Gardening Articles: Health :: Houseplants

Those Bloomin' Holiday Gifts (page 3 of 3)

by Charlie Nardozzi

Care Guide for Flowering Houseplants

Cyclamen (C. persicum)

Temperatures: 60 to 65 degrees F. day, 45 to 50 degrees F. night
Rebloom rating: Moderate

Winter care: Place in an east-facing window with bright, indirect light. Cyclamen crowns and foliage are susceptible to fungal rot if too wet, so water only from the bottom. For best flowering, keep humidity high and temperatures cool (60 degrees F.).

Spring care: After flowers fade, gradually withhold water until foliage withers. Store pots in a cool, dry location or remove corms from soil, and store at 40 to 50 degrees F. in a perforated plastic bag filled with dry peat moss.

Summer care: In July, repot the corms in soilless potting mix, leaving half of each corm above the soil surface. Place the pot outdoors in a shaded location; when new growth begins, fertilize the cyclamen with all-purpose houseplant food, and keep the soil evenly moist.

Fall care: Bring the pot indoors before first frost. To induce flowering by Christmas, place in an east-facing window with 55 degrees F. temperatures.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Temperatures: 65 to 75 degrees F. day, 60 to 65 degrees F. night
Rebloom rating: Difficult

Winter care: Place the plant in an area with a half-day of direct sun, and water only when the soil is dry.

Spring care: As side shoots develop, prune back old branches to where new growth starts, and repot with fresh soilless potting mix. Begin fertilizing with all-purpose houseplant food.

Summer care: After last frost, place plant outdoors where it receives morning sun. Sink pot into ground. Keep well watered, and prune off growing tips twice a month to create bushier plants. Continue fertilizing.

Fall care: Bring plant indoors in September before first frost. To induce flowering, give the plant direct sun or artificial light each day, and 14 hours of uninterrupted dark each night, beginning in early October. Keep the soil moist, and stop fertilizing. Color should form on bracts in six to eight weeks.

Gardenia (G. jasminoides, also called G. augusta)

Temperatures: 65 to 70 degrees F. day, 60 to 65 degrees F. night
Rebloom rating: Moderate

Winter care: To induce flowering and stop bud drop, keep humidity high and night temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees F. Gardenias need 4 to 6 hours of direct light daily to flower. Water only after the top inch of soil is dry. Avoid drafts, which cause leaves to yellow and drop.

Spring care: As new growth appears, fertilize with a complete acidifying fertilizer with micronutrients, such as Mir-Acid. Pinch new growth to shape plant. Repot if necessary.

Summer care: Place outdoors in part shade. Continue fertilizing and watering.

Fall care: Bring the plant indoors for increasingly longer time periods before frost to reduce the shock caused by the low light levels and low humidity.

Amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrids)

Temperatures: 65 to 70 degrees F. day, 50 to 60 degrees F. night.
Rebloom rating: Moderate

Winter care: Place in a bright location but out of direct sun while blooming. Long, leggy flower stalks indicate insufficient light. Keep soil evenly moist during flowering. Stake stalk if taller than 18 inches.

Spring care: Cut off dead flower stalks to 2 inches above the bulb. Let the bulb dry slightly between waterings.

Summer care: After the last frost, bury the bulb, pot and all, in a location where it receives morning sun. Fertilize with all-purpose houseplant food as leaves continue to grow. Amaryllis flowers best if potbound; repot every three to four years.

Fall care: In September, lift the pot out of the ground, stop watering, and store in a cool (50 degrees F.) dry place, allowing the foliage to die. Six weeks before you want flowers, bring the pot into a warm (70 degrees F.), brightly lit room. When new leaves emerge, resume watering. Butterfly amaryllis and other species do not require a dormancy period.

Kalanchoe (K. blossfeldiana)

Temperatures: 70 to 75 degrees F. day, 50 to 60 degrees F. night
Rebloom rating: Difficult

Winter care: Give plants at least a half-day of bright, direct sun. Let pots dry out between watering. Kalanchoe thrives in dry air.

Spring care: Repot after flowering, pinch new growth to encourage new leaves, and begin fertilizing with all-purpose houseplant food when you see new growth.

Summer care: After last frost, move plant outdoors to a partly shaded location. Continue fertilizing and watering.

Fall care: Move plant indoors before first frost. To induce bud set, allow plant to go dormant in September by providing cool (50 degrees F.) conditions and 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness each night for two months.

Azalea (Rhododendron species, Belgian, Southern Indica, and Kurume hybrids)

Temperatures: 60 to 68 degrees F. day, 45 to 55 degrees F. night
Rebloom rating: Moderate

Winter care: When flowering, azaleas need 4 hours of bright, filtered sunlight in a south-facing window. Flowers last longest at cool (55 degrees F.) temperatures. High humidity is also important for flowering and to prevent spider mite infestations. Keep soil evenly moist.

Spring care: Once flowers drop, fertilize with a complete acidifying fertilizer with micronutrients. Keep the plant in bright light and water it well.

Summer care: After danger of frost has passed, move the plant outdoors to a partly shaded location. To keep the plant bushy, pinch off the top few inches of new growth. Keep the plant well watered, and continue fertilizing.

Fall care: Greenhouse azaleas are not reliably hardy outdoors north of zone 8, so bring plants indoors before temperatures drop into the low 20s. To induce flowering by Christmas, move the plant indoors to a bright, cool (55 degrees F.) room until November. Stop fertilizing, but keep soil evenly moist.

African Violet (Saintpaulia ionantha)

Temperatures: 80 to 85 degress F. day, 60 degress F. night
Rebloom rating: Easy

Winter care: Place plants in an east-facing window or under grow lights. Avoid watering foliage, and keep soil evenly moist and humidity high. Prevent exposure to drafts, or leaves will yellow. (Small, light green, crinkled leaves indicate too much sun; poor flowering and dark green leaves with long leaf stalks indicate insufficient sun.)

Spring care: Repot only when potbound using a porous, African violet soil mix. Take stem or leaf cuttings. If plants were in direct winter sun, move them to a shadier spot. Fertilize with special African violet fertilizer (available at most garden centers).

Summer care: Continue watering and fertilizing. If plants are grown in a windowsill, wash the leaves monthly with tepid water, allowing them to dry before putting the plant back in the sun.

Fall care: Continue to water and fertilize. In northern regions, move plants to a bright window or under grow lights. Propagate by stem or leaf cuttings.

Holiday Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii or S. truncata)

Temperatures: above 70 degrees F. day, 55 to 65 degress F. night
Rebloom rating: Easy

Winter care: Place the plant where it will have a half-day of bright, indirect sunlight or curtain-filtered direct window light. Keep the soil evenly moist and provide high humidity levels.

Spring care: Once flowering finishes, begin fertilizing with all-purpose houseplant food, and keep soil moist.

Summer care: After last frost, move the plant outdoors to a shady location. Continue watering and fertilizing.

Fall care: Bring indoors before first frost. Let soil dry out slightly between waterings. To induce bud set: Starting in September, expose the plant to 5 to 6 weeks of short days (less than 12 hours of daylight and without artificial room lightin or cool (below 55 degrees F.) temperatures. Once buds form, continue regular watering and treatment.

Charlie Nardozzi is a senior horticulturist at National Gardening.

Photography by National Gardening

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