Holiday Flowering Houseplants
Amaryllis will provide you with the largest most exotic bulb flowers you can easily grow in your home. Flowers are 6 to 8” across in a large variety of colors. Amaryllis is a subtropical plant so they do not require a cold period like so many other bulb flowers. Therefore, they are much easier to grow.
Plant amaryllis in any loose potting soil in a tall pot. The size of the pot is determined by the size of the bulb. The pot should be 1” larger on all sides than the size of the bulb. If the bulb still has roots, spread the roots through the pot. The bulb should be pointed upward and the tip of the bulb should stick well above the soil. Initially water the plant well with lukewarm water, but after that not more than once a week till you see that your amaryllis is starting to grow. Amaryllis likes to be grown at 70-75 degrees. Once your amaryllis starts growing you can water everyday. Amaryllis can grow as much as 1” per day. You can prolong flowering by placing your flowering amaryllis in a cool window or cooler room.
Future Flowering: If you would like to try to get more years out of your amaryllis, start feeding it after it starts growing (any good houseplant food will do). Cut the old stem 6” above the bulb when the stem has finished flowering. Continue to water and feed till June/July. Remove foliage, stop watering and rest your plant for at least 2-3 months. Some people will plant their amaryllis in a semi-shaded garden during the summer months after the last chance of frost is gone. (This is fine but don’t forget to water if you don’t have any rain). In October, bring indoors and start watering and enjoy them all over again.
Lush, glossy foliage and exotic symmetrical blossoms characterize the elegant camellia. A beautiful cousin of the tea plant, camellia is native to Asia, where they have been cultivated for thousands of years. Now the many species, hybrids, and varieties are treasured by gardeners worldwide.
There are about 200 species of camellias, but 3 are of major importance to North American gardens-Camellia japonica, C. sasanqual, and C. reticulata.
Even if camellias never bloomed, their lovely, evergreen foliage would make them garden-worthy. The leaves are oval, pointed and slightly toothed along the edges. They are everything a leaf should be—dark green on the top, light green on the underside, and usually glossy. They have good substance, with the feel of polished leather. The lush, dark foliage is a perfect foil for the best feature of the camellia—its showy, solitary, rounded, flowers. The flowers range from pristine white to all shades of pink to the deepest of reds, and many are variegated. The six standard terms used to describe the different forms of the blossoms are single, semi double, anemone, peony, rose from double, and formal double.
The sinuous gray branches of camellia plants are pliable and ideal for training against the side of a house to create espalier designs. The plants can also be pruned of their lower side branches to create beautiful “avenues” or “camellia tunnels”.
Camellias usually flower between September and April (their bloom season is delayed in colder areas). They are sensitive to heavy frosts and freezing. However, camellias require only frost exclusion to perform well and can be grown indoors, especially in greenhouses and sunrooms. Many special miniature varieties have been developed to perform well as flowering houseplants provided nighttime temperatures are about 45 degrees and the air is kept humid.
The Christmas Cactus is a popular houseplant for many reasons. They product beautiful, colorful, tubular flowers in pink or lilac colors. Additionally, these flowers have a long bloom time. The care itself for the Christmas Cacti is quite simple, making them a wonderful plant to keep in the house. While most cacti enjoy arid environments, the Christmas Cacti naturally grows in trees in the rainforests of Brazil. This means they prefer a more humid climate.
When choosing a pot for your Christmas Cactus, choose one that has holes at the bottom of it so that the soil drains properly. If the water is not able to drain, your plant may develop root rot. These plants prefer bright, indirect light in the spring and summer, and full sun in the fall and winter.
As soon as the top soil of the pot feels dry, you'll want to soak the soil until water runs all the way through the pot. Make sure the water that drains out of the pot is discarded immediately, so the plant doesn't sit in water. This is especially important when the plant is flowering.
Fertilize your Christmas Cactus every 2-4 weeks with 15-30-15. When the plant is blooming, fertilize every 4 weeks. To reflower a Christmas Cactus: About September, begin to cut down on watering, decrease by half on fertilizing and keep in a room that is cool (preferably 60-68 degrees). Also, keep it in a room that will remain dark from about 5:00 pm to 7:00 am. It should have at least 12 hours of darkness or longer. In other words, it should be in a room that is dark from sunset to sunrise. Flowers will only form when the temperature is between a cool 50 to 55 degrees F.
