Thank heavens for houseplants! In winter, they carry nature’s warmth, color, and vitality indoors. “They’re therapeutic,” says Tovah Martin, author of The Indestructible Houseplant and a frequent Coastal Home contributor. “Growing them sends a message that nature is valuable and that you care enough to bring it into your home and care for it.” Sinningia leucotricha, an African violet relative, has a bulbous, above-ground tuber from which grow hairy silver leaves and fragrant pale-orange spring flowers. “It has everything; it’s a little oddity of nature, and when it goes dormant you don’t have to bother—it’s very easy.”
Kartuz Greenhouses (kartuz.com) carries several Sinningia species and cultivars.
Check eBay for S. leucotricha plants and seeds.
Cymbidium Magic Mountain ‘Valentine’
Cymbidium orchids bear elegant, long- lasting, and attractive green foliage. Flower stems appear in February and bloom for up to two months. To thrive, Martin says Cymbidium needs to grow in a well-drained orchid-growing medium (not soil!) with bright indirect sunlight and regular watering and fertilizing. Nighttime temperatures should be at least 10ºF cooler than daytime to initiate flowering, which is best when plants are somewhat pot-bound. Stake the flower stems to avoid breakage, and prune them back after they turn brown.
Seattle Orchid (seattleorchid.com) sells Cymbidium species and cultivars.
“Stromanthe is outrageously gorgeous all the time,” Martin says, referring to the plant’s striking pink, cream, and green variegated leaves with burgundy undersides. Shiny and wide, the foliage is set in fans. “It’s called the never-never plant and is fulfilling and easy to grow. It’s equally enjoyable in summer and winter.” Be sure to pay attention to the plant’s container: “The perfect pairing is what it’s all about.” In addition to making a fine houseplant, Stromanthe looks terrific in pots on a shady deck or patio. Grow it in rich, moist, well-drained soil.
Gardino Nursery (rareflora.com)
Clivia’s brilliant reddish orange flowers give it the common name “fire lily.” The plant grows slowly and easily from a bulb to 24 inches tall. “It has wonderful flowers that last over a long period,” Martin says. “This is an heirloom plant. You can hand it down to your grandkids.” Clivia, named for Lady Charlotte Florentina Clive, Duchess of Northumberland, blooms in late winter to early spring. It needs indirect light and should be pot-bound for best flowering. Plants can be toxic to cats and dogs.