Yard and Garden: Caring for Florist Plants

Tips and advice to keep indoor plants bright and blooming

January 13, 2023, 1:33 pm | Aaron J. Steil

AMES, Iowa -- Colorful florist plants can be found in garden centers and florist shops all winter. Purchased in full bloom, they are kept for only a few weeks while their display is at its best. These flowering potted plants can function much like long-lasting floral arrangements and make excellent gifts. In this article, horticulture specialists with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer tips and advice to keep these indoor plants bright and blooming.

How do I care for a potted flowering azalea?

Azaleas (Rhododendron species) are available as potted plants in late winter and early spring blooming in bright pinks and sometimes red or white. 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.

white and pink azaleas.An important aspect of caring for an azalea is proper watering. Check the potting soil daily. When the soil surface becomes dry to the touch, water until it begins to flow out the bottom of the pot. Don’t let the soil become too dry, as it is difficult to re-wet. The pots of most azaleas are placed inside decorative pot covers. When watering, carefully remove the pot covering, water the plant in the sink, then drop the azalea back into the pot cover.

When blooms fade, compost the plant. Potted azaleas are not winter hardy in Iowa so they cannot be planted in the garden and plants have a complicated process to rebloom indoors.

How do I care for a potted, blooming hydrangea?

Bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) is frequently sold in winter and early spring and features large ball-shaped clusters of blue or pink flowers. Place hydrangeas in a bright, indirect light and cool temperatures (60 to 65 F). Keep soil evenly moist and water just as the soil becomes dry to the touch. Do not allow water to collect in the decorative plastic or foil pot cover.

Plants require a complicated series of steps to force them into bloom indoors. The cultivars used for florist plants are not reliably winter hardy in Iowa and if they survive the winter, they do not reliably flower. For these reasons, discard plants once the flowers fade.

I recently purchased a primrose at a florist. How do I care for it?

Primroses (Primula species) are typically sold at florist shops and greenhouses in late winter or early spring. Plants produce attractive, 1-to-1½- inch-diameter flowers above a rosette of leaves. Flowers may be white, yellow, orange, pink, red, purple or blue. Many flowers have contrasting centers.

With a proper environment, primroses often bloom for several weeks. In the home, place plants in a cool (55 to 60 F), brightly lit location. Keep the potting soil evenly moist. Primroses decline rapidly if the potting soil dries out completely or remains constantly wet. Discard plants when they are done blooming.

How do I care for cineraria?

The cineraria (Pericallis × hybrida) is a flowering plant that is typically sold at floral shops and other retailers from mid-winter to early spring. Plants produce clusters of 1-to-3-inch-diameter, daisy-like flowers. They are available in a wide range of colors, including pink, red, lavender, purple and blue. Many flowers have white eyes or centers.

Cinerarias should be placed in bright, indirect light with a temperature near 60 F. Keep the potting soil evenly moist, but not saturated. If the potting soil becomes dry, the plant will wilt rapidly and may die if not promptly watered. The pots are typically placed inside decorative pot covers. When watering, carefully remove the pot cover, water the plant in the sink, let it drain for a few minutes, then place the plant back into the pot cover.

Cinerarias should remain attractive for two to three weeks if given good care. After the flowers dry and shrivel, discard the plants.

How do I care for a potted, miniature rose?

Miniature roses (Rosa species) bloom in reds, pinks and whites and are often available during winter and early spring, especially around Valentine’s Day. Provide miniature roses with direct sun, which is often found in the home in a south or west-facing window. Rotate plants once or twice a week to promote even growth. Keep plants in temperatures between 60 and 70 F and away from hot or cold drafts. 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.

To promote new growth and additional blooms, remove flowers as they fade. When the entire cluster of flowers fades, cut off the stem just above the uppermost five-leaflet leaf. Also, remove any yellow leaves or dead growth. Periodically inspect the miniature rose for pests. Roses often have problems with spider mites when grown indoors. Discolored leaves and fine webbing are signs that spider mites may be present. Control spider mites by spraying plants with insecticidal soap. Several applications may be necessary for complete control.

Unlike many florist plants, when the final bloom fades, miniature roses can be successfully established in your outdoor garden. In May, place the plant 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 over the course of several weeks. After the miniature rose has been acclimated outdoors, plant it in a sunny site with fertile, well-drained soil. While miniature roses are small, they’re actually more cold-hardy than hybrid tea roses.

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