In the depths of winter, there is nothing quite so lovely and transporting as the natural fragrance of flowering plants. The heady scent of Lavender conjures sultry summer days in the fields of southern France. Jasmine and Gardenia can carry your spirit to a tropical garden where warm breezes blow. And Paperwhite Narcissus summon spring in a southern garden. As winter settles over much of the country, enjoy the escapes these beautiful, carefree plants can provide indoors until it’s time, once again, to return to the garden.
The benefits and delights of growing Citrus indoors are numerous. For starters, these small trees with glossy green leaves are lovely to look at. When in flower, the scent of their blossoms is pure heaven. Then, of course, there is fresh, homegrown fruit to enjoy. A few easy tips will help you succeed in maintaining a healthy and productive Citrus plant.
When you receive your plant, do not be alarmed if it begins to drop flowers, fruit, and/or foliage, as this is the plant’s reaction to being shipped. Citrus plants need at least 4–6 weeks to acclimate to a new location and this acclimation can take longer if the plant is receiving less than 6 hours of direct sun per day. During this time, DO NOT fertilize the plant, as this will cause further stress. Once the plant is acclimated—which means the plant is able to produce and maintain new growth—you can begin fertilizing according to our recommendations mentioned below.
In most of the United States, these plants must be grown indoors, at least during the winter. Fortunately, their rootstock will keep them a manageable size (to no more than 4–5′ in a container), so they can summer on the patio and spend the winter in a greenhouse, an enclosed porch, or near a sunny, south-facing window. Move the plant outdoors in late spring if you’d like, but wait until the weather is warm and settled.
Gardeners in Zone 10 and warmer can grow Calamondin Orange and ‘Meyer Improved’ Lemon outdoors. ‘Meyer Improved’ Lemon is hardy in Zone 9 as well. Set the pot outdoors in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot, increasing the exposure to sun and wind each day. Check the moisture of the potting mix and water thoroughly if it’s dry. At the end of one week (give or take a day or two), your plant will be ready to go in the ground. Choose a spot for your plant that receives full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun each day) and is protected from drying winds. Planted in the ground, our Citrus will grow approximately 10′ tall.
Since Citrus plants are heavy feeders, we include a nutrient spray and a slow-release fertilizer with all varieties. For the nutrient spray: Once your plant has acclimated to its new home (about 4-6 weeks from receipt of plant) and when it is warm enough to spray your plant outdoors in your area, add all of the product to 4 oz of water in a spray bottle (not included). Move the plant to a shady location and spray the leaves. Avoid spraying the blooms. Apply weekly until gone. For the slow-release fertilizer: Once your plant has acclimated to its new home (about 4-6 weeks from receipt), uniformly spread complete package contents on the soil at the base of your plant. Do not mix with water or apply to foliage.
Prune Citrus at any time of the year except winter. Pinch growing tips and cut back leggy branches to help a spindly tree fill out. Suckers (shoots growing from below the graft or emerging from the soil) should be cut back as soon as they’re noticed.
To learn more, watch our short video “How to Grow Citrus Plants” below.
It’s June in the garden. What are some of the things you could be doing?
For starters, with spring’s unsettled weather finally yielding to the more predictable warmth of summer, it’s time to consider giving your houseplants a summer vacation outdoors. Make sure to provide all houseplants with a sheltered, lightly shaded spot when you first bring them outside to protect them from sun and wind. Depending on the plants, some may require full shade all summer, while others will enjoy a real sunbath. Since most of your plants will be growing more strongly in summer, be sure to keep up with fertilizing as well as watering.
Amaryllis that blossomed for you in winter can be summered over outdoors, a ritual that rebuilds the bulb for another season of winter bloom. Plants will benefit from the stronger sunlight in the garden and are happy in a full sun location after a gradual introduction. Their strappy foliage is feeding the bulb for next winter’s performance. You can knock the bulbs out of their pots and plant them in a bed, or leave them as they are in their pots. If leaves turn yellow, cut them off at the base. We keep our Amaryllis outside until light frost blackens the foliage in autumn, then we store them in a cool (55 degrees F), dark place such as a basement for a period of 8-10 weeks. For more information on caring for these exotic bulbs, see our Amaryllis Growing Guide.
What else should you be doing in the garden?
Prune Lilacs now, removing spent blooms.
Tomatoes will start growing rapidly. Keep plants secure to their stakes or supports by using ties, clips or cotton rags. We like to pinch off suckers, the additional stems that appear in the axils between the leaves and the main stem. For more information on caring for Tomatoes, see our Growing Guide.
