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Calla Lily, Houseplant

Valentines from the Greenhouse

Shirley Hennessy, Merrifield Plant Specialist

This Valentine’s Day we’re giving blooming gifts from the greenhouse. Here are our gardener’s picks for romantic, exotic and contemporary options for your valentine.

Romantic

Calla lily

From the Greek word for beauty, the calla lily is an elegant selection for any friend or loved one. The calla lily can be enjoyed indoors throughout the winter and then transplanted into the garden once the risk of frost has passed. Select a location with sun and good drainage and these striking bulbs will bring blooms throughout the spring and summer.

African violets

With beautiful blooms perched above fuzzy, dark green foliage, this tropical flowering houseplant can provide color to any home or office. African violets come in many shades of purple, blue, pink, white and variegated and will flower almost constantly. Place them in a north-facing window, keep the soil consistently moist with room temperature water, and feed regularly to maximize blooms.

Exotic

Orchids

With delicate flowers that appear to float in the air, orchids are one of the largest plant families. Commonly mistaken as difficult to grow, there are many varieties that will thrive in the light conditions of an average bright windowsill. Orchids have adapted to survive for long periods of time without water and prefer a pot and potting medium with good air circulation to dry out slightly between waterings.

Anthurium

Its heart-shaped flowers and glossy color make anthurium a beautiful selection for your valentine. This tropical houseplant is low maintenance, requires bright light and will live for years to come as long as it’s not overwatered.

Contemporary

Sweetheart hoya

Thick, heart-shaped leaves make this succulent an adorable valentine. The single, heart-shaped leaf will grow into a cluster of hearts if transitioned into a hanging basket and given a spot with very bright light. During the summer the sweetheart hoya will provide an added layer of interest with bright white blooms with burgundy centers.

Other succulents

These adorable, no muss, no fuss plants are perfect for a sunny windowsill, bright bedroom or office. The key to a happy succulent is to give it bright light and let it dry out. Succulents store water in their thick leaves and release it to the plant as needed.

Blooming Easter Gifts

Nothing says happy Easter more than a bright, blooming plant! Here are our picks for bright blooms to treat your loved one this Easter:

Geranium

We love geraniums for their showy clusters of blooms in bright shades of red, pink, rose, orange, white and purple. These annuals perform well in hanging baskets, containers and bed borders in full sun to part shade conditions. Geraniums perform best when planted in rich, well-drained soil. We recommend removing the spent blooms and fertilizing regularly to encourage continued flowering. When watering, allow the soil to dry out between sessions.

Hydrangea

Beloved for their clusters of delicate, paper-like flowers, hydrangeas come in a variety of shades, including white, pink, blue and purple. Keep your hydrangea looking its best by placing it in bright, indirect light while indoors. Once the risk of frost has passed, you can transplant it directly into the garden in a part sun location. Keep your hydrangea well-watered to prevent the blooms from wilting.

Begonia

We love begonias for their ability to provide constant color throughout the season in a variety of light levels, ranging from full sun to shade. Begonias produce lush, large blooms in shades of pink, white, orange, yellow, salmon and red. Plant begonias in moist, well-drained soil where they’ll receive afternoon shade from the hot summer sun, and fertilize regularly.

Gerbera Daisy

With velvety smooth petals surrounding a center eye, gerbera daisies look nearly perfect. Gerbera daisies produce large blooms that stand on leafless stems above foliage in many vivid colors. These happy blooms make a great addition to containers and garden beds and can last for a week or more when incorporated into a fresh-cut arrangement. Place gerbera daisies in full sun to part shade with moist, well-drained soil, remove spent blooms by snipping at the base of the stem and fertilize regularly. 

Petunia

An ever-popular spring annual, petunias are vigorous growers and prolific bloomers. We love  these blooms in, hanging baskets, window boxes and garden beds as they come in many color choices with beautiful veining. Plant petunias in full sun to part shade with well-drained soil, remove the spent blooms and fertilize regularly to encourage continued flowering.

