Flowering House Plants for the Home and Office
Flowering plants put the sparkle into indoor plant displays. This group of indoor plants can provide flowers of every colour and form, from the delicate petals of campanula, to the attention grabbing, primary-coloured blooms of Hippeastrum.
Plants such as jasmine,and gardenia also bring wonderful spring scents into the home, adding an extra dimension to the enjoyment of your indoor plants.
There is also great variety in the way flowering indoor plants perform. Some are steady plodders and will flower well almost all year round with little attention. Others have one flash of brilliant flowers a year. This group can be frustrating, as they are often tricky to coax back into flower after their first year, but the tips here will ensure they flower to their full potential.
A further group, including poinsettias, cyclamen and bulbs, is often sold to provide a burst of colour and then to be thrown away. Most gardeners are reluctant to disgard any plant so easily.
Among the most useful are the winter flowerers. Jasmine and cyclamen provide a welcome burst of flower at a time when evenis lacking colour. Forced such as narcissus and -of-the-valley provide a little touch of spring in the darkest days of winter.
Many are impressive enough to stand alone on a windowsill or table top, but the more delicate plants may look best grouped with other plants. Foliage plants will provide a foil for the flowers and show them off to a greater advantage than they would if alone. Experiment with placing flowers next to differentand see which leaves bring out the best in the flowers.
Aechmia – Urn plant or Coral berry
In their, most aechmias are epiphytic, meaning that they grow in small cracks in trees, far from the ground. Because of this, they have small root systems and hate being over-watered, or put into large pots of compost that remain damp long after watering. In both situations the roots are likely to rot away.
Keep them in a relatively small pot for several years before you even consider repotting.
When watering bromeliads, always fill the vase in the centre of the plant. This will help prevent . In winter, reduce watering but do not let the vase completely dry out. Keep the vase filled to just below half way. Occasionally, tip out the remaining water in the vase and refill with fresh.
Because of their epiphytic nature, aechmias can be displayed on a piece of dead branch. Securely set the branch into a pot and then wrap the roots in damp moss. Using wire, strap the root bundle tightly around the branch. Water by filling up the vase, and mist the root bundle regularly.
After the plant has flowered, the flowering rosette naturally dies off. However, at this time the plant usually produces offsets. These should be teased from the main plant and potted up.
To bring the plant into flower it is important to raise the temperature and humidity. Move it to the warmest, brightest part of the house and mist regularly. Once flowers have formed, it can go back to an average temperature.
Pineapple or Ananas
Ananas, or pineapple, is one of the best known bromeliads. The house plant more than lives up to the exotic image of the fruit. Bold, strongly variegated foliage yields a rising spike of flowers that eventually forms a miniature pineapple. Few plants have such broad appeal; children are fascinated by the emergence of the spiky fruit, but the plant retains enough sophistication to appeal equally to design-conscious adults.
In warm conditions with high humidity, the flower spikes will be produced in late spring to early summer. The fruits will then take up to seven months to mature. They are edible but not particularly tasty, so are best appreciated for their ornamental qualities. The fruiting spikes are solid and long-lasting, so plants bought in flower will provide a display over many months.
If you cannot provide the high temperature and humidity levels needed to flower and fruit the plant, satisfy yourself with the leaves, which are rather impressive in their own right. In Ananas comosus ‘Variegatus’, the variegated foliage is flushed with a deep pink towards the base of the plant.
As with all bromeliads, once a plant has flowered it will slowly die. This is not as big a problem as it sounds, as small offsets will be produced beside the main plant. As these grow to a reasonable size and form their own roots, gently tease them away from the main plant and pot up in fresh compost. These new plants will eventually flower and fruit after about two years.
Water your Ananas plant by filling up the vase in the centre of the plant. Try to ensure that this never dries out. In its natural habitat, Ananas grows in the ground, and so it is not suitable for attaching to bromeliad trees as much as many other bromeliads.
Of all the bromeliads, Bilbergia is the easiest to grow and to bring into flower. It is Queen’s tears unusual as it is mainly grown for its flowers. Although the narrow, greyish leaves are fairly attractive, they do not hold as much interest as the foliage of the other bromeliads.
