Beyond Roses

rose_bundlesHeading to the store to buy a dozen red roses for Valentine’s Day? How cliché! Everybody gives roses. Unless you know your sweetie is a rose aficionado, don’t follow the herd—dare to be different! Break out of your routine and expand your horizons. There are a lot of other flowers out there feeling pretty unappreciated right now.

Carnation 'Moondust' - wikicommons
I admit, I really don’t care that much for roses. I would much prefer a bouquet of carnations. They last twice as long—or longer. I think they smell better, too. And there’s something… unassuming about a dozen humble carnations in a plain white vase that appeals to me. (My husband is delighted I like carnations, as they’re much cheaper, too.) You can go for red, pink, white, or a combination perfect for Valentine’s Day, but they come in yellow and orange too. Other colors (green is popular around St. Patrick’s Day) are artificially induced. Placing a white flower in a vase of colored water does the trick.

African Violets
African Violet - wikipedia
These cute little plants are a bit passé, but I think they deserve a renaissance. I love the fuzzy leaves, the perky purple or pink flowers, and the ease of cultivation. It always makes me sad when I see stunted, leggy plants in someone’s home.

African Violets have few needs, but they can’t be neglected. Provide bright light, but avoid direct sunlight, which can scorch the leaves. Placing the pots under a shop light positioned a few inches above the foliage is ideal, and a good place to keep plants when they’re not in bloom.

To water, add tepid water until it runs freely through the drainage hole, then let the soil become almost dry before repeating the soaking. Cold water is supposed to spot the leaves, although I’ve never had a problem with this. Use a soluble African Violet food according to the directions on the package.

It pays to purchase potting mix specifically formulated for these humus-loving plants.

Repot as the plants grow, using a new pot only slightly larger than the previous one, and bringing the soil level up to the bottom of the lowest leaves. This prevents an unattractive leggy stem from sprawling across your pot.

Phalaenopsis Orchids
Orchid @DC LAH 206-001
These are the orchids you most often see in the houseplant section of a home improvement store, or even the local market. White, magenta-purple, or a combination of those two colors are the most common. I go for the yellow ones (just to be difficult).

Orchids have a reputation for being finicky and hard to grow, but I’ve had some specimens for years now. (I’ve also killed a few, probably from watering issues.) They adapt well to home conditions and need little attention. Half-strength orchid fertilizer added to the water, bright indirect light, and perfect drainage keep them content. Remembering that wild orchids grow perched in the branches of tall trees, I’m careful not to overwater; every two weeks works in our dry climate.

Flowers last up to a month before dropping. It’s worth leaving the stalk, as plants often rebloom on the same stem. I use a stake and small plant clip to hold the flowers up where they can be admired.

These are just a few of my favorites. Pick a flower that your sweetie will love, and see what blossoms!
Photos are from Wikicommons, except the orchid, which is mine.

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