
Ornamental peppers (Capsicum frutescens) are one of the most festive looking plants with their spectacular red fruit. The peppers start out green and then turn white, next turn purple, then to orange and finally to red. Often, all these colors are present on the plant the same time. They like full sun, and prefer to be kept on the dry side. As for humidity, they aren't as fussy as some other houseplants. Usually grown as pot plants, once ornamental peppers are past their peak, it's best to discard them. Because they are forced in commercial greenhouses for sale as gift plants they usually don't return to their original glory.
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