All Posts   Posted:   January 16, 2020 by Nicole Forbes - Dennis' 7 Dees Education Director

Most indoor flowering plants require bright, indirect light for best performance and will go through one or more flowering cycles per year with rest periods in between; it is rare (if not impossible) to have an indoor plant be constantly in bloom.

Light

Very few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. Bright light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages spider mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn’t provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 feet of a south-facing window. A high light area has over 300 feet candles of light.

Soil Type/Container Size

Because there is such a wide range of indoor flowering plants, it is difficult to generalize about soil types. For example, orchids, African violets, citrus, and succulents all have specific soil needs, and specialized potting media is available for each one. Plants that prefer regular moisture can be potted into premium potting soils while those that require better drainage and are drought tolerant may be better potted into a cactus or succulent mix. Adding pumice or pearlite to your general potting soil can also enhance drainage. Although repotting may need to be done occasionally, most plants will flower better if slightly root-bound and grown in a relatively small container. If the soil needs to be replaced, but the container size is sufficient, the plant can be repotted into the same container after removing and replacing as much soil as possible; repotting is best done during the active growing months and ideally not during the plant’s flowering period.

Water

It is important to follow the individual care instructions for each type of plant regarding watering frequency and ideal soil moisture levels. When in bloom, most plants prefer to stay more regularly hydrated, but can tolerate drier conditions when not flowering. Many indoor flowering plants have unique watering needs and preferences. For example, bromeliads are watered by filling the reservoir in the center of the plant rather than pouring water onto the soil; African violets prefer to be watered from the bottom by placing the container into a shallow dish of water so the roots can hydrate without getting the foliage wet.

Fertilizer

During the active growing months (March–September), most indoor flowering plants should be fertilized with a liquid fertilizer formulated for indoor plants. Fertilizer should be diluted to about half strength and applied about every 2–4 weeks. An all-purpose houseplant food is usually adequate, but again, depending on the type of plant, there may be a specific fertilizer formula that would be even better. Orchids, African violets, succulents, and citrus each have specialized fertilizers on the market.

Pests

Flowering indoor plant pests tend to be the same as those on other indoor plants; aphids, spider mites, scale, mealy bugs, and fungus gnats are the most common. Regular inspection of your plants can help spot problems early and allow for prompt treatment. For small problems, rinse plant off with water and wipe all leaves clean with a soft towel. For larger pest infestations, spray the plant with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or another appropriate treatment; some sprays may stain household items or have a strong odor, so it may be wise to place the plant into a large plastic bag or garbage can liner before spraying. Severely infected plants should be quarantined to a plant-less room or eliminated entirely in order to prevent other plants nearby from being affected.

Among the Easiest to Grow

Goldfish plant (Columnea) - If you have a high light area that calls for a hanging or low-growing plant that flowers, goldfish plants are a perfect choice. Goldfish plants have small, thick, shiny, dark green leaves and colorful flowers that resemble tiny goldfish. The flowers may be red, orange, or yellow. I find goldfish plants are easy to care for, drought resistant, and with proper care, bloom on and off all year! These plants are considered slightly poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. 

Lipstick plant (Aeschynanth) - When given the right amount of light and not too much water, lipstick plants produce numerous red or orange small tubular flowers sporadically throughout the year. Not only are the flowers colorful, the leaves can be light green, dark green, or green and maroon. Hang lipstick plants from the ceiling or sit one on a table⁠—you will love having them as houseplants. 

African violet (Saintpaulia) - Small, compact African violets with soft, furry, dark green leaves, and beautiful delicate flowers in blue/violet, pink, fuchsia, or white can often bloom on and off all year; newer cultivars have double or bi-colored flowers. These non-toxic plants thrive in bright light and prefer to be watered from the bottom to avoid wetting the foliage.

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) - There are beautiful indoor houseplants with large, glossy, oval, dark green leaves and impressive white "spathes" (flowers) that last for weeks. Peace lilies come from tropical forests where they grow close to the forest floor in the shade of larger plants. This helps explain why peace lily plants are one of very few indoor plants that can bloom even in medium to low light. NASA lists the peace lily as one of the best plants to clean the air of harmful toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. 

