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Get potted and cut blooms to last this Valentines

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By Jeneen Wiche

Cut flowers are undoubtedly the most popular manifestation of showing your love for someone on Valentine’s Day, but potted flowering plants can do the trick, too.  
Perhaps the potted bloom has the potential to remind your lover that the sentiment lasts all year … but what does it mean if you can’t get it to bloom again?  
Is your love doomed? Of course not, but here are some tips just in case.
African violets are sweet and have the ability to bloom all year round so if you receive one this Valentine’s Day here’s what you should do.  
After the bloom cycle finishes, repot the plant to improve soil nutrients and drainage.  
They bloom best if they are slightly pot-bound so keep the pot small.  
Set the plant in bright light and let the soil surface dry out between waterings.
Use a diluted solution of fertilizer every couple of weeks. Bright light, good drainage and regular feeding are required for continued bloom.
Cyclamen are popular for Valentines. Their blooms look like folded up hearts, after all.  These are super easy and have extremely long-lasting blooms as long as you keep them cool and out of direct sunlight.  
Provide the same culture as you would for the African violet but understand that the cyclamen requires a dormant period.  
When the blooms fade and the leaves start to yellow, the plant is ready to rest (which naturally occurs during the summer months).  
Stick your pot somewhere cool and dry and check back in a couple of months for signs of life, if you see any, resume watering and fertilizing until the cycle begins again.  
The phalaenopsis, also called the moth or butterfly orchid, is another Valentine’s favorite. This orchid is considered an epiphyte, or air plant, so it is accustomed to absorbing nutrients and moisture from the air.  
The loosely packed growing medium (usually some sort of bark) mimics this environment by allowing good air circulation and drainage. Good drainage is extremely important.
Bright light is best but phalaenopsis are more tolerant of lower light levels than most orchids.  
For most indoor environments, a once-a-week watering will do, allow the bark to dry between waterings.  
A skipped watering is better than over-watering when it comes to orchids.
The mantra for orchid growers is “water weakly, weekly.”  
Once a month you should water with a diluted solution of fertilizer.  
Putting them outdoors in the summer (they like humidity and air movement so outdoors in the summer is ideal, but keep them shaded from direct sunlight) and leaving them there into early fall helps them initiate bloom.  The cooler night temperatures (into the low 50’s) and the shorter days trigger bud set.  
If you receive a little azalea or rose bush in bloom don’t have high hopes for an easy transition to the garden.  
The florist-raised miniatures live in such a perfectly controlled environment that they often poop out after bloom.  
Light levels decrease, low humidity and irregular watering bring on stress. This is not to say that you can’t have a long-lasting beautiful plant, but understand the limitations that a woody plant has coming into your home, blooming out of season, when it would normally be dormant.  
These plants often lack the hardiness required in Kentuckiana so if you plant them outside in the spring don’t be surprised if they don’t make it through next winter.