Brighten Your Home with Flowers
by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
Bouquets and flowering houseplants can offset the sense of loss felt after frost has killed the last blooms in the garden. If you're fortunate enough to have a large sunny window, you can pick from many colorful choices. Hibiscus, miniature orange, wax plant, geranium, and Christmas cacti are only a few of the houseplants. But there are also some beauties that don't require high light intensities.
Peace lilies (Spathiphyllum or spathe flower) need a north window or bright, indirect light to bloom. They develop elegant creamy white flowers, a bit like jack-in-the-pulpits, each with a little stalk protruding from its base. Flowers last several weeks, then gradually turn green as they mature.
African violets also have a low demand for light and are available in a wide array of forms and colors. While some older varieties bloom just once a year, newer African violets flower year-round, given good growing conditions.
With the same care, and only a little more light than you need for African violets, you can grow Streptocarpus successfully. This plant, also known as cape primrose, blooms for months on end, and will re-bloom year after year if you divide it or move it to a larger container.
A visit to a florist's shop or garden center will also present you with a wide variety of "gift plants" – plants that bloom beautifully for a few weeks, then are generally discarded. These plants could include kalanchoes, begonias, hydrangeas, cyclamen, azaleas and chrysanthemums.
Floral bouquets and arrangements are always popular at Thanksgiving, but cut flowers are so readily available, and often so reasonably priced, you should plan to make them part of your winter decor regardless of whether it's a special holiday. Some stores offer sprays of small orchids, stems of fragrant lilies, alstroemerias, and other unusual flowers. But most often you'll find roses, chrysanthemums and carnations along with babysbreath, statice, and stems of leatherleaf fern.
For sheer longevity, choose mini-carnations. They come in a wide array of colors, and many share the same spicy scent found in some large carnations. Mums – including daisies – should also last for two or three weeks before deteriorating. Roses are much shorter-lived, but for most people, nothing else compares.
Regardless of which cut flowers you buy, you can extend their good looks by placing them in a relatively cool location out of direct sunlight and adding water with floral preservative faithfully. Keep your flowers in a clear vase so you can tell easily if the water begins to look cloudy. Clean the vase with soapy water, then refill it with a mix of lukewarm water and floral preservative. Re-cut the stems to remove any discolored portions; they should be good for several more days.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office