Fortunately, indoors, I have a cacophony of never-ending color. Thank goodness for cyclamen.
Cyclamen, along with orchids and a few other tropicals, are the bright spots of a cold winter. If I may allowed a moment of anthropomorphism, they’re perky little plants that cheer me on as winter hunkers down and gets entrenched in New England.
|The cyclamen that greet me each morning|
They’re also durable. By April, their energy is spent (but by then, the first spring bulbs are up) and we consign our dozen or so cyclamen to the basement for six weeks of rest. Then, in mid-May, we un-pot them and plant them in out-of-the-way, shady spots in the garden. There, the bulbs (technically speaking, corms) gather strength and produce a few leaves. Before the first frost, we gently dig them up, re-pot them with a loose potting mix, and find them a window with good, filtered light. By the time Thanksgiving has passed, they’re back in flower. In case you think this migration is hard on the plants, we have one cyclamen that has made the pot-to-earth transition for considerably longer than a decade and is going strong.
Orchids are another winter pleaser. They’ve come a very long way in the past decade. Once orchids were rare, temperamental and outlandishly expensive. Today, tissue culture technology has made them readily available, especially phalaenopsis and dendrobium which adapt well to growing in homes. Ours occupy a tray in our upstairs hallway where a southeast-facing set of windows provide all-day light. We provide the moisture they need by resting the orchid pots on trays filled with a thin layer of pea gravel and water.
Orchids require more care than cyclamen. They need a reasonable amount of air circulation and higher humidity than most homes can provide in winter. They’re prone to spider mites, scale and aphids and so need to be watched (a little alcohol or soapy water is the best medicine). But the payoff is worth the effort: months of spectacular flowers on spikes and, miracle of miracles, re-blooms on plants that have been allowed to rest and gather energy.
|The croton with its own skylight|
Crotons want even moisture and lots of light. Ours have a skylight all to themselves and they reward us with a bountiful display of leaves. Yes, just leaves; but they’re red and yellow and dark green and gold and no two are alike. They make winter a little more bearable.
And, isn’t that what houseplants are for?