Yard and Garden: Flowering Indoor Plants

AMES, Iowa – Enjoy indoor flowering plants and cut flowers longer with proper care. Learn from horticulturists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach about caring for and transplanting flowering indoor plants. To have additional questions answered contact the Iowa State University Hortline at hortline@iastate.edu or 515-294-3108.

I recently received some cut flowers as a gift. How do I prolong their life? 

Several things can be done to lengthen the vase life of cut flowers. Begin with a clean vase and remove all foliage that will be below the water line. Place flowers immediately in water to prevent air from entering the stems. If the flowers have been out of water for more than a few minutes, cut off the bottom portions of the stems under water. Add a commercial flower preservative to the water and check the water level daily. Change the water frequently. Place the cut flowers in a cool, brightly lit location in the home or office. Keep flowers away from heat sources and cold drafts. 

I received a flowering azalea as a gift. How do I care for it? 

In the home, place the azalea in a brightly lit, cool location. An ideal site is one near a window that receives bright light (but no direct sunlight) and temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

An important aspect of caring for an azalea is proper watering. Water needs can be determined with your finger. Check the potting soil daily. When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water the plant until water begins to flow out the bottom of the pot. The pots of most azaleas are placed inside decorative pot covers. When watering the azalea, carefully remove the pot covering, water the plant in the sink, then drop the azalea back into the pot cover.

When placed in a favorable location and given good care, an azalea may bloom for three to four weeks. Azaleas sold by florists are not winter hardy outdoors in Iowa and are normally discarded after flowering. 

I recently purchased hyacinths that had been forced in a pot. After flowering, can I save the bulbs and plant them outdoors? 

Hyacinths, tulips and most other spring-flowering bulbs that have been forced indoors are usually discarded after flowering. Most won’t bloom again when planted outdoors. Daffodils are an exception. Daffodils are more vigorous than hyacinths and most other spring-flowering bulbs. Forced daffodils can be saved and successfully planted outdoors.

The care after flowering is important if attempting to save forced bulbs. After blooming, remove the spent flowers and place the plants in a sunny window. Water regularly until the foliage begins to yellow. At this point, gradually cut back on watering until the foliage withers and dies. Carefully remove the bulbs from the potting soil, allow them to dry for one to two weeks, then store the bulbs in a cool, dry location. Plant the bulbs in fall. 

I purchased a miniature rose for Valentine’s Day. How do I care for it? 

Miniature roses need direct sun. In the home, place the miniature rose in a south or west facing window. Rotate plants once or twice a week to promote even growth.

Miniature roses also require a consistent moisture supply. When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water the plant until water flows out the bottom of the container. Discard the excess water. Fertilize the miniature rose (once or twice a month) with a dilute fertilizer solution.

Miniature roses prefer daytime temperatures around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and a minimum nighttime temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep the plant away from cold drafts or heat sources.

To promote new growth and additional blooms, remove flowers as they fade. Cut off the stem just above the uppermost five-leaflet leaf. Also, remove any yellow leaves or dead growth.

In May, the miniature rose can be placed outside. Harden or acclimate the plant to outdoor conditions by initially placing the plant in a shady location. Then gradually expose it to longer periods of sunlight. After the miniature rose has been acclimated outdoors for several days, place the potted plant on a sunny patio or deck. The miniature rose can also be planted outdoors in the garden. While miniature roses are small, they’re actually more cold hardy than hybrid tea roses. Select a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil.