Thursday, February 16, 2012

My Valentine Suprises

Tuesday was Valentine's Day and I always enjoy a good love story. As a gardener, I love surprises like the two house plants seen above my niece and sister gave me. On the right is a Kalanchoe (from my niece Amelia) and on the left is a Cyclamen (from my sister Deberah). Like a good love story, they both surprised me with some wonderful love!

I know in the past I have either bought or been given a Kalanchoe and a Cyclamen but often, today both are grown in commercial greenhouses and sold to retail stores in full bloom for gifts to consumers on special days like Valentine's Day. So, typically they are discarded after their blooms fade (obviously I did) but really both can be easily maintained and incorporated as an addition to your house plant collection. Since I plan to keep these beautiful love stories alive, I did the research needed to insure I could make it happen and add both to my collection of house plants.

First described by botanist Micheal Adanson in 1763 from several Chinese species, he noted, the Kalanchoe is a succulent or member of the cacti family. In Scandinavia it was nicknamed "spring fire" because of the brilliant red flowers it produced in the spring. It is also called "coral top" because of the original crown of red coral color that can bloom for months with minimum care. As you see above, now it has been hybridized into pinks, lilacs, yellows, oranges, as well as, the brilliant coral reds.

As a succulent, the Kalanchoe likes a bright, sunny spot in your house. Because it stores water in the leaves it should never be over watered (let the soil dry out). Bought new in full bloom is the only time to water more often. Later, I will pinch off any dead blooms and in late spring re-pot in well-drained, sandy soil, find a good sunny spot and incorporate with my other house plants on my breeze-way. These plants are easy to propagate by cuttings like most succulents and can be forced into bloom any time of year by storing in the dark sixteen hours a day for three months.

The Cyclamen makes a good Valentine's Day plant due to the heart shaped leaves it bears with light green heart shapes itched in the leaves. It is a perennial tuber originating from Mediterranean countries like Turkey and also the Greek Islands. Actually, it's name comes from the Greek word "kylos" meaning "ring" indicating the twisted way the seed pods ripen. I think it may also be the way the blooms open, as they appear twisted as buds before the full bloom evolves. Like most flowering house plants sold today, it has been hybridized into a variety of dark pink to white colors (as seen above I have a beautiful light pink).

Unlike the Kalanchoe, after a little research, I find this plant more challenging to maintain because it requires a cool environment, below 68 degrees and out of direct sunlight (I recommend a north facing window). Also, they are sensitive to watering and like high humidity. Water several times a week at the edge of the pot not on top of the plant or tubers. Re-pot in April or May in peat moss mixed with rich potting soil. But just like a new pair of shoes, I plan to get familiar with this jewel and make it bloom next year.

I hope you had love and surprises on your special day like me. Talk to you soon on my next blog!  

posted by Wilma Smith

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