POV: The Pleasures of Indoor Gardening

Many of the indoor flowering plants offer color and interest when the weather is dreary. African violets, streptocarpus and kalanchoe are a few plants that are easy to find and to grow. Be sure to read the plant tags to see what each plant prefers before making your decision.

It is easy to fall in love with a blooming beauty but be sure that you can meet its needs before committing to the relationship. Remember that plants respond to light and when the days are short, many are resting so do not force them by fertilizing. October through March, water only (no fertilizer) and water less frequently but thoroughly. The old rule of thumb is that you can not water a plant too much when it needs water, BUT you can water a plant too frequently resulting in root rot from over watering. Err on the side of caution and let most plants dry out a bit—this may take a week or ten days in the winter.

If the plant is not too big, lift up the pot to see if it is heavy or light. If it is light then it needs water, so water very well until the water comes out of the drainage holes. Cactus would be the exception to this method as they have very specific watering needs and the soil is sandy and always heavy. Cactus make good plants for new indoor gardeners who are busy and forget to water. They are not good choices for those who like to nurture…

An interesting and different indoor plant is the Oxalis, or wood sorrel, which resembles a giant clover. Common at St. Patrick’s Day is the green oxalis which is sold as a “shamrock” plant for those wanting the “luck ‘o the Irish.” This oxalis flowers for a long period of time with many small white blooms. The purple oxalis — Oxalis regnellii — is a favorite at Valentine’s Day and it is often sold as the little “Love Plant.” A real charmer with purple heart shaped leaves and delicate white blooms, it is native to South America. Both oxalis grow from small rhizomes and when the plant needs dividing the task is as simple as separating out several rhizomes and replanting.

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