Mature Nepeta (Catmints) can get floppy after bloom. After the first flush of flowers, cut back the plants to just a few inches tall. They recover quickly and are more likely to maintain a mounded shape following a serious haircut.
Remove spent Rhododendron flowers as soon as the blossoms subside. Be careful not to remove new buds at the base of old flower stems.
When Lettuce gets bitter and starts to bolt, pull out the plants, compost them, and use the space for Bush Beans or Summer Squash. A late planting of Squash often fools vine borers.
Keep up with weeding and watering.
Harvest Basil by cutting off branches and then removing the leaves. Pinch off flower buds to keep your plant producing stems and leaves. Water when the top 1″ of soil is dry. Feed monthly with a balanced fertilizer.
Have you ever looked at one of your houseplants and wondered why it wasn’t looking its best? Our team put together a series of videos to help you keep your houseplants thriving. We cover common problems with houseplants, when to water your plant, and also when and how to repot your plant.
Still have questions or haven’t found the answer you were looking for? Visit our website to chat with one of one of our knowledgeable customer service team members, or browse our collection of products for growing plants indoors.
Over the years, White Flower Farm has been honored to work in partnership with some of the world’s exceptional plant breeders and to be able to offer our customers exclusive and extraordinary treasures. Last year, we partnered with legendary Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA, to offer you Clivia miniata ‘Longwood Debutante.’ This lovely, mildly fragrant, yellow-flowering Clivia is the first named release from Longwood’s renowned breeding program. Customer response was so enthusiastic (the plants sold out quickly) that we’re pleased to be offering four more equally stunning varieties, all recent Longwood introductions.
White Flower Farm’s Director of Horticulture Rob Storm says, “As a company, we have a tradition of offering these special plants – starting around 1995 with Clivia ‘Sir John Thouron,’ a clear, yellow-flowering variety that was named for a renowned Pennsylvania gardener and came to us through Longwood, although it was not part of Longwood’s breeding program.”
Longwood’s Clivia breeding program began in 1976 under the direction of Dr. Robert Armstrong. To read more about this fascinating program, and the patience and time required to breed plants for specific characteristics, visit the Longwood website or, better yet, visit the garden itself.
Vegetative propagation of Clivias is an incredibly slow, and therefore expensive, process, but there is no other way to ensure that the subsequent plants are exact clones. Longwood’s Clivia breeding program is now 40 years old, and the plants you see are its first named releases. “The investment of time put in to get these remarkable plants is amazing and costly,” Rob says. “All of us are fortunate that Longwood has the resources to do this.”
The retail cost of these plants has raised some eyebrows and prompted comments on our Facebook page. It’s important to remember that these Clivia are decades in the making. “From seed germination to the first flowering is an incredible amount of time – years,” Rob explains. “The time and investment required to see the results of the breeding program’s hard work is not small.”
Clivia miniata is a favorite specimen houseplant, and has a well-earned reputation for being rugged and demanding little attention. Plants thrive even in a north window and require little care, growing larger and more impressive with age. These beautiful plants last a lifetime and beyond.
The large pastel blossoms of award-winning Clivia miniata ‘Longwood Sunset’ (shown above) represent a color breakthrough. The overlapping, slightly reflexed petals of each floret are suffused with sunset tones of peach and pink, finished with a fine picotee trim, and arrayed around a golden yellow and white center. The lightly fragrant, individual flowers form large clusters that measure 8-10” and are framed to perfection by dark green leaves.
Scroll below to see the other new arrivals:
Pale golden blossoms burst forth like fireworks in a night sky. This second named release from Longwood’s Clivia breeding program produces large, luminous florets with reflexed petals and pronounced golden stamens. The 4” flowers are held in clusters that can measure up to 9”, creating a breathtaking display in any interior. Winner of multiple awards.
Brilliant orange florets sport unique, raised center petals (called “keels”), an intriguing detail that invites close inspection. The golden yellow centers add delightful contrast, and the result is a stunning display that will brighten any room. This is the third named cultivar in Longwood’s renowned breeding program, the first variety with keeled petals.
Certain to stand out in any interior are the vibrant blossoms of this eye-catching Clivia. The fourth named variety in Longwood’s breeding program, its striking blooms mix colors of mahogany orange and red, contrasted by green throats. The red tone intensifies as the blossoms mature. Perched on stems above a fountain of dark green foliage, they create a memorable show.
Yellow Clivias are not as widely available as orange varieties, and, after 35 years of breeding for the best yellow color, Longwood’s research program succeeded in producing this high-quality selection. The lightly scented blossoms are a soft, buttery yellow shade, making an already attractive and durable plant an absolute knockout.
