It was suggested that I write about indoor plants that will bloom in the winter time. The first is a plant that thrives on neglect. The Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia milie) is very easy to grow.  It will grow to 3 feet tall but there are dwarf forms.  Since I don’t have room for many 3 feet plants, I cut off a stem early in spring, put it in potting soil to which about ¼ sand has been added and keep it damp-not wet.  Or you can cut it back any time to fit your space.  In a high light place it will bloom all year. When you water, water well and then let the soil dry some what.  Fertilize during spring and summer every two weeks.  Water and fertilize sparingly during winter while the days are short. Red is the one we usually see but there are salmon and yellow also.  It does have some very sharp thorns and the milky sap is toxic.

          Red Hot Cats Tail, Chenille Plants or Acalypha hispida is a woody shrub about 6 feet tall in its native tropics.  Here we quite often use it as a hanging plant as there is a trailing form.  It produces long, red fluffy catkins up to 20 inches long in a greenhouse or high light window with good humidity.  Since it is not easy to grow, you will need to watch out to find one, or you can start one from cuttings in summer or fall. Leaves will curl in low humidity, will drop if too dry or too wet. Mine was on the east side of the house all summer and acquired many, many, perfectly round very little holes in its leaves and its tails are only about 4 inches long.

          In the middle of the winter the Kolanchoe blossfeldiana has become very popular. It blooms for a long time in red, pink, orange or yellow.  There are many Kalanchoes but so very different that you wonder about being of the same genus. The blossfeldiana blooms for a long time.  They are short day bloomers so the florists can control how many and when they want them to bloom.  In summer they can go outside. Let the soil get somewhat dry before watering. In winter as it gets ready to bloom it will need a moist soil and fertilizer.  You can grow new plants from leaves or cuttings.  They are a succulent so let the cut ends heal for a day or two before you plant.  If they are too big, they can be cut back after flowering to allow them time to grow buds again.

          If you are a patient person and want a “different” bloom, try the Hoya carnosa. There a number of Hoyas and some of them can get very large.  Most are recommended for greenhouses. Carnosa is not a climber without help.  Sometimes call a Hindu Rope Plant, sometimes a Wax Plant, it produces long stems (the books say up to 20 feet) of twisted leaves.  I put a trellis in my pot and wound the rope up, back down, and up again.  Now after 2 years, I have a blooming plant.  The blooms are waxy, about 3 inches across, in a half circle of about 20 pure white flowers with a reddish center that smell good at night.  My growing directions say do not repot until you have to. Do not disturb the plant after buds appear, and do not remove the dead flowers as the next ones come from the same stems. The seemingly dead branch tips are where the blossoms form. Mine has several branches flowering and I need a taller trellis, but I will have to wait until it is through blooming.

          Begonias are good for different windows as there are many kinds and sizes. Many of them are grown for their gorgeous leaves and not for the flowers. They range from very small to over 4 feet tall.  The “Angel Wings” that get very large during the summer outside are the easiest for me to grow. However, the same sad thing occurs every fall. It seems they get too big to bring in and their coral flowers are still blooming. What a waste.

          Begonias will bloom year round if they are happy. They hate hot dry days and cold nights, too much water, and too much sun.  They do like and need high humidity.

          The Wax Begonia, a leafy bush only 6-12 inches high that is used as a bedding plant in shade in summer, can be dug up placed in a light window but not direct sunlight, and it will bloom all winter.  Then I have a Begonia partita which has a swollen stem to store water and only grows about 12 inches high and is often used as a bonsai plant.  It has more blooms in summer but there are usually a few white ones in winter.  It prefers a drier soil so makes a good window sill plant in a bright light.



          This paragraph is not about winter blooming plants but thought you might be interested in a follow-up. I have mentioned before about Ginger being a good ground cover for shade, but I didn’t mention that I have been finding it growing in some weird places.  This week in the American Gardener Magazine, I read it is pollinated by beetles, which is why the little brown blooms hug the ground.  They also say the seeds all have a little fat tail containing sugar.  Ants carry off the seeds to eat the sugar. How’s that for special efforts to succeed?

Copyright Oct 15, 2005