Diseases/Pests: The plant may be susceptible to mealy bugs, and if over-watered, root rot. If you have any problems, cut out infected areas and repot in clean soil.
The compact Cineraria plant has tight bunches of petite daisy like flowers surrounded by large dark green leaves. Cineraria plants are very fragile perennial plants so they are mostly used as outdoor annuals or indoor gift plants that bloom for only about a month. However, while they bloom, they have a beautiful and showy display that makes the short lifetime worth it.
Cineraria Plants need very bright indirect light but cool temperatures. Place a Cineraria Plant near a north or east-facing window. Light from south & west-facing windows is too hot and causes the flowers on a Cineraria Plant to fade quickly.
Keep a Cineraria Plant moist but never soggy. Always allow the top inch or two of soil in a Cineraria Plantto dry out before watering. Cineraria Plants can sit in the excess water for 15 minutes then be sure to empty the saucer. The more blooms a Cineraria Plant has, the more water it needs.
Feed a Cineraria Plant in April with a water-soluble plant food high in phosphorous at 1/2 the recommended strength.
The cyclamen is seen throughout the year, but is very popular during Christmas. With flowers in shades of pink, red, or white, you'll find them in garden centers and grocery stores alike. Even the foliage is beautiful, heart-shaped with a silver marbling on the tops of the leaves. The entire plant reaches only about 8 inches high. Cyclamen make excellent houseplants, blooming for weeks and requiring very little care.
Cyclamen does best when planted in soilless-based potting soil mix. Water your cyclamen whenever the soil feels dry about an inch beneath the surface. Do not get the crown of the plant wet, as it could cause the plant to rot. The cyclamen plant likes humidity, so keep the cyclamen on a tray of water with a layer of pebbles. However, be sure that the pot is not sitting in water, or else the roots will rot. When the flowers begin to fade, gradually allow the plant to dry out for about 2-3 months. It is going into a dormant stage and any excess water will cause the plant to rot.
For light, cyclamen thrive in bright, indirect light in the winter. They are actively growing in the winter and go dormant in the heat of summer. While they are dormant in the summer, it is best to keep the cyclamen out of bright light.
Make sure your cyclamen is not exposed to temperatures below 50 F. Avoid drafts as well as hot, dry air.
For fertilizer, feed your cyclamen plant with a low-nitrogen fertilizer every couple of weeks while in full leaf.
Gloxinias produce a large number of big, velvety blossoms; these last for about two months and then fade. This plant is a cousin to the African Violet. The care for the gloxinia is not very difficult. They do best in bright, indirect light, in a temperature of about 60-75 F. You'll want to keep the soil moist when watering, but not wet. However, don't let the plant dry out or else it will go dormant. Additionally, avoid getting the leaves wet, or else they will develop brown spots. To ensure you don't wet the leaves, try applying the water directly to the soil, underneath the leaves.
For fertilizer, feed every two weeks with a high-phosphorus liquid plant food.
Once your plant flowers, reduce water, stop feeding, and allow tubers to rest 2-4 months in completely dry soil. When new growth shows, repot and resume watering and fertilizing. The gloxinia should flower again in 3 months.
Diseases: Crowns rot and stem rot caused by over watering.
Insects: If the plant gets spider mites, malathion to get rid of them.
Kalanchoes bloom almost all year round here with very little care. Flowering Kalanchoes are available in red, pink, yellow, or white. Because they bloom in response to the length of daylight, they can be encouraged to bloom even during the darkest days of winter. Like many succulents, these are not difficult plants to grow, providing you are careful with the water, especially in the winter. They are a great houseplant for every home owner!
Kalanchoe grows best in bright, sunny locations, especially during the summer growing season. During the winter, consider a south-facing window.
Water moderately throughout the summer and reduce watering in the winter. Let the soil surface dry out between waterings, and in the winter, the plant can almost dry out. They actually thrive in the low humidity of winter households. Watch the fleshy leaves for signs of water distress. When fertilizing, feed every two weeks in the summer with a liquid fertilizer, or opt for slow-release pellets.