Some Intermediate Plants

Kalanchoe - Kalanchoes, native to Madagascar, are easy-care, flowering succulent plants that do extremely well indoors. A relative of the jade plant, kalanchoes are short, bushy, upright plants with thick, oval-shaped, scalloped leaves. A kalanchoe’s long-lasting star-like blooms appear in clusters at the ends of sturdy stems. The vibrant colored flowers come in red, orange, yellow, lavender, white, and pink. Some new varieties even have bi-colored flowers. These are great indoor plants to perk up your home during the long winter months. The shorter the days, the more flowers kalanchoes produce. Best of all, the blooms on kalanchoe plants may last up to 8 weeks. All varieties of kalanchoes contain cardiac glycosides and are toxic to animals. 

Anthurium - These easy-care, indoor plants produce beautiful, long-lasting, waxy, heart-shaped "flowers" which are really modified leaves called "spathes" throughout the year. Anthurium spathes come in red, pink, white, and salmon, and can be used in cut flower arrangements. Large, glossy foliage makes the plant equally ornamental when not blooming. These plants are poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. 

Shamrock plant (Oxalis) - Shamrock plants often appear around St. Patrick’s Day. These plants are nicknamed "shamrock plant" because of their 3 (or 4), thin, triangular leaflets that look like a lucky clover plant. Oxalis regnelli, the green leafed version, has small delicate white flowers, while Oxalis triangularis, or "false shamrock", has dark purple leaves and pinkish lavender flowers. Shamrock plants are bulb plants and die back after they bloom. Don’t throw them out⁠—they just need a little rest before starting to grow again. These plants are considered slightly poisonous if eaten in large quantities and should be kept away from pets and children.

Zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa) - Zebra house plants have showy striped foliage and exotic-looking, bright yellow flowers. The flowers on a zebra plant emerge from bracts at the end of a long stem. A zebra plant, native to the Brazilian forests, is primarily a table plant that stands about a foot tall. These plants do require a little more care since they need extra humidity.

Most indoor flowering plants require bright, indirect light for best performance and will go through one or more flowering cycles per year with rest periods in between; it is rare (if not impossible) to have an indoor plant be constantly in bloom.

Light

Very few houseplants should be placed in direct sun. Bright light refers only to bright indirect light since direct sun often burns the leaves of indoor houseplants. An area that is too hot and dry encourages spider mites and causes blooms to quickly fade. A northern exposure really doesn’t provide enough light for high light plants. These plants need to be placed directly in front of an east-facing window, within 1-3 feet of a west-facing window, and within 5 feet of a south-facing window. A high light area has over 300 feet candles of light.

Soil Type/Container Size

Because there is such a wide range of indoor flowering plants, it is difficult to generalize about soil types. For example, orchids, African violets, citrus, and succulents all have specific soil needs, and specialized potting media is available for each one. Plants that prefer regular moisture can be potted into premium potting soils while those that require better drainage and are drought tolerant may be better potted into a cactus or succulent mix. Adding pumice or pearlite to your general potting soil can also enhance drainage. Although repotting may need to be done occasionally, most plants will flower better if slightly root-bound and grown in a relatively small container. If the soil needs to be replaced, but the container size is sufficient, the plant can be repotted into the same container after removing and replacing as much soil as possible; repotting is best done during the active growing months and ideally not during the plant’s flowering period.

Water

It is important to follow the individual care instructions for each type of plant regarding watering frequency and ideal soil moisture levels. When in bloom, most plants prefer to stay more regularly hydrated, but can tolerate drier conditions when not flowering. Many indoor flowering plants have unique watering needs and preferences. For example, bromeliads are watered by filling the reservoir in the center of the plant rather than pouring water onto the soil; African violets prefer to be watered from the bottom by placing the container into a shallow dish of water so the roots can hydrate without getting the foliage wet.

Fertilizer

During the active growing months (March–September), most indoor flowering plants should be fertilized with a liquid fertilizer formulated for indoor plants. Fertilizer should be diluted to about half strength and applied about every 2–4 weeks. An all-purpose houseplant food is usually adequate, but again, depending on the type of plant, there may be a specific fertilizer formula that would be even better. Orchids, African violets, succulents, and citrus each have specialized fertilizers on the market.

