Gardening: Roses aren’t the only option for Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is one of the biggest days in the floral industry. Flowers are lovely to receive. They last one or two weeks depending on the variety, freshness and the care they receive. Flowering plants are an alternative that can bloom for a longer period of time but like cut flowers it depends on the variety, health of the plant and its aftercare. Expect to find more varieties of flowering plants in stores at this time of year.

Orchids are known for the beauty and resilience of their flowers. The easiest to grow inside, and the ones commonly found in stores are the Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid. They have low broad leaves and shoots with flowers that carry a number of blooms. The beauty of these plants are they require a low level of light and often do best when they are ignored.

When purchasing a Phalaenopsis look for the one with the most flower spikes. Ideally the spikes will have blooms at the bottom and buds at the top. The leaves should be a medium green in colour and firm, not floppy. Given the correct amount of water, an average house temperature and humidity the flower stem can last for a few months.

According to the Canadian Orchid Congress, Phalaenopsis require a higher humidity than what is usually in a home. Misting the plant at the time of watering and placing the plant pot on a tray of rocks which contain water both increase the humidity near the plant

The COC suggests fertilizing every time the plant is watered with a basic 20-20-20 fertilizer at a reduced rate; a quarter to an eighth of what the package recommends. Orchid mix contains little if any soil and needs a supply of nutrients to thrive.

Moth Orchids are planted in a growing medium designed to keep the roots moist but not wet. Water the plant with room temperature water then drain all excess moisture. Roots left standing in water rot causing flowers and leaves to wilt and die.

Moth Orchids come in a large variety of colours and sizes with the cost often less than a bouquet of cut flowers.

A primrose or a basket of them, is another flower that will bloom for a few weeks. Once the flowers fade it can be tossed out or kept until the ground thaws and it can be planted in the garden. The variety of primroses that are sold as houseplants do best in cooler temperatures and like the Moth Orchids prefer high humidity.

Check the moisture level of the soil regularly as the plant will quickly wilt if the soil is too dry and the roots rot when in soil that is soggy.

Miniature roses can be grown inside for most of the year and set outside during the summer months. The plants are usually available in a number of varieties and colours.

Place miniature roses in an area that will receive at least three hours of direct sunlight a day. Check the soil frequently and water when the top inch (2.5 cm) of soil is dry to the touch. Expect the plant to need more watering when it is coming into bloom and blooming. If possible, do not wet the foliage when watering the plant as they are susceptible to Black Spot.

Use shears to remove spent flowers as it improves the look of the plants and encourages it to bloom for a longer period of time. A sharp cut at a 45-degree angle will allow the plant to callus over quickly blocking diseases from entering the through the wound.

Miniature roses can be kept inside year round or placed outside for the summer. Transition the plants slowly to avoid shocking the plant. When given enough moisture, they will thrive in full sun.

Before purchasing a miniature rose, check the plants for webbing and insects. Spider mites are often found on miniature roses.

Planning on purchasing flowers for Valentines? Why not look to see what flowering plants are available.

Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at your_garden@hotmail.com

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