Bilbergia has an elegance that is sometimes missing from the other bromeliads, as both flower spikes and leaves arch and droop gracefully, rather than being held stoutly and firmly upright. The flowers emerge from bright pink bracts, and dangle below the main flower stalk. Although these true flowers fade relatively quickly, the pink bracts remain for longer.
Bilbergia will withstand the lowest temperatures of all the bromeliads, and can even take a slight frost, although this is not recommended. As long as it gets a good amount of light and regular feeds, flowers should be forthcoming in late spring and will last until late summer.
High humidity is not so important as with some bromeliads, but it still makes sense to ensure that the funnel or vase in the centre of the plant remains wet at all times. You can also water directly into the compost. Bilbergia will really suffer if deprived of food. Leaves will start to turn yellow and no flowers will be produced. Feed once a month after the flower has started to die down and continue slow feeding in autumn.
As with all of the bromeliads, the main plant will die down once it has flowered. Bilbergia is extremely prolific in producing the small offsets around its base, which will need to be propagated to keep a stock of these plants. When these offsets are large enough and have formed roots, peel them gently away from the plant and pot them up in fresh compost. These small plants will need a little extra care until they are established.
There are a great number of begonias that make good houseplants. Begonias come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some have big, blousy, brightly coloured blooms while others have more delicate, subtle flowers. They are easy to care for, there is one for every taste and they should certainly not be overlooked when choosing indoor plants.
Foliage begonias belong to another large group. The two groups serve a slightly different purpose in the house. Foliage begonias hold year-round interest, whereas the flowering begonias, for the most part, provide a splash of colour for one season each year. Although they all have quite nice leaves, flowering begonias do not provide much interest during their non-flowering season, especially as the leaves of many species die down for winter. Use them as colourful fillers or to brighten up a room when in flower and then, if you have the space, stow them in a bright spot out of the way while the leaves die back, or until next flowering time.
There are several groups of begonias, and each has its own maintenance needs. The rhizomatous begonias need starting off from rhizomes each spring. Plant individually into small pots of compost in early spring. Keep them warm and water carefully until a few shoots show. Increase watering as the plant grows and then water more freely while it is flowering. The fleshy stems of begonias are susceptible to rots, so it is important not to over-water at any time. After flowering, you will need to reduce watering until the foliage dies down. Cut the dead foliage away and treat the rhizomes.
Pendulous begonias are particularly useful for hanging baskets. They have a lovely, lax habit and drooping stems tipped with flowers throughout summer. These will die back to rhizomes in winter.
Winter-flowering begonias, such as Begonia ‘Gloire de Lorraine’, will not die back. Throughout winter, put them in the brightest spot in the house to encourage flowering. Water carefully throughout summer.
The delicate, tumbling flowers of Campanula isophylla (Italian bellflower), a native of Northern Italy, make it one of the most popular flowering plants.
It is best grown in a hanging basket or in a container on the edge of a shelf, so that its cascade of flowering stems can be shown off to their full potential.
One of the reasons Campanula isophylla is so popular is because it is so easy to grow. Given little more care than regular watering and an occasional trim it will produce masses of pretty flowers from early summer through to early autumn. It does need warm summer temperatures, though, or its display can be disappointing. In warm summers it will keep on flowering well into late autumn, but cool summers can lead to a late start and an early end to the flowering season.
To encourage repeat flowering, it is important to deadhead flowers as they fade. In autumn, once the plant has stopped flowering, completely remove all flowering stems to prevent the plant from setting seed, as this will use up energy and weaken the plant. The following year’s flowers will be produced on new growth, so leaving old growth on the plant can lead to flowers only appearing at the tips of bare, leggy stems.
Keep it in relatively low temperatures in winter and reduce watering. A cool, but frost-freewould be ideal. If given warmth at this time, the plant could start into growth, and this would weaken it for the following season. Be extremely careful not to allow it to get frosted, however, as this is likely to kill the plant.
Campanula isophylla ‘Alba’ is equally floriferous and has pure white flowers.