This week's COLUMN and COMMENT

Jeff's Weekly Column and perhaps an extra comment or two!!

November 29, 2007

Let’s face it. Most of us like plants that produce flowers. Houseplants are not an exception, though there are many grown for their lovely leaves. Still, a flower is a flower and you can’t really beat that. What are the best flowering houseplants to grow in the winter?  Well, since you are wondering, I will tell you.

At the top of the list are Amaryllises. These plants really only need four or five hours of light to induce them to bloom. They are cheap, readily available and couldn’t be any easier to grow. They usually take about 6 weeks from the time you pot them up  (just bury the bottom 1/3 of the bulb). Best of all, you can keep the bulbs over to perform again and again.

Cyclamen’s are almost in the same category. They are easy to grow, infallible, if you keep them ‘slightly’ moist and they thrive in cool temperatures so are great for those cooler Alaskan rooms. Pick off spent blooms and try not to get water on part of the plant other than the roots. These corms can be carried over from year to year. Once they stop producing flowers, hold water and let them go dormant. This won’t be until spring.

I suppose I would have to include African Violets and their relatives on this list. They are very easy to grow and will flower without fail if you provide them with artificial light and most probably even if you don’t provided they get four or five hours of your best available light. There all sorts of sizes and flowers from which to choose. Be careful. These are addictive plants and you could end up with a big collection.

Kalanchoes do very well in our homes and will bloom in the winter provided you give them good light and warm 70’s temperatures during the day. The trick to these plants is not to over water. They shouldn’t stand in water ever and they should only be watered once the sol surface dries. Once flowering stops, just keep the plant growing. Next year if you allow the shortening days to do their thing, they will bloom again.

There are many begonias available and these all make great flowering houseplants almost anytime of the year. They do need bright light but the rewards can be many. Make sure begonia soil is kept just slightly moist at all times. Pick off any spent blossoms that don’t fall off.

Christmas Cactii and Poinsettias belong on the list, Thanksgiving cactii having finished blooming (in theory).  You can hardly shopping anywhere without seeing these for sale.  Don’t overwater the cactii so let the soil dry out a bit between watering. The poinsettia needs to be moist at all times and will drop leaves, bracts and flowers if they are allowed to dry out or kept in drafts.

Finally, don’t over look orchids. They are actually quite easy to grow and produce, as you already know, spectacular, long-lasting flowers.  They usually only need one watering a week and will bloom better if you can find some place, like near a window, where the temperature drops 10 degrees at night. techniques you can find orchids in lots of locations in addition to nurseries open in the winter.

All of these winter flowering houseplants are more than readily available without resorting to catalogs. We are lucky.  Just remember that you may need provide some supplemental light for perfect performance and that your plants will need feeding on a regular basis. Once again, this is in contradiction to a lot of advice you get about winter plants not needing fertilizer or microbe food. If you want yours to flower, than feed.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar for the Week of November 29,2007

Poinsettias: They are not poisonous. But why eat them?

Outdoor lights:  Check your white lights to make sure they are not rubbing off bark. Make sure you put up holiday lights carefully so they won’t damage trees or shrubs either.

Thanksgiving cactii:  After they flower, withhold water for a month. Then resume watering.


Additional COMMENT

Well, if you read the op ed bit on Organic foods in today's paper, you must be confused. No wonder. It was a badly written, poorly researched opinion piece that should never have been run by the Anchorage Daily News. What garbage. Trust me, folks, we want organic foods at whatever cost. Who was he kidding?  Let him eat that crap if he wants. Don't make up facts, however, to scare the rest of us from eating healthy!