Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hydrangeas and Azaleas and Cinerarias -- OH MY

This time of year, we may receive a potted flowering plant as a gift... and grocery store and nursery floral departments are full of tempting blooming plants. With a little forethought and some care, you can enjoy many of these showstoppers for much longer than the few weeks they are initially in bloom.

Here's how to take some simple steps to guarantee beautiful bloom and greatest enjoyment from these lovely plants....

These are often sold in criminally small pot sizes relative to the plants, and will dry out constantly. Once the plant wilts from lack of moisture, it is difficult to bring back. Repot (trying not to disturb existing rootmass) to a larger container with a multipurpose potting mix, and keep moist but not wet. These plants can be enjoyed outdoors later in the spring and may rebloom during the summer. Keep the pots in a semi shaded location. Most varieties will also adapt to being planted in ground in the garden. Make sure to place them in partial shade, in soil that stays on the moist side, and give them room to grow.

These are usually sold potted in almost pure peat moss, which must be kept uniformly moist but not soggy. If peat dries out, it is almost impossible to re-wet it. Enjoy Azaleas indoors till the blooms fade, then repot into a larger container with all purpose soil mix. Keep them moist and in semi sun, they should thrive and can be brought back indoors at their next bloom cycle. Many varieties of Azalea can also be planted directly into the garden, but depending on your location and the specific variety, it may or may not be hardy through the winter. Azaleas are deciduous and will drop their leaves in winter....so watch for the new growth in spring to know whether your transplant was successful.

Cineraria: These are wonderful compact plants, covered with daisy like blooms in a variety of intense deep colors, often with a white band near the center of each bloom. They are difficult to rebloom and are not very attractive when not flowering. Enjoy the plant indoors while in flower. Keeping it in a bright but slightly cool location -- without direct sunlight -- will prolong the bloom cycle. When bloom is finished, discard the plant into your yardwaste bin or compost pile.