Pests

Flowering indoor plant pests tend to be the same as those on other indoor plants; aphids, spider mites, scale, mealy bugs, and fungus gnats are the most common. Regular inspection of your plants can help spot problems early and allow for prompt treatment. For small problems, rinse plant off with water and wipe all leaves clean with a soft towel. For larger pest infestations, spray the plant with neem oil, insecticidal soap, or another appropriate treatment; some sprays may stain household items or have a strong odor, so it may be wise to place the plant into a large plastic bag or garbage can liner before spraying. Severely infected plants should be quarantined to a plant-less room or eliminated entirely in order to prevent other plants nearby from being affected.

Among the Easiest to Grow

Goldfish plant (Columnea) - If you have a high light area that calls for a hanging or low-growing plant that flowers, goldfish plants are a perfect choice. Goldfish plants have small, thick, shiny, dark green leaves and colorful flowers that resemble tiny goldfish. The flowers may be red, orange, or yellow. I find goldfish plants are easy to care for, drought resistant, and with proper care, bloom on and off all year! These plants are considered slightly poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. 

Lipstick plant (Aeschynanth) - When given the right amount of light and not too much water, lipstick plants produce numerous red or orange small tubular flowers sporadically throughout the year. Not only are the flowers colorful, the leaves can be light green, dark green, or green and maroon. Hang lipstick plants from the ceiling or sit one on a table⁠—you will love having them as houseplants. 

African violet (Saintpaulia) - Small, compact African violets with soft, furry, dark green leaves, and beautiful delicate flowers in blue/violet, pink, fuchsia, or white can often bloom on and off all year; newer cultivars have double or bi-colored flowers. These non-toxic plants thrive in bright light and prefer to be watered from the bottom to avoid wetting the foliage.

Peace lily (Spathiphyllum) - There are beautiful indoor houseplants with large, glossy, oval, dark green leaves and impressive white "spathes" (flowers) that last for weeks. Peace lilies come from tropical forests where they grow close to the forest floor in the shade of larger plants. This helps explain why peace lily plants are one of very few indoor plants that can bloom even in medium to low light. NASA lists the peace lily as one of the best plants to clean the air of harmful toxins such as benzene, formaldehyde, and carbon monoxide. These plants are considered poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. 

Some Intermediate Plants

Kalanchoe - Kalanchoes, native to Madagascar, are easy-care, flowering succulent plants that do extremely well indoors. A relative of the jade plant, kalanchoes are short, bushy, upright plants with thick, oval-shaped, scalloped leaves. A kalanchoe’s long-lasting star-like blooms appear in clusters at the ends of sturdy stems. The vibrant colored flowers come in red, orange, yellow, lavender, white, and pink. Some new varieties even have bi-colored flowers. These are great indoor plants to perk up your home during the long winter months. The shorter the days, the more flowers kalanchoes produce. Best of all, the blooms on kalanchoe plants may last up to 8 weeks. All varieties of kalanchoes contain cardiac glycosides and are toxic to animals. 

Anthurium - These easy-care, indoor plants produce beautiful, long-lasting, waxy, heart-shaped "flowers" which are really modified leaves called "spathes" throughout the year. Anthurium spathes come in red, pink, white, and salmon, and can be used in cut flower arrangements. Large, glossy foliage makes the plant equally ornamental when not blooming. These plants are poisonous and should be kept away from pets and children. 

Shamrock plant (Oxalis) - Shamrock plants often appear around St. Patrick’s Day. These plants are nicknamed "shamrock plant" because of their 3 (or 4), thin, triangular leaflets that look like a lucky clover plant. Oxalis regnelli, the green leafed version, has small delicate white flowers, while Oxalis triangularis, or "false shamrock", has dark purple leaves and pinkish lavender flowers. Shamrock plants are bulb plants and die back after they bloom. Don’t throw them out⁠—they just need a little rest before starting to grow again. These plants are considered slightly poisonous if eaten in large quantities and should be kept away from pets and children.

Zebra plant (Aphelandra squarrosa) - Zebra house plants have showy striped foliage and exotic-looking, bright yellow flowers. The flowers on a zebra plant emerge from bracts at the end of a long stem. A zebra plant, native to the Brazilian forests, is primarily a table plant that stands about a foot tall. These plants do require a little more care since they need extra humidity.