We all need a little 'pick-me-up' at this time of year. Dozens of colourful, cheery and inexpensive plants are available to brighten anyone's day. B.C. growers have really done a remarkable job producing a wide variety of smaller plants which will stand up well in the poor winter growing conditions of most homes. Although most of these plants will tolerate somewhat difficult situations, windowsills are perhaps one of the best locations for them. A couple of attractive brackets holding a rectangular plastic or clay tray beside a north or east window would be ideal. If this isn't possible, the coolest location in your home with one of the stylish new Power Smart florescent fixtures overhead will make an incredible difference in the quality and lifespan of your plants.
It's always nice to have a fresh bouquet of pretty flowers or a colorful potted plant in a feature location in your home, but a few smaller pots of color here and there can also really add warmth to any room. Small potted spring flowers are my favorite at this time of year. On top of my list are the miniature daffodils, 'Tete-a-Tete'. Their tiny yellow blossoms never seem to quit. They stand up beautifully, reminding us that spring's on the way! Fragrant hyacinths are also beautiful and longlasting, and you know, a single flower is as precious as a whole bouquet. If you purchase some crocus a little on the tight side, it's fun to watch them explode into color. Miniature blue irises and grape hyacinths or muscari are cute as a button and last surprisingly well indoors. Try to keep all these bulbs as cool as you can and wet for maximum enjoyment.
Kolanchoes have been a real sleeper for too many years now. These brightly colored Succulents last and last with the very minimum of care, and they will stand up well in almost any location. Purchase them at the 'tight-bud' stage, just before the blossoms begin to open, and each month try one of the many different colors, from yellows and pinks, to deep reds and oranges. Beautiful double flowering varieties called, 'calendivas', are now available.
This is just the beginning of azalea season, and they are, without a doubt, one of my favourites. Growers have now perfected small plants that will produce huge blossoms that last very well. Just a couple of essential notes on their care: First, never purchase a plant unless the buds are beginning to open evenly. Early in the season, sometimes the smaller plants can be forced too quickly, allowing only a few buds to open while the others abort. Second, they are one plant you need to water, and I mean soak thoroughly every day. Azaleas will take high or low temperatures and light, and do they ever last well.
Their flowers are really insignificant, but who cares when the foliage is a knockout! When is the last time you brought home a Polka Dot plant? Hypoestes have come a long way in the past few years with a whole new color range now available. These fast growing tropicals love a high light location and the white, deep red, pink or burgundy leaves, splashed with green or bronze dots, are simply incredible. Keep pinching them back for a compact plant, but remember, they look gorgeous spreading and trailing in hanging baskets too. The cooler the temperature and the higher the light conditions you can give them, the brighter and more intense the colors become. Ask for the 'Confetti' series for the best color selection.
Cyclamen have come a long way in terms of durability over the past few years, especially the miniature varieties. If you prefer pastel colors, you will love the color range of the minis. From the softest pinks to the deepest rose reds, they are perhaps one of the most elegant of all potted plants. Even the full sized blossom series we have available today in four inch pots are far superior to the cyclamen we remember from just a few years ago. Water well, but let them become a touch dry before you water again. Be sure to keep water off the crown of the corm. They love to be misted occasionally too. Remember, the cooler you keep them, the richer their colors and the longer they last.
I'm truly amazed how orchids have caught on as houseplants. Phalaenopsis, or Moth orchids, lead the way with exotic pink, white, and mauve blossoms that last for weeks. They need so little care and stand up so well that they make a super gift. Check out the prices too - with so many growers now producing for our local market, the prices have really come down to the point where for long lasting enjoyment, orchids are, by far, the best value.