As the Christmas tree goes away, the poinsettia starts to look old and the holly branches are fading fast, many of you will be looking for something of a different style and color.
Several fine houseplants are prime choices for the indoor winter landscape and will make the perfect antidote to red and green overload. Some even thrive in the cool air of unheated sunrooms or windowsills.
In January, garden centers and grocery stores often show a nice range of cineraria and cyclamen plants in full bloom. The flowers are very pretty, and these plants like rooms that are quite cool.
The cineraria produces flowers shaped like daisies that may be blue, violet, pink or rose that stand up straight above nice-looking light green foliage. This is a bold plant that, given a very cool temperature, especially through the night, will last about four weeks. The hotter the room, the shorter the plant’s bloom life will be. An unheated sunroom would be a great place for cineraria to spend the night. During the day, good natural light will help the flowers open and look good. Keep the soil moist but not soggy and place the plant well away from cold drafts coming through outside doors.
A second choice is the cyclamen. This is a gorgeous plant for the winter indoors. It also likes it cool. The color choices here are red, light to dark pink and white. It is a very cheerful plant that looks wonderful either as a small plant on the windowsill or a table or a larger one for a centerpiece. It also likes a very cool spot by a window or in an unheated room.
And just as important, it will not tolerate over-watering. Collapsing flower stems and flopping foliage are the first sign that you watered this plant too often. Make sure the top layer of soil is dry to the touch before you water.
I have found that, given a cool, well-lighted spot, cyclamen can look pretty for a month or longer. This is wonderful because the colors look so spring-like, especially when days are gray.
A third choice is the polyanthus primrose, a small potted plant that bears beautiful flowers. The color choices are huge, including white, blue, purple, pink, red and yellow. The flowers are quite long-lasting in a cool room.
These start to show up in stores in January but are quite evident in February and March. They are small plants with very colorful flowers rising above a rosette of pretty green leaves. This is a plant that makes my heart sing with delight because the vivid colors are so beautiful. This is a plant to enjoy in excess, but like the cineraria and cyclamen, they like it cool on a windowsill or in an unheated sunroom and watered so that the soil does not dry out.
Nancy Brachey: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. I didn’t think the two hollies in front of my house (one each side) would get as big as they are, and they should have pruned much earlier. But, they’re just starting to really show their berries. When should I trim these back, and I’m thinking of taking them way back down even if they will look a little ugly next summer, but that’s OK.
A. Since your hollies are up to the gutters, I understand why you wish to prune them. The safe recommendation is to prune no more than one-third of an evergreen. Do this in advance of the growing season, which means mid-to-late February. If you wait until spring you will cut off the freshest newest growth of the year, which is not good.
Next year you can bring it down further with another one-third pruned. Your plants have a nice pyramid shape, so try to keep that when you prune by pruning the overall plant, not just cutting back the top.