During summer in Lincoln, Nebraska, the sun is directly overhead and if you have some overhang on your roof your window will not receive intense light.  But come fall and winter, the sun is on a slanted course so warmth and light increase.  On a sunny day in winter the light and heat coming in my south window actually causes the furnace to stop.  Therefore, I can have a completely different set of plants in the living room from winter to summer. 

I will write about winter south windows since I put almost all of my plants outside in the summer as wind pressure strengthens their stems and real rain with its dissolved nitrogen encourages growth.

There are two layers of plants in my living room. Those closest to the glass like intense light and the second row likes a little protection.

In the first row close to the window:

·       My “Orange Tree” (Calamondin). This is usually kept between 2 to 3 feet tall.  Its blooms are very fragrant and there may be fruit at the same time.  It’s a little fussy about too much water and will drop its leaves.  It can be pinched back any time to maintain its size.  Use an acid fertilizer (Miracid or Earl May All Purpose Acid Fertilizer).  The oranges are only 1 inch to 2 inches across and are for “looks” rather than eating.

·       The Tropical Hibiscus. This can get very large if you have room.  I generally prune mine back very much when I put them out so that by fall they are a good shape, with fresh leaves, and will bloom all winter.  They like a warm room, constantly moist (not wet) soil and monthly fertilizer.  If its growth gets out of control you can start new plants by cuttings.  You will need to watch out constantly for white flies.  I think Hibiscus is their favorite food!

·       Next to the Hibiscus is an Iresine, also called beefplant, beefstake plant, or blood leaf.  It does not bloom but the stems are bright red as well as the veins in the leaves.  The leaves are variegated.  It is a fast grower, uses lots of water and looks better if you start a new plant at least once a year.

·       A “different” plant that needs to be as close to the window as possible is the “Powder-puff” or “Fairy duster” plant.  It comes from Honduras and Southern Mexico and is in full sun all summer.  Its directions say never to go below 60 degrees F. so it’s about the first plant I bring in.  The buds look like small raspberries and it blooms year round in spurts. They are soft, round and fuzzy. With a little imagination you can see the fairies dusting the sunflowers.

·       Next in row one is “Jatropha”, another tropical that stores water during wet periods in its stem.  Another name for it is “Buddha’s Belly”. The leaves are one foot across and the stem bulges as it comes out of the soil into a belly.  There are rather strange orange flowers that I consider more weird than beautiful.

·       Cactus comes from hot and dry places so most do well in a bright South window.  Especially if you are one who forgets to water very often.

·       Geraniums are a common, easy to grow plant that requires full light in order to bloom well.

          In the second row:

·     Bromeliads, some of which are rather large.  They are fun as you pour water in their vases often, but seldom into their soil.  Many of the mother plants die after blooming, but have several babies that branch off before they do.  Outside, I use the hose to wash out their cups.  Their blooms may be a sword, a column of beads, a drooping head of red and green bracts about 12 to 15 inches long, or a red bird’s nest.  They are tropical, and many are from South America.  The Pineapple Plant is a “brome”.  There many small species which will grow on a slab.

·     The Purple Passion (also known as purple velvet) is a trailing plant preferring sun and a warm room.  Under less light they become a dull green.  This is a plant that needs to be started over again as it gets long and gangly after a year or so.  It is easy to start from cuttings.  I like to put about four cuttings in a pot at the beginning of summer, keeping it moist and by fall its growing well for my sunny window.         

          I will need to talk about South Window houseplants again later as many plants prefer it to other lighting.