Flowering houseplants make a lovely, thoughtful Mother’s Day gift. Not to repeat a trite cliché, but they really are gifts that keep on giving. I have the three lovely plants you see above in my apartment right now. They were gifts to me, from me. They provide me with much needed companionship, and they’re also the best conversationists, always agreeing with what I have to say. I’m lucky enough to have large windows that let in a copious amount of light – we’re getting at least 8 good hours of sunshine a day – all in all, ideal conditions for nurturing life on my window sill.
When it comes to choosing plants to bestow upon a Mom with no outdoor space, you need to ensure that your gift of choice can actually survive indoors. I was close to heartbroken when the marigolds I’d fallen in love with were not compatible with indoor living. Usually a quick conversation with the person selling you your plants will set you straight. Alternatively, just pick from the three that I have! (see below)
The cardinal rule to remember once you’ve come home with Mom’s new housemates is that you need to transplant them into larger, roomier pots than they’re sold in. This is imperative as those flimsy plastic pots are just intended as temporary lodgings – and make lousy gift packaging. Don’t panic, as I’ve learnt from Charity aka Spade, there’s little to it. Let me recount Charity’s expert guidance. First equip yourself with a spacious pot. Make sure there’s a hole at the bottom for drainage, and of course you want a plate of some sort to catch the water that drains out. There are plenty of pots available that come with matching base plates. Next, get yourself some nourishing potting soil – I like to use organic. Remove the plant from the plastic container you buy it in by gently pulling the whole plant, including the leaves, stem, roots and all the soil from the container - it should all come out in a single piece with a little effort. Squeeze the plastic container to ease out the plant if you need to. Next, add a layer of soil at the bottom of your new pot, a few inches or so should do the trick. Ideally, you want the soil in the new pot to come up to about an inch or so below the edge of the container, and the want the soil line of the plant that you’ve just pulled out of the old plastic pot to be aligned with the top of the fresh soil you’re adding. Does that make sense? So, once you have your base layer of soil in the pot, pop the plant in the middle and fill up with fresh soil up and around the sides of the plant. Use your hands to gently flatten the soil to make a neat even top layer. And there you go – project complete; go make mom’s day!
My Top 3 Flowering Houseplants
Geraniums (photo: bottom center)
If Mom is something of a novice when it comes to keeping indoor plants, or is very busy and doesn’t have too much time to tend to her new charges, then geraniums are a great choice. They require little attention, are very reliable when it comes to blooming, and are as close to self-sufficient as you are likely to find (they just need occasional watering). They come in so many pretty colors, you’ll be sure to find a variety that matches Mom’s decor or taste. Regal or Martha Washington geraniums are great as they produce large blooms and do well in cool growing conditions. In terms of upkeep, geraniums, its seem, don’t like overly wet conditions – in fact they do better when the soil is drier than when its too wet. Keep them by the window in full sun to part shade and make sure the soil is well-drained, leaving the top inch or so of soil to dry out before watering again. To keep the plant looking in tip top shape, pick off and discard dead flowers at their stems. If you use a good potting mix to start off with, it’s unlikely that Mom’ll need any fertilizer to give the geraniums a helping hand. But, if she can’t help fussing, any general purpose fertilizer will do – just follow the instructions.
Lantana (photo: bottom right)
I am utterly enamored by the gorgeous multi-colored blooms on my lantana plant. The tiny, perfectly formed flowers grow in clusters called umbels, and are just divine to look at. Lantanas bloom year round so are an ideal houseplant, and they come in a range of yellow, orange, red, white, pink, lavender and purple – you really are spoilt for choice. If you’re gifting Mom a lantana, tell her to set it in a bright, sunny spot by a window, and to make sure the soil is well drained. If the plant doesn’t get enough light it can develop white powdery mildew. Do bear in mind as well that this plant likes warmer climes. Like geraniums, lantana have a penchant for drier soil, and are pretty tolerant. Giving them a good soaking once a week or so should do the trick. Overwatering though can lead to root rot. If you’re unsure, feel the soil, if it feels moist – you’re good. If it’s overly dry, offer up some light refreshment. To encourage more flowers, trim or remove withered or dead blooms. This is known, rather ominously, as “deadheading.” But, it’s a good thing as it tricks your plant into producing more flowers over an extended period.
Bidens “Marietta Gold Spark” (photo: bottom left)
Another winner for the indoors, Bidens, is easy to maintain and has plenty of showy golden-yellow flowers with lovely feathery dark green leaves. This plant likes moist, well-drained soil and is great choice for both containers and hanging baskets. Again, sit by the window in a sunny spot and water when the top soil feels dry to the touch.