How to Care for Flowering Indoor Plants

Lisha Utt
Frederick County Master Gardener Program

Flowering pot plants are best considered a long lasting substitute for cut flowers instead of a house plant with a very short life. Many have blooms lasting 4-7 weeks, some even longer. If the flowers die or leaves fade within days something is wrong. In general flowering pot plants need bright, cool conditions and moist soil. Warm air is usually their biggest enemy.

Below is a description of the care requirements of some selected flowering pot plants:

Azaleas enjoy bright light but no direct sun. Keep the plant cool, ideal is 50- 60F, and mist daily when flowering. Keep wet at all times, not just moist. Without the proper care the flowers can wilt and leaves drop with 2 weeks. After the bloom move the plant to a cool room and continue to water. After frost put the azalea in a shady spot in your garden until early fall, continuing to water and feed. Then bring into a cool room. When flowers bloom, move to the display area. The Indian azalea (Rhododendron simsii) is the most popular. It is important to keep it wet, cool and brightly lit. The Japanese azalea (Rhododendron obtusum) has smaller blooms but can be planted in the garden.

Chrysanthemums come in a large variety of colors and should last 6-8 weeks. Bright light is crucial for these plants. They enjoy cool temperatures, 50- 60F ideally. They should be moist at all times and the leaves misted from time to time. The frost hardy chrysanthemum varieties can be planted in your garden. If you have received one lately, it can be planted in the garden this spring.

Cyclamen (cyclamen persicum) are one of the most popular winter flowering pot plants and with the appropriate care can last several months. They do best in a north facing window and do not like direct sun. Cyclamen prefer cool temperatures, 50- 60F ideally, and higher humidity. To increase the humidity stand the pot on a pebble tray filled with water or set the plant in a larger pot surrounded with damp peat. Cyclamen should be kept moist at all times and only watered by the immersion method. The immersion method involves setting the plant in a bowl of water so that the cyclamen takes the water from the bottom up until the surface glistens. Do not allow water to touch the crown. When the cyclamen has finished its bloom, reduce watering and stop feeding. Place the pot on its side and keep dry until midsummer. Then repot with fresh compost, planting the tuber to half its depth. Stand in a cool, well-lit spot and water to keep moist.

Hydrangea (H. macrophylla) especially like cool conditions and soil that is not allowed to dry out. They enjoy bright light but no direct sun. After flowering the stems should be cut back to half their height, continue to water and feed. Hydrangea can be put outside in the summer. To bloom again indoors, over-winter the hydrangea in a frost free room and water sparingly. Mid-winter move the plant to a warmer, brighter room and increase the watering.

Kalanchoe (K.blossfeldiana) is by far one of the most popular flowering plants sold. They can be purchased in bloom year around, though in nature the plant is a spring bloomer. Kalanchoe are available in white, yellow, orange, lilac, pink or red. From spring to summer they prefer an east- or west-facing window and a south-facing window in the winter. They require average warmth and should be watered thoroughly, letting the surface dry between watering. After bloom, prune the tops and place in a shady window. Keep dry for a bout a month, then put in a well-lit spot and water normally.

Lilium (L. longiflorium) includes the popular Easter lily. They enjoy bright light but no direct sun. Liliums prefer cool temperatures (minimum 35F) and night temperatures not higher than 50F during the growing season. In your home keep the plant in a bright spot and moist at all times. The bulb with care can be made to bloom again but the growth is less vigorous and the flowers smaller than new bulbs.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) has become a popular symbol of Christmas. The flowers which are really colored bracts, last between 2-6 months and come in an increasing variety of colors from white to pink to red. They require maximum light during the winter. They enjoy average warmth, should be watered thoroughly and leaves misted frequently. Poinsettia are usually thrown away but can be kept and planted in the garden for an annual foliage plant, or with some "extra" work and a little luck can be kept to bloom again next Christmas. For details on getting you poinsettia to bloom again call the Cooperative Extension Service's Home and Garden Center and ask for the informational pamphlet entitled "Holiday Plant Care Series: Poinsettia."

Rosa (Miniature roses) are difficult to maintain indoors. They need lots of light, airy conditions, high humidity and plenty of water. The leaves should be misted frequently and the plant put on a pebble try if the room is warm. Allow the rose to dry out a little between watering. Miniature roses seem to work best if they are treated like an outdoor plant and brought inside for the flowering. To do so repot in the autumn and transfer the plant outdoors. The transfer inside and out is easier if the pot is just buried in the ground. Bring the rose indoors in mid-winter and remove the top half of the stems. Keep in an unheated spot for a week or two before placing in a heated room.

These are just a few of the flowering pot plants you can grow and enjoy in your home. They are always wonderful gifts to give or receive and can provide spirit lifting color and brightness, especially in the gray of winter. Enjoy!!

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