In the depths of winter, when the air is cold and dry outside and hot and dry indoors, there is no indoor plant we cherish more than Jasmine polyanthum. This beloved subtropical vine forms a trailing mound of small leaves and curling tendrils. The dark green glossy foliage is beautiful to look at, but it’s the small white flowers and the heavenly fragrance they release that makes this plant such a treasure. The perfume can fill a room, and no matter what the weather outside, it lifts our spirits by conjuring warmer, balmier places.
Our Jasmine plants are grown here in our greenhouses, which are overseen by Nursery Manager Barb Pierson and her staff. They’re shipped to customers starting around mid November and can be shipped through late March, depending on the weather. We asked Barb to talk about Jasmine and to offer a few tips on how to keep these plants thriving through their season of bloom or beyond.
“There are lots of varieties of jasmine,” Barb says. “Confederate Jasmine is the one you see growing down south. It’s not for indoors. Ours is Jasmine polyanthum. You don’t often see it in the landscape. It’s more of a houseplant. Other indoor varieties don’t produce the same number of blossoms. Jasmine polyanthum gives one big flush, which may continue for weeks. The fragrance is in so many perfumes, soaps, candles and infusers. In addition to the fragrance, the vine itself is lovely, delicate yet strong, the dark green leaves spaced along tendrils. The small, star-shaped white flowers stand out against this lush, beautiful background.”
Last summer was “super hot,” as Barb puts it, and while Jasmine polyanthum doesn’t like that kind of heat, the plants did beautifully, largely thanks to Sam, the staff member who tends them. “She’s now a seasoned jasmine grower,” Barb says. “She’s been doing it for at least four years, and she doesn’t let them get too dry.”
The key to keeping Jasmine polyanthum happy is to give it “steady, even moisture,” Barb says. “If jasmine gets very dry, it doesn’t bounce back. At any point in their life cycle, if you let the plants dry down to where they’re physically wilting, they really don’t bounce back without getting brown leaves and looking awful. These plants like humidity – you can spritz them or use a humiditray.”
While some customers keep their jasmine plants and summer them over to encourage rebloom the following winter, the majority (and most of our staff members) treat the plants as winter “annuals,” tossing them out when the bloom cycle is done. If you do choose to keep a Jasmine polyanthum plant going through the warmer months, take it outside in spring once temperatures have settled above freezing, and give it a shady spot. The plant will appreciate fertilizer. “They take a lot of feed,” Barb says. “We use Organic Gem® Liquid Fish Fertilizer, a foliar feed, and they really like that. (Be advised that the smell persists for two days so do the feeding in summer when the plants are outside.) Feed them once per month from April to the end of October. Use a water soluble fertilizer for houseplants, and use it at half the recommended rate.”
In autumn, the plants are cooled naturally. In mid-September, “we begin cooling them to 42 degrees F at night,” Barb says. “This is part of what initiates flower formation. Starting in mid-September, we hope for cool nights, not below 40 degrees F, until mid-October. Then we turn up the heat gradually to 65 degrees F.” The days begin to shorten at that time of year. “That’s probably a trigger, too,” Barb says, “but we have no scientific material to back that up. Indoors, the plants don’t like hot air from radiators or fans blown on them. They prefer shade to bright, indirect sun. They do not like direct sun.
If you summer over your plant, “Stop pruning by August 1 or you will lose blooms,” Barb says.
“We start shipping jasmine around Thanksgiving when they’re fully budded and ready to begin flowering. We’re sometimes delayed if the fall is warmer than usual,” Barb says. “They can take the upper 20s in temperature so shipping continues, but we try not to ship after it’s below freezing.” If the box is left on someone’s front stoop for hours, the buds will fall off.
“They like 40 degree to 50 degree cool weather, and the flowers last longer in cooler temperatures. A cooler room of the house with bright indirect light is ideal.”
Need a couple of quick tips for decorating your home for the holidays? Think greens. Step outside with a pair or pruners and take cuttings from evergreen trees, shrubs, and perennials (being careful to prune judiciously and not to offend any neighbors), or order a 7- or 14-lb box of our Decorating Greens. The key here is to amass an assortment of ingredients that come in a variety of colors, textures, and forms.
Spread out the collection of elements on a worktable or floor so you can see everything you’ve got to work with. Next, round up a few pots, cachepots or vases. Then, play. Generally speaking, it’s easiest to start by placing the largest and tallest elements in your pots and then filling in around them. Trim and prune the greens as needed to fit your pots, and save the clippings to make other decorations.