Calceolaria’s nickname — pocketbook plant — is well chosen. The flowers on this annual plant have pouches at the bottom which resemble pocketbooks, purses or even slippers. It comes from Central and South America in the cooler plains areas where water and bright sunlight aren’t so abundant. Pocketbook plant care works best when you try to imitate its native home.
Keep the plant near a bright window, but out of direct sunlight. If your only window is on a bright southern exposure, hang a sheer curtain between the plant and outdoors to filter the brightest rays. Northern windows and tables away from the light source are more hospitable for these plants.
These plants don’t do well with too much moisture on their roots. Give the plants a thorough watering, then let the pots drain in the sink for about 10 minutes. Allow the soil to dry out until the surface is dry before watering again.
Feed once a month until flower buds for) with liquid fertilizer diluted to 1/4 the strength. DO NOT feed plants after they are in bloom
The Jerusalem cherry houseplant bears white flowers looking much like those of tomatoes or peppers. The flowers precede long lasting ovoid fruits of red, yellow and orange. The brightly colored fruit are indeed the reason for Jerusalem cherry’s popularity and is sold as a houseplant during the dreary winter months when a “pop” of color is just what one needs.
Note: Despite their cheery colors, the fruit of the Jerusalem cherry houseplant is toxic and should be kept out of the reach of curious children and pets. Any part of the plant that is ingested can cause poisoning and even death.
Jerusalem cherries should be planted in a rich well draining soil. Water Jerusalem cherry plants as needed and fertilize regularly. Feed your plant a liquid fertilizer (5-10-5) every two weeks as the plant is growing.
As a houseplant, situate Jerusalem cherry plants in full sun, if possible, although they will tolerate moderate light. These plants are known to drop their foliage and flowers if they get too warm (above 72 F.), so watch those temps and mist the foliage often.
Fertilize monthly with Peters or Miracle-Gro. After fruit and leaves shed, repot or plant outside. Fertilize monthly and pinch fast growing stem tips to encourage branching. Will flower in summer.
NORFOLK ISLAND PINE
You may recognize the Norfolk Island Pine as the small tree offered in many stores and garden centers around Christmastime, often covered in a layer of glitter. Be careful: this conifer is adapted to warm-weather, and will perish in cold climates.
Growing a Norfolk Island pine as a houseplant starts with realizing a few important things about Norfolk pines. While they may share the name and even resemble a pine tree, they are not true pines at all, nor are they as hardy as the standard pine tree that people are accustomed to. In terms of proper Norfolk pine tree care, they are more like a gardenia or orchid than a pine tree.
First thing to keep in mind with the care of Norfolk pines is that they are not cold hardy. They are a tropical plant and cannot tolerate temperatures below 35 F. (1 C.). For many parts of the country, the Norfolk Island pine tree cannot be planted outside year round. It also needs to be kept away from cold drafts.
This plant needs to get enough light; the Norfolk pine tree prefers several hours of direct, bright light, such as the type of light that can be found in a south-facing window. They will also tolerate full, indirect bright light as well.
Water your Norfolk Island pine when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. Fertilize your Norfolk pine in the spring and summer with a water soluble balanced fertilizer, but you do not need to fertilize in the fall or winter.
The Ornamental Pepper plant a gorgeous plant with a tropical look to it. These plants are bred to have the peppers grow above the foliage, with the peppers growing upright. They grow best in warm areas, and most stand under 1.5 feet tall.
Ornamental pepper plants need a location with full sun. The plants will get leggy and not produce as many plants if they receive fewer than eight hours of sun each day. They do best in rich soil that drains well. Work in a layer of compost before planting your ornamental peppers. For water, you'll want to water this plant often enough to keep their soil evenly moist. Applying water slowly allows the soil to absorb the moisture without letting it run off. It is a good idea to let their soil dry out slightly before watering again.
This plant will develop a bushy growth habit if you pinch off the top 1 inch of their stems when they are about 6 inches tall and again when the side stems are about 6 inches long. Non-pinched plants may need staking when they produce fruit. You do not need to fertilize it once the fruit is set. It is considered an annual, so after the fruit falls and the foliage falls, it can be discarded.