Flowers are uplifting, cheer-producing additions to a kitchen or living room and there are a wide variety available at florists, nurseries and grocery stores. Which are the best? That depends on the conditions you can provide, the amount of light, the temperature and the humidity, as well as what you want from them. Is it a few weeks of bloom without the bother of aftercare? Or is it a permanent plant that will give you as many blossoms per year as possible?
A Year-Around Standard
African violets top many people's lists of the best permanent flowering plant, blooming practically nonstop and well suited to conditions in most homes. Give them warmth during the day, in the 70s, with slightly cooler night temperatures. They like bright indirect light, too, such as a place by an east window.
Many flowering plants prefer cool temperatures and will drop their buds if grown in a warm room. The florist's cyclamen, for instance, with pink, rose or white flowers, prefers temperatures in the 50s and bright light, full sun if possible. It will go dormant in summer, but can be stored in a dark cupboard and brought out to bloom again.
Rieger begonias, floriferous, large-flowered cousins of the tuberous begonias grown outdoors, will bloom for months in a cool room (between 55 and 56 degrees) and also prefer bright light, but without afternoon sun. They come in a wide variety of colors: yellows, pinks, reds and oranges.
Christmas cactus, the December standard with red or purple flowers, can be kept happy in a cool room also, with bright light but not summer sunlight.
An Occasional Beauty
Some plants are so stunning in bloom that they're worth the trouble to keep over the months when all you have is green leaves. Amaryllis, with its huge red or pink blooms, is one of these. Water and feed it after the blossoms are gone, and, if possible, set it outside when the danger of frost is gone. In fall, store the bulb in a cool, dark place and then water and fertilize again around the first of the year for another round of flowers.
On Their Way Outdoors
Quite a few of the flowers sold as houseplants are actually outdoor plants that will survive indoors for a relatively short period of time, perhaps a month to two months. Azaleas, chrysanthemums, Easter lilies, carnations, primroses and hydrangeas all fall into this category.
They aren't hard to keep happy, if you remember that they're only guests, not permanent members of the family. Give them cool to cold temperatures at night and as much light and humidity as possible to keep the flowers coming and when blooming stops, plant them outdoors or pass them on to a friend with a garden.
Kalanchoe is a great houseplant, a succulent that takes warm temperatures and low humidity, but it's difficult to bring into blossom a second time, so it's best treated as an annual to be appreciated and then discarded. Give it lots of light and not too much water.
Bulbs such as paper white narcissus, hyacinths, even crocus, can be bought in the fall and planted in soil, or even set in a bowl with gravel and water, then stored in a cool, dark closet until well rooted. They then will then bloom as happily as if they were outdoors, but can't be grown for another year. Again, either throw them out or give them to a gardener friend who's willing to take a chance on them.