As you make your arrangements, keep in mind where you’ll be displaying them. If they’ll be on a mantel, with one side against a wall, there’s no need to fill in all the way around. But if your arrangement will be viewed from all sides, be sure to keep turning the pot as you go so all sides have a finished look.
If you have any leftover greens or dried flowers, use your imagination and whatever you have on hand to create additional decorative arrangements.
Where greens aren’t the central element in your decorating scheme, they can be used to add a color to other adornments, including a wide variety of houseplants.
One of our favorite things to do is mass a particular indoor plant in groups along a mantelpiece, atop a sideboard, or on an entrance table. Depending on the effect you’re going for, Azaleas, Gardenias, Lemon Cypress, Wintergreen, Holiday Cactus, Jasmine, and potted Hydrangea all work beautifully.
This year, we took home some of our new Cyclamen Fantasia® Deep Magenta to spruce things up for the holidays. The rich, deep pink blossoms with white trim are a lovely and unexpected surprise. They’re attractive enough to stand alone, but to create a fuller effect, add some other simple elements, the sort most of us have around the house. Here, we added candlesticks and votives, some clippings of Noble Fir left over from our box of Decorating Greens. The silvery color of the candlesticks picks up the patterning in the beautifully veined leaves of the Cyclamen, and the candlelight makes the whole scene glow.
We decked the mantel . . .
And the dining room sideboard . . .
When the holidays are over, the Cyclamen will keep blooming until early summer, adding vibrant color and lush greenery to any room where you have bright, indirect light. (For helpful tips on caring for Cyclamen, visit our Growing Guide.)
The best part? Our decorating took only an hour or two, leaving us plenty of time for other holiday preparations.
Tucked away on page 51 of White Flower Farm’s Holiday 2016 catalog is a plant that is, in my humble opinion, the very best gift plant, ever. It is so pretty that when my friend Henry walked into my house a few years ago and saw it in bloom, he paid the highest compliment I have ever gotten on any plant I have ever grown. “Those are fake, right?” he asked.
As a houseplant, Christmas Rose, or Helleborus niger, is densely packed with shiny dark green leaves at its base. Above that, delicate white buds and open flowers with yellow stamens bring a little bit of woodland garden inside. I have had great success with them just by keeping them evenly watered all winter long. True, they did not look as great in April as they did in December, and some people might opt to move on to other houseplants at that point, but I think that would miss half the reason to buy this plant: In spring, you add it to your garden.
Our catalog and website state that “once spring arrives, add this exceptional perennial to your shade garden, where it will soon settle in and bloom the following year. Plants are hardy in Zones 3–8.” I figured it was worth a try, so in about April I dug a hole and added a good amount of compost and planted my slightly tired-looking houseplant. That was probably 4 or 5 years ago, and I have since added several more in the same spot. As an outdoor plant, Helleborus niger acts a bit like a groundcover with lots of twisted stems and a ton of evergreen leaves, but unlike many groundcovers, it forms a clump that does not seem to be getting much bigger (this is a good thing for me, though I couldn’t think of anything nicer than a carpet of Christmas Rose).
But here’s the best thing about my beloved Helleborus niger – it blooms. In December. In fact, it’s loaded with buds in my northwest Connecticut garden right now. It has blossomed every year that I’ve had it at this time, though I must add that some years we’ve had snow cover by this point so technically, I can’t verify that it bloomed during those winters. Any new gardener will laugh when they hear that the first few times it bloomed in December, I asked other gardeners what they thought was going on. Most of them looked at me funny and said that the plant must be “confused.” It turns out that it’s not confused – it’s supposed to do this! According to the Missouri Botanic Garden, “Helleborus niger, commonly called Christmas rose, is a winter-blooming evergreen perennial which blooms around Christmas time in warm winter regions, but later (February or March) in the cold northern parts of the growing range…. Flowers sometimes bloom in the snow and bloom can survive spurts of sub-zero temperatures.”
If you’re thinking of adding one to your holiday list, here are a few tips: I planted mine close to my front door so that it’s easy to keep an eye on their pretty blooms when I am coming and going. As a houseplant, it dropped a ton of seeds in my house by the end of winter, so if you know what to do with Hellebore seeds, you could possibly grow more (I scattered them in my garden and hoped for the best – nothing happened). Another reason it’s a wonderful gift plant is that it doesn’t seem to be widely available, so it is a treat even for the person who has everything. If you are already convinced, you can order one here.