Colorful flowers brighten dreary winter interiors


Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at 11:27 p.m.
Every blossom is welcome this time of year, especially those you can grow indoors.
Even houseplants that bloom year-round take periodic breathers, and now is typically when that breather ends. So the season has begun, once again, for colorful blossoms to unfold, one plant after another, around the house.
Easiest choices for indoor blooms are, of course, spring bulbs, because their flower buds are already pre-formed inside them in autumn. Almost as easy to get to bloom indoors are African violets and the botanically related gloxinias. Gloxinias are more flamboyant than African violets, with large, velvety, pastel flowers.
African violets and gloxinias have a slew of lesser-known cousins with very interesting winter flowers. Their names tell all: There's the goldfish plant, looking as if goldfish are floating about its stems; the lipstick plant, with tubular, cherry-red flowers, and the Cape primrose. The Cape primrose shares no family ties with true primroses, but they also make nice winter bloomers, especially if kept cool. Their names also describe other houseplants that bloom well in winter. Flamingo flowers are as much fun as plastic pink flamingos. But "cloak-and-dagger flower" might be a better name for this bloom with its colorful pointy spathe, a few inches long, that pokes forth from the equally colorful, flattened, oval cloak.
Wax plant is a winter bloomer that tolerates abuse. Just give it good light and occasional water and you'll be rewarded with clusters of rosy white blossoms that will appear, with each cluster looking as if it had been cast in wax, and exuding a delicious mocha-chocolate fragrance. Oxalis, better known as shamrock or lucky clover plant, also puts on a good show indoors if given good light. While this plant is growing, give it a thorough soaking each time the soil dries. If you have abundant indoor light, there's almost no end to the number of flower shows winter can bring.
Geranium and flowering maple - a plant with maple-like leaves and flowers like hibiscus - come to mind first, but why stop there?
Graduate to a south-facing bay window or a warm greenhouse and you could create a tropical paradise with billowing mounds of red bougainvillea, creamy yellow allamanda, rose-colored mandevilla, and hibiscus.

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