Archive for Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winter blooms brighten households

November 29, 2007

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Scott Wisdom, Sunrise Garden Center sales associate, recommends these winter blooms:

¢ Orchids

¢ Rex Begonia

¢ Christmas cactus

Sharon Reynolds, owner of Owens Flower Shop, recommends these options:

¢ Kalanchoe

¢ "Snowflake" chrysanthemums

Deep into the recesses of November, there's a lull in the gardening scene.

All the flora outside is spent, the bulbs you're trying to force for the arrival of the upcoming holiday season are still in their foliage stage, and things might be looking a little drab. But never fear - some saviors of the plant world are in full, gloriously colorful bloom at a nursery, flower shop or even a grocery store near you.

Long-lasting survivalists are not dissuaded by Old Man Winter, because indoor flowering plants like cyclamen, poinsettias, orchids, bromeliads, anthuriums, African violets, Christmas cactus and more are just now coming into their own. With a dazzling display of variously shaped flowers, intoxicating scents and bright colors, these indoor beauties will tickle your fancy and rid your home of the November doldrums well into the new year.

Poinsettias

"I suppose it's because I'm a florist, but red poinsettias and red roses have no interest to me," says Sharon Reynolds, owner of Owens Flower Shop. "But I really like the new poinsettias like marble, Monet, cortez burgundy and Sonoma white glitter. They tend to be decorator colors and blend well with people's homes."

While Reynolds says she has tired of the traditional red, the hue remains the most popular color by far in poinsettia sales, and the poinsettia itself is the top-selling potted plant in the U.S.

There are many reasons the poinsettia has such a following. One outstanding attribute it boasts is its staying power - often months can pass and a poinsettia can still look as great as the day you purchased it. Be very wary, however, of having your poinsettia fully wrapped when you buy it from a store - the tiniest exposure to cold temperatures will damage the bracts and leaves, and even walking a short distance like from the store to your car can cause irreparable damage. The showy parts that most people consider their flowers are actually bracts (modified leaves). You can tell if a poinsettia is fresh if it has little or no yellow pollen showing on the flower. Plants with exposed pollen will shed their colorful bracts soon.

There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias to choose from, and once you've found that perfect specimen and have it in your home, you might want to place it in indirect light and those leaves and bracts out-of-reach of any window panes. Try also to steer clear of heating vents or the harsh blaze of a roaring fire.

Bromeliads

"Bromeliads are not a normal-looking plant; they have a gorgeous structural quality that people seem to be mesmerized by," says Scott Wisdom, Sunrise Garden Center sales associate. "The blooms also last a really long time, and they don't require tons of sun. All in all, bromeliads are one of the easiest-blooming houseplants."

Bromeliads are quite tolerant to low moisture levels for prolonged periods of time. However, they do like good air circulation. Bromeliads are a part of the pineapple family - they sport a long-lasting, colorful inflorescenses, and some also don brilliantly variegated or colored leaves. They prefer 70-75 degrees in the day and 60-65 degrees at night.

Anthuriums

I have a set of grandparents who are both in their 90s, and while my family loves them wholeheartedly, we do tend to poke a little fun at the temperature of their home. If you are going to survive a holiday dinner at my grandparents' house, you'd better show up wearing layers. It is a broiling temperature somewhere between 90 and inferno, so I'm thinking that an anthurium plant might just be the perfect gift for them.

Yes, anthuriums like it on the warmer side. This durable indoor plant will thrive if you like to keep the thermostat up a few degrees. They will burst forth with pink, white, orange, red, chartreuse and purple blooms that look like upside-down, plastic hearts. It is understandable to confuse an anthurium with something fake that you might encounter in a craft store aisle. But these beauties are all real. They do not like to dry out completely, but they do not appreciate soggy feet either. An anthurium loves as much indirect sunlight as possible.

Cyclamen

I think these plants are so unique, delicate and just pretty. They look like vibrant butterflies fluttering above a level of beautiful green leaves on long spindly stalks. But this tuberous perennial can be tricky - they like bright light but not direct light, and the home needs to be more on the cool side, 55-69 degrees. They like to be watered thoroughly but allowed to dry out some before the next watering.

Reynolds has found watering issues with cyclamen as well. "Cyclamen can be a little touchy," she says. "They do not like water on the crown but rather to be watered on the outer edge of the pot - if you do that they should be fine."

The cyclamen come in shades of magenta, red, salmon, lavender and white. They come in minis and large-flowering varieties, semi-doubles, singles and fringed blooms. Their leaves can be quite diverse, from silvery to green to a mix, and because of such extensive breeding, cyclamens now can often thrive and bloom continuously for years. They even make a great, petite cut flower to arrange in a vase. If you do that, the plant will be bare for only a brief period before it sprouts new buds that will soon bloom.

African violets

I think of African violets as sort of a drug - they seem addictive. Every person I have ever met who is interested in this little blooming beauty has propagated plant after plant all over their homes from clippings of the mother. They are wonderful for those dark, winter months and are easy to grow.

One reason they are such an ideal houseplant is because they like the same temperatures that humans do, around 65 degrees at night and 72 degrees in the day. They thrive in light but do not require direct sunlight, and the foolproof way to water them is by putting the liquid in the saucer with some diluted fertilizer, and they'll lap it right up.

<em>Jennifer Oldridge, a Kansas University graduate, is an avid gardener who previously operated a landscaping business.</em>

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