Easter lily

A traditional favorite, the Easter lily produces large, fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers. They can be enjoyed throughout the holiday indoors and transplanted to the garden once the risk of frost has passed. Place the lily in bright, indirect light and away from direct sunlight or heat. Keep in mind that an Easter lily is not a good gift for those with cats as they are toxic. Be sure to remove the foil on your Easter lily when watering to allow the water to drain through the pot.

Our Top 10 Picks for Low-Maintenance Houseplants

Paul Knight, Merrifield Plant Specialist

Many people think that growing plants indoors requires a lot of time and attention. After all, most houseplants in our area are tropical plants that naturally thrive outdoors in warmer climates. How in the world are you supposed to take care of them inside your home?

Well, it’s easier than you think! Low-maintenance options can provide all the beauty and benefits of indoor plants without the fuss. Here are our top picks for low-maintenance houseplants, by light requirements (see our blog on understanding indoor plant light levels to get started).

Bright, Indirect Light

(Three to five hours of early morning or late afternoon sun)

Hoya

Also known as Wax Plant, this is an easy to grow vine with waxy leaves and fragrant clusters of blooms. The foliage comes in a few different colors: solid green, variegated green and white, and a tricolor of red, green and white. There is another foliage form, Hindu Rope Plant, which is green and white and very crinkly. Regardless of which variety you choose, Hoya is great for hanging baskets inside the home.

Tillandsia

This exotic “air plant” is one that you can enjoy individually or in colorful combination displays. Air plants come in many shapes and sizes with blooms that are pink, yellow or purple. They are so low maintenance, they don’t even grow in soil! They just need to be sprayed with water 2 to 3 times a week.

Moderate to Low Light Levels

(Three to five hours of indirect sun to light that is not bright enough to cast a shadow or read)

Aglaonema

Also known as Chinese evergreen, this lovely plant has varied leaf patterns and shapes. Aglaonema has an upright growth habit with bushy leaves and can produce creamy white flowers that nestle within the leaf clusters. It’s very drought tolerant and doesn’t require frequent watering, making it exceptionally low maintenance.

Dracaena

This popular plant has rosettes of leaves on graceful upright stems. You can choose from plants with all green leaves or stripes with green, pink or burgundy. It’s great for the office or any areas that need a vertical element. There is also a variety called corn mass cane, which is said to bring good luck.

Neanthe Bella

This is an excellent dwarf palm with full, graceful green foliage that can reach 4 to 5 feet tall. And unlike some houseplants, this one is cat friendly for those nibblers you might have in the house. Also called Parlor Palm, this plant is one of the best at purifying the air in your home.

Philodendron

With rich green, red, neon green, yellow or even orange leaves that grow on vigorous vining, upright, or trailing plants, philodendron is very versatile with a wide range of uses in the home or office. Depending on your needs, it can be grown as a tabletop, hanging basket or floor plant.

Pothos

These graceful vines come in green, white, gold or neon green with leaves are a pointed heart shape. Pothos grows happily without pampering, and is beautiful in hanging baskets or cascading over a tabletop pot.

Sansevieria

Also known as snake plant and mother-in-law’s tongue, this enduring plant comes in shades of light to dark green. Sometimes you can find ones that are variegated with white or yellow, depending on the variety. Sansevieria thrives on neglect, making it the perfect low maintenance indoor plant. It comes with upright foliage as a floor plant, to rosette shapes for tabletops.

Spathiphyllum

This plant has dark green foliage with graceful, curving white flowers. It tolerates low light levels and will bloom just with fluorescent light, making it great for your home. It is also known as Peace Lily.

Zamioculcus zamiifolia

Since it’s botanical name, Zamiouculcus zamiifolia, is quite a mouthful, it’s easier to refer to this plant by its common name, the “ZZ” plant. It has a curiously dramatic shape, with glossy, waxy coating, dark green leaves and bulging tuberous roots. It’s very drought tolerant, making it super easy to care for.

We hope you’ll try some of these easy to grow houseplants in your home or office, and see how fun growing indoor plants can be.