Perhaps you received a flowering plant for Easter or maybe one will come your way for Mother's Day. If that's the case, with the proper care, you can have a healthy plant for years. Traditional flowering gifts include:
Azalea: The bright green leaves of the azalea make a great background for the large colorful blooms. Medium light is required, and keep the soil evenly moist. Start feeding with an acid-type plant food when flower petals start to drop. It requires high humidity and cool weather to be at its best. Remove faded flowers, and pinch back new growth to encourage branching. After enjoying this plant indoors for a few weeks, plant outdoors in a shady location. If you are lucky, you'll receive many years of blooms.
Easter lily: This popular Easter plant flaunts its large white, trumpet-shaped flowers atop single stems. Keep it moist and in medium light. Use an all-purpose fertilizer such as a 20-20-20 or 15-30-25. An average to low temperature and moderate humidity will help it stay healthy. After flowering, plant outdoors in a sunny spot. Plant the bulb 2 to 3 inches deeper than it was planted in the pot. I planted an Easter lily in my yard about eight years ago, and with no special care it continues to thrive. It often misses Easter, and it probably won't bloom for another two to three weeks in my garden.
Gardenia: This plant is popular indoors and out because of its glossy green leaves and fragrant, creamy to pure white flowers. It needs medium to high light and must be kept moist. An all-purpose fertilizer such as 20-20-20 or 15-30-15 will keep it growing along with high humidity and an average temperature. Flower buds drop if the humidity is too low. Plant outdoors in full sun to partial shade.
Hydrangea: This is another well-known shrub that is used indoors and outdoors. Medium light and evenly moist soil are requirements. Once again, use an all-purpose fertilizer. An average temperature and medium humidity will keep it healthy. After the flowers fade, prune back half of each stem, then plant outdoors in full sun or partial shade.
Once you have enjoyed your gift plant indoors for a couple of weeks, move them outdoors to an appropriate location. All of the above plants will do much better outdoors.
This is a good time to take cuttings from or divide some of your plants. These are inexpensive, easy ways to increase the number of plants in your yards and make great gifts for gardening friends.
Cigar plant (Cuphea melvillea) is hard to kill. In my yard, the freezing weather killed it to the ground. But the roots survived, and new foliage emerged. The plants in my yard were started from a small root with a few stems, and now, each year, the plants grow to about 10 feet high. This plant, a favorite of butterflies, lives through our typically dry springs and isn't bothered by the summer rain and humidity.
Other plants you may want to take cuttings from or divide include lace-leaf lavender, creeping Charlie, Mexican sage, cat whiskers and tropical red sage. Also consider liriope, African iris, ornamental peanut and agapanthus. And don't forget, save the seeds from your marigolds to plant elsewhere in your garden and containers.
As the weather warms, don't forget your basic chores: weeding, selective pruning, edging and mowing. It's so much easier if we don't get behind!
Mary Collister can be reached at [email protected]