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40-year-old azalea in full bloom for the holidays. Photo: Martha Foley
40-year-old azalea in full bloom for the holidays. Photo: Martha Foley

Flowers for indoors: old favorites, and new

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Snow and cold spell the end of the season for outdoor flowers. But there are ways to get some fresh color and blossoms indoors. Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy has tips on some old standards, and a new twist on one favorite. She talks with Martha Foley.

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Martha Foley
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Martha Foley’s indoor plant treasure is a 40-year-old azalea: “every holiday season it is covered with big, white fragrant blossoms, and it’s gearing up again.”

Amy Ivy said that plants like this are not something you can go out and buy. Many times people inherit houseplants, as Foley did with her azalea, and as Ivy did with a gardenia.

Another indoor favorite in this climate is some variety of cactus. Foley has had both Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, while Ivy has what she calls an Election Day cactus, because of when it blooms. These are all jungle cacti , as opposed to the prickly desert species. Jungle cacti like a warm, moist climate, and don’t like full blazing sun. So keep them back from sunny windows. They are very easy to maintain. Ivy says to be happy if it blossoms at all, not disappointed if it doesn’t do it on schedule.

Amaryllis plants are handsome, but grow quite large. Ivy suggests buying the dwarf/miniature version. It is nicer, more proportional and less work then a regular amaryllis, which needs help to support its growth. The miniature flowers are about half the size, 4 inches, compared to 6-8 inches on the traditional variety. The miniatures come in the same range of colors as their larger cousins. To find one, check garden centers and florists in your area, or you can order them online.

Geraniums are easy to grow and also look very nice inside this time of year. Amy has a red one that she decided to bring inside this year. She took cuttings in the summer, which she plans to pot, with the expectation that they will bloom in late winter. If you don’t have one of your own, you might ask a friend for a cutting, as they are tough to buy this time of year. They need bright sun, so place geraniums near a window that gets a lot of light.

Foley is concentrating on indoor herbs this year. They may not be showy, but at least they are green, she said. And she has a rosemary tree that is so old it looks like a bonsai tree. Ivy has a mature jade tree, which she decorates with lights and ornaments. She says she just likes having color during the winter months; it’s not a tree for any particular holiday.

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