Potted plants turn winter drabness into summer gladness

Blooms: Tropical flowers can be easy and rewarding to grow indoors.

In The Garden

January 27, 2002|By Nancy Brachey | Nancy Brachey,Knight Ridder / Tribune

Right there, in your office cubicle, on your windowsill, atop the coffee table, you can make winter bloom.

It requires no tedious seeding, no hovering over juvenile plants, no worry about whether the plant will bloom.

Others did the work of making winter bloom indoors. And a wonderful array is out there, in garden centers, flower shops and grocery stores. You may not get to the tropics this winter, but your home or office can have a taste of it, and quite inexpensively.

Here are just five plants:

Streptocarpus, also called cape primrose, is elegant. Trumpet-shaped blooms, purple, pink, white, red or blue, rise gracefully above oval leaves. Give the plant bright indirect light or diffused sunlight, even moisture, and temperatures of 70 degrees, a tad cooler at night.

The Rieger begonia is one of winter's eye-popping potted plants. The plants need bright light, protection from direct sun and temperatures in the high 60s to low 70s. The Rieger will drop dead fast from incorrect watering. Let the soil dry out to a depth of at least 1 inch before you water. When watering, direct the water away from the base of the plant, which is where the dreaded rot begins.

Kalanchoe, a popular native of Madagascar, brings warm, summery colors of red, yellow-pink or orange to the indoor landscape in winter. It likes coolish temperatures in the high 50s to 60s in winter for longest bloom. Let the plant dry out between waterings.

Cyclamen lasts longest in very chilly rooms. In the daytime, give it 65 degrees or less, at night, 40 to 55 degrees. It will last for many weeks in those temperatures, less in warmer rooms. Keep soil moist but not soggy. Give it bright, indirect light in a cool east or north window.

Primroses make pretty, though temporary, houseplants in winter. For longest life, keep them in a cool, sunny window; water before they dry out. Like cyclamen, they last longest in cool rooms. Mist the plant to increase humidity.

Here are five more to consider:

Orchids. Easier to grow than you might think, most orchids bloom a long time.

Chrysanthemums. The all-season potted plant shows up in many colors and shapes.

Cinerarias. They have pretty blue blooms and prosper in a cool room.

Bromeliads. Possessing dramatic shape, they have the most unusual blooms.

Azaleas. Forced into early bloom, they'll make you feel like spring.

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