Flowers with Roots, Please

Strelitzia regina - Bird of Paradise_DBG_20090915_LAH_0593.jpg

Flowers make me happy. I love gardens full of them. But while I do appreciate pretty bouquets, I prefer to receive flowers that are still attached to their plant. As my husband has learned—to bring a smile to my face, bring me flowers with roots!

I think the problem is that I’m too sympathetic—I feel sorry for the plant, which has gone to the effort of blooming, then is repaid by having all the blossoms cut off. From the plant’s perspective, those flowers are its incipient offspring, and we just doomed them to the compost pile.

Besides being approved by the Apocryphal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Annuals (ASPCA), purchasing living plants ensures that the blossoms won’t fade prematurely—we get to enjoy them for as long as possible. And if we take care of the plant, we can look forward to more flowers, now and in the years to come. In fact, the only drawback is having to provide that care—living plants involve a bit more commitment. Well, that, and their tendency to accumulate until every room is a jungle. Thankfully, greenhouses are available (hint, hint).

Not all flowering plants can expect long lives in our homes. It does no good to bring me a flowering azalea, for example, as those eventually need to be planted outside, and my Colorado climate is too inhospitable. Still, many species are suitable. Here are some of my favorite flowering houseplants—plus a few I’ve had success with that are more typically grown outdoors.

Phalanopsis Orchid-HolzmannMy current favorite blooming plants are orchids. I’m limited to the popular moth orchids (Phalaenopsis). While I drool over the other types, especially the Dendrobiums, most wouldn’t be happy in our dry climate and constant room temperatures.

african-violet-wikipediaAnother easy-to-find option is the ever-popular African Violet. They’re not true violets, but they do come from (east) Africa. I went through my African Violet phase years ago, but I still appreciate them. They re-bloom prolifically if kept slightly moist, fertilized, and given bright, indirect light. I had excellent results in stimulating buds with shop lights positioned just above my out-of-bloom plants.

orchid-cactusChristmas (and other holiday) cactus reliably cover themselves with blooms in neon shades of white, pink, and crimson, as long as nights are long enough for them to set buds. I have far too many of these, but it’s so hard to part with such a cooperative plant. My orchid cactus, a close relative, makes up for its gawky, unattractive leaves with this breathtaking blossom.

One of my more unusual indoor plants is a frangipani, or Plumeria. I grew it from a cutting Pete picked up at a Walmart in Hawaii, and it’s now over six feet tall. I was alarmed the first time it dropped all its leaves, but that seems to be normal, and they eventually regrow. Unfortunately, my plant is highly susceptible to mealybugs and requires regular spraying, but the flowers—a glowing orange-yellow in this case—smell so heavenly, I put up with the cosseting.

petunia_hudsongardens-co_lah_6337Some plants we typically grow as outdoor annuals also do surprisingly well indoors. I’ve enjoyed months of bloom from petunias and the closely related Calibrachoa (aka Million Bells). They tend to get leggy after a while, but are easily cut back for an abundant rebloom. Petunia cuttings root easily in water, so they can be saved from your outdoor plants at the end of the summer. Just check for bugs before you bring them indoors.

Shade-preferring impatiens are perennial in tropical climates, and would be in my home as well, if I could only remember to water them often enough.

I’ve blogged about growing fibrous (bedding) begonias indoors, but there are many tropical begonias that are popular houseplants, and all seem to bloom with abandon. Their slightly succulent leaves make them an excellent choice for Colorado, and mine thrive in spite of my somewhat irregular watering schedule (see “impatiens,” above).

It helps to remember that no plant originally came with a “houseplant” label. Those we typically cultivate indoors are simply species that can handle the temperatures, low light, and low humidity found in most homes. If you have a favorite flower, go ahead and try it inside. It might surprise you by thriving!

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