Gardening not finished during the winter
Gardeners can still enjoy beautiful blooms even when the snow flies — they just have to do it indoors. There are plenty of easy-to-grow flowering houseplants that can beat the winter blues and give us our gardening fix. Though most of these plants aren't common supermarket finds, many local nurseries can track them down from their suppliers, if they don't already have them in stock.
Keep in mind that most of these plants are not intended for outdoor gardens because they are not winter-hardy. This means that you'll need to keep them as houseplants year-round, although putting the pot outside in the summer and placing it somewhere shady is certainly an option. I grow many of these flowers as temporary houseplants; watching them flower on the dining-room table, kitchen counter or a windowsill, then tossing them or passing them onto a friend when they finish blooming.
• Jasmine — You can't beat this flowering vine for its sweet fragrance. Usually grown on a topiary frame or ring, jasmine bears tubular white and light-pink flowers. They prefer high light levels, but not direct sun, and evenly moist soils. Jasminum polyanthum, sometimes called winter jasmine, is probably the easiest species to grow indoors.
• Rieger begonias — These winter-blooming tuberous begonias have camellia-like flowers in shades of red, yellow, orange, pink and white. Their glossy green foliage thrives in high light levels, but be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Come spring, this is one plant you can easily plant out into a shady garden spot, although it will die with the first frost.
• Gloxinia — This lovely, old-fashioned flowering houseplant deserves to make a comeback. It flowers in late winter and bears large, speckled flowers in a wide range of colors. The bell-shaped blossoms cover the large leaves but the plant goes dormant and dies back after flowering. Keep it evenly moist by watering from below to keep the leaves dry. Gloxinia prefer warm temperatures and medium to high light levels and high humidity. Putting this plant on a humidity tray is a good idea.
• Silver vase plant — Aechmea fasciata has to be one of the most unusual flowering house plants for its striking flowers and bold foliage. The pineapple-like pink and purple flower spike rises out of the center of the silvery striped leaves. The core of this plant is a hole into which water is added, rather than into the soil. This dramatic plant requires bright light and high humidity, and its flowers last for months.
• Calceolaria — Common names for this unusual flowering plant include pocketbook flower and lady's purse, and once you see the unique flowers, you'll understand why. Heart-shaped, hairy, dark green leaves are topped with inflated pouch-like flowers. They can be various shades of red, yellow, orange, white and copper. The plants thrive in high humidity and cool temperatures. Keep the soil evenly moist, because allowing this plant to dry out adversely affects its growth and flowering.
Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is www.jessicawalliser.com.
Send your gardening or landscaping questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.