Color for cold weather: Blooming plants add a splash of indoor color during winter's long dark days

2012-11-15T00:00:00Z 2012-11-16T00:39:04Z Color for cold weather: Blooming plants add a splash of indoor color during winter's long dark daysBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

The first official day of winter is still a month away.

But the season is now in full swing for shorter days and less sunshine to herald the arrival of months of cold and colorless outside landscapes.

But the inside of homes can still boast a burst of color for both before and after the time of holiday decorations.

"There used to be a time when the options for indoor blooming plants during the winter months was limited," said Madonna Thelen, floral manager for WiseWay Foods in Valparaiso.

"Besides mums, most people would traditionally rely on the standards like a Christmas cactus to brighten a corner of the house in need of some cheer and color for this time of year. But now, there are so many more options."

Thelen, who has worked in the floral industry for 23 years, including two decades for WiseWay, said improved transport and better growing options now make even exotic blooming plants an ideal option for the winter months.

"Azaleas are always popular and they yield plentiful blooms in bright pinks and white and don't require much care," Thelen said.

"Even mini-rose plants are more common to find available throughout the year, compared to when we'd only be able to feature them in the spring for Valentine's Day and Mother's Day."

One of Thelen's true tropical recommendations for this time of year is the bromeliad plant which continues to sprout colorful shoots that are long-lasting.

"I also suggest the contrasting green leaves of the Peace Lily with the white 'flag' blooms because they do well even in low-light corners of a home," she said.

Thelen also still has plenty of requests for another age-old favorite blooming find from yester-year, that ranks just as popular as the tried and true Christmas cactus: African violets.

"Even though I think they are quite fussy to care for, African violets come in so many bloom colors, from white and purples to pinks and many people love the retro appeal because the recall an aunt, mother or grandmother who always 'had good luck with' growing violets," Thelen said.

"And they are small and do bloom throughout winter. But people seem to either have great success with them or not so much."

Marie Ackerman, vice president for education for Teleflora, said both fresh-cut flowers and flowering plants are equally popular for winter respite.

"Some of the most beautiful bunches of tulips are the bunches that are in demand for vases and cut arrangements during the winter months," Ackerman said.

"And what most people don't realize is that tulips are one of the few flowers that continue to grow for a time even when cut and in a vase of water."

She said one of the appeals of blooming plants for the winter months is knowing that vibrant growth is part of the process to enjoy indoors during a time when the season is cold and gray.

"Something that is very popular this time of year is the the large bulb potted with very little soil to produce the beautiful, graceful tall amaryliss, often sporting a large red blossom," Ackerman said.

"It's very fulfilling to watch something that starts as just a bulb with a tiny green tip grow into such a large and long-lasting bloom."

Some of her other favorite bloom emitting plants for this time of year to last through January and February are begonias, paperwhites and the delicate Sunny Cyclamen.

"A combination of a few of these smaller blooming plants arranged together in basket makes it feel like spring has sprung, which is actually the name of one of Teleflora arrangements," Ackerman said.

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