By Paul James
I’ve never swooned my sweetie with cut flowers on Valentine’s Day, because I don’t want to express my love with something that’s here today, gone tomorrow. And a dozen, grossly overpriced (and often fragrance-free) roses always struck me as a predictable, last-minute decision. That’s why I prefer to go beyond the bouquet and give live plants instead.
And thankfully, there are dozens of great choices, especially among flowering houseplants. Here are a few of my favorites.
Dainty and beautiful, African Violets need fairly bright light and moist soil. Water the base of the plant only – if water hits the leaves it can cause spotting – and never let the soil dry out. Feed regularly with a water-soluble fertilizer, and deadhead routinely to encourage more flower production.
These popular tropicals need bright but indirect light. Water when the soil is dry to the touch, but avoid overwatering as Anthuriums are prone to root rot. Fertilize every other month.
These relatives of the pineapple grow best in bright, indirect light as well, so a southern or eastern exposure is ideal. Water every other week or so, and keep the “cup” (the center of the plant) about one-quarter full of water, but don’t let the soil remain soggy. Bromeliads do just fine without fertilizer.
The starry flowers of this succulent last from winter through spring, but the scallop-leaves are every bit as interesting. Water thoroughly and allow the plant to dry out completely between waterings. Feed once a month with a water-soluble fertilizer at half-strength. Bright light is best.
Saving the best for last, orchids are among the most beautiful of all possibilities, and they’re not as finicky as a lot of folks think. Give them as much light as possible, and realize that bright green leaves on orchids actually indicate too little light. Under ideal light conditions, leaves will be a lighter green. Water orchids thoroughly, but let them dry out between waterings. Fertilize every week in the spring and summer, then every other week in fall and winter.
There are also dozens of great choices among foliage plants, including the oh-so-very-easy-to-grow ZZ plant, Chinese evergreen, Snake plant (Sansevieria), Spider plant, Aloe Vera, Pothos ivy, Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia), and Pony-Tail palm.
I haven’t decided which plant to get my wife, Carrie, this year. But one thing’s for sure – I won’t be giving her a bouquet.