Eye-Candy for the Winter Weary

I’M GRATEFUL for the plants which are willing to bloom with summer exuberance in winter windows. Take, for instance, the ‘Fiesta Pink Ruffle’ pictured above.   I bought this Impatiens wallerana last spring, nurtured it in a pot all summer, and then brought it to the window in my upstairs bath in autumn.  Although the plant receives only weak eastern sun there, its fully-double, rosebud-like blossoms have formed in constant profusion. The only pampering the plant requires is daily water with a little high-phosphorous food mixed in.  And here’s more eye-candy for the winter-weary:

Always delightful are African violets. I bring them to the budding stage under cheap, cool-white fluorescents in my study, then move them to windows to watch them bloom.   The one above, on a shelf in my music room window, is the light purple, semi-double, ruffled ‘Allison’s Laughter.’

On the same shelf as ‘Allison’ is S. ‘Lunar Eclipse.’ This is another great beauty, with raspberry-purple, semi-double flowers.  The underside of its leaves are handsomely veined with red.

Scenting the music room just now is Narcissus  ‘Grand Soleil D’or.’ For such an easy plant, this tropical tourist is too seldom grown.  Just plant the bulbs in soil (or in pebbles and water), and 4-8 weeks later the yellow-ringed, gold-cupped flowers emerge.

If you have no time to coddle flowering houseplants, but you still want living decoration in your home, by all means obtain  Euphorbia milii. This “Crown of Thorns” blooms  the year ’round. The white flowers look like tiny spotlights which dot the medium green foliage.  The plant requires only minimal attention. I have it in full sun in the south-east library window, where it grows almost too well with once-a-week watering (as always, with a little food mixed in).  Euphorbia is tolerant of  both heat and dry air. New York City apartment dwellers should cling to this plant.

Now, back to the Music Room window, for I forgot to show you the pink Pelargonium ‘Americana.’ What’s the secret to getting great winter bloom from this common zonal “geranium” ? Well, don’t let it bloom in summer! That’s right — pinch off every flower bud the moment it forms. Denied the ability to reproduce itself, the plant, out of sheer frustration, will unleash a torrent of blossoms when it you bring it indoors in September. My own plant received this treatment, and even now, at the end of December, it has shown no signs of letting up.

On a table in my entrance hall is a white-splashed-pink florist’s azalea. This is a gift plant with a definite future.  The trick is to give the plant a summer holiday outdoors in some shady spot. There,  if you pamper it with regular moisture and acidic plant food, it will form dozens of flower buds. Bring the plant indoors before frost, give it full sun and cool temperatures,  and every bud will open  in a spectacular show that runs from late December through the end of February, and sometimes beyond. What a plant!

Do flowering houseplants alleviate the cold, gray winter months for you, too? Let me know by posting a comment.

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Related Posts:
Photo Gallery: Dutch Bulbs for Winter Windows
Bringing Houseplants Indoors
The Window Garden in February


  1. I will definitely try high phosphorous plant food for my indoor impatiens, as they never bloom..I also have had a crown of thorns in my window which has received moderate to full sun for years but it never blooms! Any tips?

  2. Bobbie Floyd says:

    Kevin, you inspire me! I love your winter blooming plants and plan Bobbie to try some of your ideas for next wnter.

  3. Kim – Is your Crown of Thorns in a plastic pot or a clay pot? I only ask because with plastic, the surface soil might appear dry when in fact the lower soil is sopping wet. And Euphorbia likes to dry out between waterings. In fact, it will refuse to bloom if the soil at its roots is kept constantly moist.

    Thus, try cutting back on watering. Although mine receives weekly water, yours might need moisture but once every 2 weeks. And when you do water, provide the plant with a little low-nitrogen/high-phosphorous food. I feed mine with every watering, using 1/4 tsp food dissolved in a gallon of room-temperature water.

    Bobbie – I hope you will try some of these plants. I can’t imagine spending the winter months without a flower garden in the house!

  4. Thanks for the very helpful advice! I checked my crown of throwns and it was just as you suspected, wet at the bottom. I replanted it and added a tiny bit of 9-59-8 plant food. Hopefully some new blooms are in the future Thank you!

  5. Hi Kevin- I am wondering about that vine in the background of your Narcissus photo. Is it an outdoor plant that came inside for winter? It reminds me of a Strawberry Begonia aka ‘Mother of Thousands’ which I think is a Saxifrage. I leave mine outside year ’round. Perhaps your vining plant is something totally different.

    Some of my favorite winter houseplants are in the Oxalis family. I have three kinds: ‘Coppertones’, ‘Iron Cross’ and ‘Purple Shamrocks’. Bloom colors are yellow, rich pink and pale pink, respectively. Even one little flower on these lovely tuberous plants is immensely cheerful in the dead of a Pennsylvania winter.

    Your boot tray idea for the African Violets is clever!

  6. Beverly – The vine in the background is String of Hearts (Ceropegia woodii). I have it in a tiny, 3-inch hanging pot. The silvery, half-inch wide, heart-shaped leaves grow from pendulous stems that do resemble strings. Until last week these strings draped onto the music room floor. So I cut them back to about 3 feet. The little brown pods along the stem are the plant’s tubers. These can be planted. And in autumn fluffy purple flowers dot the vine. I sometimes call this plant “Cousin It” because it is so unusual.

