Cineraria is a treat for winter. That is when it shows up in garden centers, with its white, blue, purple or pink blooms a nice change from December’s deluge of red and green. Great for cool rooms, cineraria brings a blast of color that looks like spring, though it still is January.
Cineraria (botanically named Senecio hybridus) is an annual that is sold as a potted house plant in winter, after it is tended carefully to produce masses of flowers. These are attractive daisy-like flowers that stand upright on stems that are sturdy but not stiff.
I especially like the florists’ cineraria in blue or purple flowers. They are quite dramatic, especially with dark centers and white markings on the petals for contrast. The foliage is pretty, forming a layer of medium green leaves around the rim of the pot.
These are such handsome plants that it is hard to resist them in winter, but there are certain tricks to keeping the plant looking good at home for several weeks.
A cool place, with a top temperature of about 65 degrees, is essential. Chilly though it sounds to us humans, a temperature of 50 to 55 degrees – at least at night – is best for keeping the flowers in good shape. That is the temperature you would usually get on a winter night in an unheated sun room with insulated windows. If such a place is not available, place your cineraria on a window sill that is well away from furnace vents or other sources of heat. A temperature too high will encourage the flowers to fade within a few days and may keep buds from opening.
A cineraria also requires strong, natural light. The days are noticeably longer and the sun is getting stronger and brighter already, so a window facing west could be a good choice. A sign that the amount of sunlight is too strong is leaves that get pale and even limp. Move it to a north window where the sunlight is not so intense.
Dry air is also a challenge because furnaces are running, and that makes the indoor air dry in the winter. Give humidity a boost by misting the leaves and flowers occasionally. Cineraria is prone to root rot in wet soil, so do not set the pot in a saucer of water. A signal of this is the collapse of the plant and a failure to revive.
Simply water the plant so that the soil remains moist but not soggy. Do not let the plant dry out, as this causes leaves to wilt and shortens the life of the plant.
A bit of tending by snipping off spent blooms will keep the plant looking fresh. But when the flowers are gone, pitch it.