Tomlinson: variety of flowers ready to bloom over winter

Summer and fall flowers are finished for this year, but this does not mean that flowers should not be part of the environment. There are a number of plants that flower inside during the winter months. Depending on the variety they may flower for a few weeks or continuously. The key to get the plants to bloom is to provide the correct temperature and amount of light for that type of plant. With this information, it is easy to place the plant in the correct spot in which it will bloom.

African violets are an old standby. Given the correct environment they will bloom continuously. An east window that receives good morning sun is ideal. South facing windows work well in the winter, but plants need to be set back during the months when the sun is hotter.

The American African Violet Society recommends a soilless mix consisting of: three parts peat moss, two parts vermiculite, one part perlite, 1⁄4 part ground charcoal. The mix holds moisture but allows excess moisture to flow out the bottom of the pot. Typically, those that are showing their plants add the following nutrients to every gallon and half of soil: two tablespoons dolomite lime, one tablespoon bonemeal, one tablespoon phosphate fertilizer.

The additives give the plants a few extra nutrients but they still need to be fertilized on a regular basis with either a balanced fertilizer or one that is higher in phosphate. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the container.

Water African violets when the top soil is dry to the touch. Watering from above is preferable giving it enough water for excess moisture to flow into a saucer. Always remove excess water or the soil will become waterlogged.

Do not be in a rush to repot African violets as they bloom more in a smaller pot.

Oxalis are one off the easiest flowering plants to grow. The flowers are small but make up for it in numbers. As the plant has shamrock leaves it is usually available around St. Patrick’s Day or in the spring as bulbs or a filler for container gardens. Foliage is either a shade of green or red. Flowers come in white, light pink and yellow.

The plant does well inside and can bloom indefinitely. Given the correct environment the bulbs will multiply and once they become crowded they will need to be split or placed in a larger container.

Plant in a potting soil that allows the water to flow through the mixture while retaining some moisture. Always remove excess moisture as the bulbs will rot is waterlogged soil. If the foliage is allowed to wilt, the plants may become dormant.

Place the pot in bright light but out of direct sunlight. The plants can be kept in a south or north window during the winter but must be moved out of direct sunlight during the summer months.

Like all blooming plants, use a fertilizer that is high is phosphorous, the middle number in the formula.

Crown of Thorns is aptly named as its stems are lined with sharp barbs. Colorful bracts appear at the top of the stems giving the plant its name.

Place this plant in a window that gets direct sunlight for at least three hours a day. Water when the soil is very dry. Fertilize when the plant is actively growing.

If the climate is not favorable, the plant will drop its leaves. Rectify the problem, and the leaves will grow back.

Crown of Thorns is classified as an Euphorbia, the same as a Poinsettia. The sap from both plants can irritate the skin. It should never be eaten.

Take time out of the rush of Christmas shopping to search out flowering plants. They are cheerful reminder of what was and what is to come in the home and office.

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

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