Flowering House Plants

Flowering House Plants

Various flowering house plants are commonly grown for sale by nurseries and shops. They are very delightful to have in the house, although they do not always adjust immediately to their new surroundings. A close look at their particular requirements will usually explain the reason why.

Aechmea rhodocyanea is probably the most popular of the flowering house plants in the bromeliad family and is best purchased when in bud. The broad, recurving leaves, spreading 2 feet or more across, form a pale silvery-grey rosette. The upright flower spike is covered with rose pink bracts. Small flowers of pink and blue open in the axils of the bracts and are produced over a long period, the inflorescence remains colourful for about four months. A. rhodocyanea requires an even temperature, just above 70 C, and light shade. Once the flower is over, the main plant will gradually die, but it will have formed two or three off-shoots round its base, the vases of which must be kept filled Aechmea fasciata with water. In late spring they may be removed and potted up in as small a pot as possible.

Anthurium has some 500 species belonging to the genus but only one seems suitable for house conditions. Known as Anthurium scherzerianum it was introduced from Costa Rica in 1880 and is a member of the Arum family. It has attractive long, leathery, dark green leaves, pointed at the tip, rounded at the base and borne on wiry stems about 6 inches high. The striking flowers consist of a brilliant scarlet open ovale spathe, with an orange-coloured spadix rising above, like a pigs curly tail, on a long stalk. Many other coloured forms have since been developed into stunning flowering house plants. It needs ample light, even temperatures with winter minimum of a steady 15°C and freedom from draught. It also requires a moist atmosphere and will enjoy having its pot put into a second outer pot containing moist peat or moss.

Astilbe japonica Astilbe japonica gives large panicles of white blooms on slender stems growing out of a bed of ferr1 like foliage. They should be brought into a cool room ir1 winter and moved into a warmer room, about 13°C, some three weeks later placing them in a sunny position and increasing watering. After flowering, they may be planted outdoors. Propagation is by division the following spring.

Billbergia nutans is another popular bromeliad, which will produce its flowers in a warm room while many others of the family will not. The rosette reaches 1 foot and the dark green leaves are narrow and spiny. The flowers are tubular and various colours, but the plant must be pot-bound to flower.

Baugainvillea gives a most exotic effect indoors and B. glabra, the easiest one to grow, will flower when only a foot high. It will continue to grow to reach 6 or even 10 feet in height. The inflorescence consists of comparatively insignificant tubular flowers surrounded by showy, rose-coloured bracts throughout the summer. They will tolerate quite low temperatures during their dormant period and during spring and summer they should be kept in a warm room, 15°C, and given as much light as possible. They rarely exceed 18 inches in height the first year and can be pruned back each spring. If they have to live in the house all the time, the growth of the plants and their flowering period will be delayed.

campanula_isophylla Campauula is a large genus that contains some 300 species yet only two or three can adapt themselves to growing in the house. One of these is C. isophylla, a dainty prostrate growing, small leaved perennial. The trailing stems are covered with salver shaped lilac-blue flowers in midsummer. There is a white flowering form, C. alba and another, C. mazi, which is also white, but with variegated woolly leaves. This latter is now rather rare but C. isophylla is quite easily purchased in a pot. They are herbaceous plants and must be kept dry and frost free during the dormant winter period. In early spring they can be watered and brought into a warmer position to start them into fresh growth. They should be grown under light, airy conditions, watered and fed freely in growth.

Columnea are epiphytic and are members of the same family as the saintpaulias. They are native to tropical America and make attractive house plants, especially if they can be accommodated in hanging baskets where their trailing stems can drape and show off the brilliantly coloured flowers. Columneas should be kept in a light position and on the dry side when not in flower. They like a minimum temperature of 15°C in winter and a daily spray of tepid water. They flower in autumn and winter and if they are still given this tepid spray after the flowers have faded, they should appear again a month or so later. After four flowerings it is wise to let the plant make some growth which can be used as cuttings in summer.

Erica nivalis and Erica gracilis are winter flowering Cape heaths from South Africa. E. gracilis makes a bushy plant of 12 to 18 inches, with tiny leaves in fours along its erect stems, and terminal flower clusters of egg-shaped deep pink bells on small side shoots. E. nivalis bears white flowers, but the most popular species is E. hyemalis, which has upright stems carrying tapering racemes of long, tubular, white, rose-tinted, drooping flowers. All heaths welcome light airy conditions but these plants are difficult to keep alive, especially when first purchased. They are usually sold in small pots and, if they are allowed to become very dry, they will probably not recover. There are two ways to deal with this. The first method is to pot the heather into a larger pot the moment it is received. The newly potted heath should then be well watered and not allowed to get dry, but it is also necessary to guard against excessive wetness, until roots have penetrated the new soil. The other method is to place the pot in a container keeping ½ inch of water permanently in this second container, while regularly watering the plant from the top. The residue of water in the outer container will prevent any fatal drying out and the plant can be potted-on after it has flowered. This latter is a fairly safe treatment in centrally heated rooms, but in rooms where the temperature drops at night, there is a risk of root-rot. Once flowering has finished the plants should be kept in fairly cool conditions and a well lit position.

Gloxinia is a member of the same family as Columnea, but is native to Brazil. They are notable for their large flowers, which are similar in shape to those of a foxglove but velvety textured, and the rather rough textured, heart-shaped, pointed, toothed leaves. These popular house plants are really hybrids from Sinningia speciosa. Exceptional strains of these decorative flowering plants have been raised, with flowers borne more erectly and flaring wider at the mouth and with a colour range from pure white to deep crimson. Specialist growers lists should be consulted for named forms. Plants flower throughout the summer and appreciate a moist atmosphere without direct sunlight. After flowering water should be withheld and the plants will gradually die down. The tubers will over winter at a temperature of about 10 deg C. They should be re-potted in spring and given a temperature of 18 deg C. Once rooted, a moderate amount of feeding may be given.

Follow these basic guidelines and you will have flowering house plants that are healthy and vigorous and should furnish your house with colour all year round.

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