Gardening: Flowering plants brighten up the house

Walk into any store that sells plants at this time of year and it will be contain at least one section of bright colorful flowering plants which are a huge contrast to the bleak winter landscape.

One of the most inviting is usually in the form of a container of blooming spring bulbs. Growers plant bulbs in the fall, store them in a cool place and pot them up for sale as they begin to grow. When purchasing a pan of spring bulbs, look for ones that have healthy buds but are not yet in flower allowing the buds to open up in their new surroundings.

Forced bulbs are easy to care for, water when the soil is dry and place out of direct sunlight. The cooler the temperature, the longer the flower lasts.

Once the blooms fade the bulbs are usually discarded but people have watered and fertilized Daffodils and planted them out in the garden in the spring to have them bloom the next year.

Cyclamen are another cool weather plant that will flower for a long period of time. In warmer climates they are planted out in the fall and bloom outside until the weather warms and the plant goes dormant. In Central Alberta, the plants go on sale late fall until early spring.

They grow best when placed in a bright cool east or north window. Cyclamen prefer temperatures around 16˚ C (61˚ F). When they are too warm for an extended period of time the flower stems become elongated and the leaves turn yellow. Soon after, the plant will begin to become dormant allowing the tuber to rest.

Once all the leaves have died back, place the tuber in a cool dry area until the fall and begin the cycle again.

Cyclamen available for purchase come in shades of pinks, and white with patterned leaves.

Oxalis or Shamrocks make it into the stores in time for St. Patrick ’s Day. Ledged has it that St. Patrick used a shamrock to explain Christianity to his congregation. There are many different varieties of Shamrocks with leaves either green or red and flowers in yellow, white of pink but the shamrock pant most often found at this time of year have green leaves with small white flowers, O. regnelli. The plant comes from small bulbs and if given a bright location it will bloom all year. As with all bulbs, be careful not to overwater.

Place an African Violet and east or north window, plant it in porous soil, with an adequate amount of fertilizer and it should bloom all year.

Typically, African Violets are usually potted into a 4 inch (10 cm) pot.

Water African Violets when the soil is slightly moist, usually once a week. These plants thrive in any soil as long as it does not hold excess moisture and are more likely to die of being over watered as opposed to under watered.

As water will stain the leaves of African Violets many place water in the tray of the plant pot and let the soil absorb the moisture. The other method is to water from the top but avoid getting the leaves wet. Regardless of the watering method used, do not let the pot sit in water for an extended period of time.

To keep the plant attractive and blooming, remove all dead flowers and yellowing leaves as they appear. For a symmetrical plant, turn the plant a quarter of a turn weekly.

Purchasing anyone of these flowering plants will brighten up the house and make it feel like spring is just around the corner.

Linda Tomlinson is a local horticulturalist that can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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