    Like you, I adore oxalis. What colors!

  7. Hi Kevin, What a wonder you are!! Your information is so good–and “do-able” for those of us who have limited gardening experience. You mentioned feeding your annuals that you brought inside for the Winter. What kind do you use? Hope you don’t mind sharing this information. Keep up the excellent work!! Even at 80, I am still learning new things. Thanks. Elizabeth

  8. Eliabeth – Nice to meet you. I use a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous food for all of my flowering plants, including the annuals which over-winter indoors. Just now my favorite formula is Jack’s Classic 10-30-20 “Blossom Booster.” I feed plants in windows 1/4 teaspoon of this formula dissolved in a gallon of room-temperature water. Plants under lights receive 1/2 teaspoon formula to one-gallon water. Hope this helps!

  9. I love African violets they are my favorite kind of plants that will not die on me. I have all of mine in self watering pots that do all the work. I keep my violets all in my bed room next to my window and they do wonderful there.

  10. Danie – Nice to meet you. AVs are my probably my favorite houseplants, too.

  11. I have lots of african violet but i don’t seems to get them to bloom a lot … What am i doing wrong

  12. Where can i find self-watering pots? Sounds fantastic!

  13. I am new to the sight! I love to garden, I think more in the late fall, winter and early spring! Maybe because I have more time then!!?? But my problem is I have no east facing windows. The garage it on the East end of the house. My computer room window (which sets at an angle) and my bay window gets a little east exposure, so that is where I try to have my plants, but I haven’t much room! Any suggestions!

  14. By the way! I too love African Violet’s as my mom had lots of them and loved them when she was alive. When mine finally bloom, I feel my mom is watching over me and with me!

  15. Hi Sandy – African violets trigger memories for me, too. What special plants they are!

    If you outfit a window with glass shelves, as I did, you’ll find you have much more room for the decorative display of houseplants. See Steps to a Window Garden.

  16. I can winterize and grow every year my summer geraniums, except I never have any success with the tiny cluster/lowered hanging geraniums.. I have tried many different methods.. of cutting them back and not – just leaving them alone when I bring them into the garage.. some have said they need a greenhouse.. I tried that and that didn’t work either… can you tell me why these plants are so different than the other breeds, and how I can accomplish the task of reproducing these favorite plants.

    I love looking thru your receipes and seeing your wonderful heritage home , complete with all the fixings of table settings etc. Although, I do admit I look forward to more info on gardening tho.. here on Vancouver Island I can never get enough direct information. I have recently bought myself a dslr camera and hope to capture a more colorful garden this year.

  17. Hi Dydi – I think you are referring to Pelargonium peltatum — the ivy-leaved geranium. I care for the plant this way: http://www.agardenforthehouse.com/2011/02/the-perpetual-life-of-pelargonium-peltatum-the-ivy-leaved-geranium/

  18. WOW, SOOOO VERY BEAUTIFUL!! you must have a green thumb….i am just learning myself and have got a spider plant that is giving off tons of babies, a bromield that i am not sure if i am taking care of it right. Ive had it 3 months, and the flower is just now starting to look funny, and the green leaves seem to be slightly curled….each site says something different, fill the cup and mist the bark/ mix its planted in, an aloe thats doing great, a croton that i have had almost a year and its got new growth, but the old leaves are just dropping off, i mist it, also a devils ivy i recently repotted it and moved it, and it dont seem to like its new spot, so im gonna find another, then i recently bought a bouguina, and a double impatien fiesta pink ruffle….i use miricile grow all purpose for all but the bromiled about every 2 weeks in the spring…not sure as to when to stop because ive just recently got all them except the croton and the spider plant….my question is…..
    How in the heck do you know what each plants need feed wise?? I read about you feeding some of your beauties with more phosphorous…what exactly is that?? i am new and think i kinda went crazy on snatching up plants (dont even get me started on the outside flowers i bought recently and have no clue about lol) but how do you know what each plant likes and what needs more of this, or more of that, or a little less of this?? Is there like a “one size fits all” for most plants besides the acid lovers?? im so lost and kind of overloaded with info. I have looked up and saved each tag that came with each plant, but i think im overwhelmed.
    any thoughts, info would be VERY helpful.
    Thanks for the pretty pictures, i aspire to be like you one day and have beautiful plants that i dont over water, or place in the wrong spot 🙂

  19. Hi Kevin,
    Yes the flowering house plants certainly alleviates the cold grey winter months for me too.
    Every window that gets the sun is full of plants. My colorful foliage plants come in, so does my lemongrass. The geraniums of course ! there are some more of them coming in, every time a new plant comes ,my husband says “where is this one going? on my head!” This year I am trying to save three Celosia Intenz, the three of them massed together makes a handsome setting in a corner, let’s see how long they survive. I also bring in my two huge Bougainvilleas, that flowers for me faithfully every X’mas, until March, they go near my patio doors,and get a lot of sun.
    My neighbour tells me that whenever he feels blue, all he has to do, is to look up to my upper
    Window to see a garden full of flowers. Makes me happy that it makes someone else happy too.

  20. Daily water……..how so. thought they like to dry between watering. thank you in advance.

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