From the last week of November through the first of the New Year, many of us are surrounded by colorful seasonal decorations. But then January arrives and all that glitters is gone. To stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder, or at least help tide you over until the first crocuses push up through the cold earth, invest in house plants that bloom naturally during the winter months. Clivia miniata, occasionally called “Natal lily” or “fire lily”, but most often known as just plain “clivia”, is one of the best.
With bold orange or yellow clusters of trumpet flowers blooming atop tall (18-24”) stalks and strappy green leaves, clivia is reminiscent of other well-loved Amaryllis family members, like Nerine and Crinum. It is a perennial, but is only winter hardy in USDA Zones 9-11. The upward-facing clivia trumpets are somewhat smaller than those of another relative, the showy amaryllis (Hippeastrum app.), but each cluster contains more flowers. Clivia colors are dramatic—bright orange is the most common—but it is not hard to find pale or bright yellow varieties.
These days, orange and yellow clivia are available at reasonable prices from many traditional and online outlets. For instant color, buy blooming specimens, which are the most expensive. However, if you are willing to be patient and play the long game, you can get a smaller plant for relatively little and nurture it to blooming size. Remember that the pictures you see online or in catalogs are probably photos of mature plants. Your clivia may not have as many blooms, especially in its first year or two of flowering.
True to its tough nickname, cast iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) can survive shade, neglect, and climate conditions that would send many other plants into fatal swoons. Like spider plant, it was beloved by Victorians and is still a hit today. With green or variegated lance-shaped leaves that sprout on long petioles or leaf stems, mature aspidistra may grow to 2 t0 3 feet tall and wide. The plants grow slowly and flower infrequently indoors. If flowers appear, they are purple and lurk near the plant’s base. Aspidistras grow best with regular watering but will survive with little moisture.
Hard-to-kill houseplants need little help to look great, if you start with good care. Average house plants require a high-quality mix like, Fafard® Professional Potting Mix or Fafard® Ultra Potting Mix with Extended Feed, to ensure good growth and success. Established plants should be fed intermittantly with a diluted all-purpose fertilizer. More succulent house plants, like aloe, snake plant, jade, and Christmas cactus require mix with excellent drainage, so lighten consider lightening the potting mix with equal amounts of perlite or bark. Succulents are accustomed to lean rations and need little additional fertilizer.
The genus Citrus is particularly well endowed with container-friendly plants. Kumquats (Citrus japonica, aka Fortunella) are a stellar example. Visit your local supermarket during the winter holiday season, and you’re likely to find the orange-yellow, tart, bite-sized fruits of the popular kumquat variety ‘Nagami’. A number of other, lesser-known kumquats are well worth eating (and growing). The cultivar ‘Meiwa’ bears round, orange, 1¼ -inch fruits that are comparatively sweet and seed-free. Large, thin-skinned, orange kumquats deck the branches of another relatively sweet-flavored variety, ‘Fukushu’. In contrast, ‘Hong Kong’ produces numerous showy, scarlet, ¾-inch fruits with large seeds and scanty pulp. They’re great for ornament but not as good for eating.
Citrus prefer ample sunlight, medium to high humidity, 40° to 60° F minimum temperatures, and moderate watering and feeding from spring to fall (with lower amounts in winter).
Prune off unwanted growth immediately after the fruiting season, in early spring. Common indoor pests can be a problem. Watch for mealybugs, scale, whiteflies, and other common Citrus pests, particularly on stressed or over-fertilized plants. Cleaning plants up with a insecticidal soap before bringing them back indoors in fall can help ward off these pests.
Most of these small trees sold in 4- to 6-inch pots, so plants are small at purchase time. Plant them in a slightly larger pot using Fafard Professional Potting Mix, and provide them with good light. Pots should have drainage holes and bottom saucers. Try to maintain even moisture and high humidity, and feed them with a tropical fruit tree fertilizer, as directed.
When the plants begin to outgrow their pots, upgrade them as needed for ample root growth. Those that are fruiting size, usually 4 to 5 feet, require relatively large pots.
Pot your tropical fruits now, and in a year or two, you will be harvesting your own home-grown tastes of the tropics.
The holiday razzle-dazzle is over, and it’s back to real life. Nothing symbolizes the banality of January more than the Holiday Houseplant Hangover, a unique form of misery that comes from dealing with the remains of once-gorgeous amaryllis, paperwhites, Christmas cactus, and poinsettias.
Some people cure the condition with tough love, depositing the declining plants on the compost pile or in the trash, and speeding to the nearest garden center for a few fresh-faced African violets or moth orchids. Then there are those die-hards who consider it a moral failing to discard a desiccated poinsettia. They devote themselves to the fading botanical belles, taking all the pains necessary to ensure eventual rebloom.
If you are one of those two types, you already know what to do, but what if you are a fence-sitter, unable to decide if your flowerless Christmas cactus is worth lifting a weakened, post-holiday finger? The cure for your case of Holiday Houseplant Hangover depends on the type of plant and your level of commitment. Before making your decision, weigh the options below.
It’s easy to tell when a plant has outgrown its container. It will require more water, the plant may appear too large for the pot, and the root system will become dense along the bottom holes, pot edges, and topmost soil layer. Sometimes the easiest way to check is by feeling along the pots edge for roots or checking the bottom of the pot creeping roots.
While we have made every effort to ensure the information on this website is reliable, Sun Gro Horticulture is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. All information in this site is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information.