Flowering plants for spring displays

With a little planning, it is possible to have plants flowering in the home throughout the year. Due to modern plant growing techniques, it is often possible to buy pot plants in bloom outside their normal season (Chrysanthemums, African Violets, and some Azaleas, for instance). But the ordinary home gardener cannot achieve these results and must observe the natural seasons of the plants. There are a large number of flowering plants to add colour to the home but, unfortunately, many have a short life under artificial growing conditions. Anthuriums, Chrysanthemums, Azaleas, Impatiens (Busy Lizzie), Pelargoniums and Aphelandra, for example, can be kept for two years or more, if they get the attention they like. But others should be nurtured only for their colour and temporary beauty, to add to a collection of foliage plants or to brighten things up when you feel something new and living could make a difference. As a guide to some of the many plants available, the following have been divided into their flowering seasons of spring, summer and autumn/winter.

Spring Flowering Plants

Anthurium (Flamingo Plant). Evergreen tropical plant, about 3 feet high, which requires a warm, moist, shady atmosphere and a minimum temperature of 60°F (15.5 °C) to grow well. It is dramatic, with its large, glossy variegated or green leaves and colourful leaflike flower with a pimply tail sticking out of the middle. There are various forms – A. andreanum (scarlet and white), A. scherzerianum (scarlet), A. ornatum (white and purple) and others produced by specialist growers. Anthuriums can be kept for foliage effects alone.

Primula. There are a great number of these which can be obtained during most of the year, but the late winter and early spring varieties remain in bloom for several weeks and are the most popular. Common species include P. obconica, with large primroselike flowers and hairy leaves which can cause a skin rash on some people; P. malacoides, with smaller blooms; P. kewensis, with tubular flowers, and P. sinensis with largish blooms. Primulas produce their clusters of blooms in various shades of yellow, blue, red, pink or white on longish stems above the primroselike leaves. Water and feed freely when in flower and remove dead heads; keep in a light, draught-free position in a temperature of 55°-60°F (about 15°C). Primulas are bushy plants, up to 2 feet high. Hydrangea. The common forms are usually species of H. macrophylla hor-tensis, which produce large globular flower heads in shades of pink, red or blue in spring and early summer. Pot-grown plants usually reach about 2-3 feet, but if planted in tubs and given the summer outdoors, heights of up to 8 feet can be reached. Staking is generally necessary, but these can be hidden by the large veined leaves. Keep Hydrangeas in a light, airy place in a cool room, water and feed during the flowering period – with rain water if possible as Hydrangeas dislike lime. Prune old stems after flowering to encourage young growth to ripen for next year.

Begonia. Of the many types of Begonias those most usually grown for spring and early summer flowers are the fibrous-rooted varieties. Single flowers in shades of red, pink and white are produced in small clusters and look particularly effective against the shiny, small, dark green leaves. Remove dead heads, water well when in flower and keep at 55 F (13 C) in a light room.

These plants stay healthier if their pots are put in an outer container of moist peat. Useful spring flower varieties are B.acutifolia (white), 3. foliosa (white and rose), B.hydrocotylifolia (pink) and most commonly B. semperflorens (large pink flowers with reddish leaves). Impatiens (Busy Lizzie). This plant produces red, pink or white flowers from spring through autumn and is rarely without some colour in its blooms or leaves throughout the year. It has fleshy, brittle stems and smallish leaves and can grow to a large bushy size. However, it is most effective if the stems are pinched back to keep the plant compact and full of flowers. Easy to grow under most conditions, Busy Lizzie does like plenty of sun. It can easily be rooted from stem cuttings in water.

Calceolaria (Slipper Flower). Clusters of ‘pouched’ flowers, usually yellow, white, red or orange with brown or purple spots, are carried just above the veined and slightly furry leaves in spring and early summer. The plants grow 9-12 inches tall, require plenty of water and a light airy position. Discard after flowering, and select plant for colour and form when buying. Rosa. Large Roses are not suitable for pot-growing in the home, but the miniature varieties are a charming feature in spring and summer, grown singly or grouped together. They grow only 6-12 inches tall and produce single or double flowers profusely if well-watered in a warm sunny position. Dead heads should be removed to encourage fresh blooms. There are many varieties to choose from in a range of white, pink, yellow, orange, red and lilac. After flowering, either discard or plant outdoors in the garden for the future. Chrysanthemum frutescens (Paris Daisy or Marguerite). An unusual plant which grows to be a 2^-foot-high shrub. It produces attractive white or yellow daisylike flowers almost continually from later winter until late summer. Water moderately, but feed well while in flower and keep the temperature about 55°F (13°C). In autumn cut out the older stems which have flowered to allow new growth. When the plant becomes straggly and has few flowers, discard it or try to raise new ones from basal stem cuttings.

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