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Vermont Garden Journal: Brighten Up Your Winter With These Colorful Flowering Houseplants

The shrimp plant (justicia brandegeeana) is a tropical evergreen shrub in Mexico and Florida but it can also make a great houseplant.

Many people love having some houseplants blooming in winter. We're all familiar with African violets and Christmas cactus as two of the best flowering houseplants. But there are others that offer bright colorful flowers without much more work.

Anthurium or flamingo flower is one of my favorite red flowering  houseplants. Recent breeding has expanded the flower colors on this tough, easy-to-grow plant. Anthurium flowers are actually modified leaves or spathes. You can grow anthuriums with pink, orange, yellow, lavender and deep burgundy colored spathes. Anthuriums flower fine in a brightly-lit room without direct sunlight. The flowers can also be used as cut flowers in arrangements. Water when the soil is dry and fertilize lightly during the growing season. They grow best in high humidity, like near a shower. But the leaves and flowers are poisonous, so keep them away from pets and children.

If you like African violets you might want to try its relative the lipstick plant. Lipstick plants are commonly grown in hanging baskets. The stems cascade with bright red or yellow flowers, resembling lipstick tubes. Lipstick plants bloom best with some direct sun in a bright room. Water when the soil is dry and fertilize monthly from spring through summer.

Another cool-shaped houseplant flower is the shrimp plant. This tropical is an evergreen shrub in Mexico and Florida, but also can grown as a houseplant. The Mexican shrimp plant can have golden, pink or orange flowers that resemble a shrimp. It's another plant that is best grown in a hanging basket. Place it in a warm, bright room to flower. In spring cut back the plant, fertilize monthly and water regularly not allowing the soil to dry out.

Now for this week's tip: now is a good time to check protected evergreen shrubs, such as rhododendron and pieris. Adjust the burlap protection and spray an anti-desiccant spray, such as Cloud Cover, when temperatures are above 40 degrees to protect the leaves from drying out the rest of the winter.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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