It's getting to be winter, folks, and that is an inevitable fact. For those of us in northern climes, the heat's kicking on and the humidity is plummeting, which makes our beloved indoor plants very sad. They will slow down new growth, shed old growth, and stop flowering. Ferns will start to look crappy and ficus trees will weep. Previously unseen pest populations can explode. Some plants will go dormant in order to adjust, and others will simply limp along until spring. But this doesn't mean your plant habit must also go dormant; there are plenty of fantastic things to do indoors in this season. Here's a few ideas.
Buy winter-flowering plants. If you need your monthly fix of inflorescence, there are options. Cyclamen, schlumbergera, and many other commonly available houseplants can be purchased in flower, or will naturally flower during winter months.
Force some bulbs. "Forcing" is the term for getting a bulb to flower in an off-season. I prefer to think of this process as "encouraging" rather than "forcing," because if I have learned anything about plants it's that they can't be forced to do anything. Rather, we can only create the conditions that plants prefer, and hope that they flourish. Many bulbs such as freesia, hyacinth and amaryllis will flower indoors, but creating these appropriate conditions can take weeks of chilling and storage in darkness. If you have less time and inclination, buy pre-started bulbs or simply go with the easiest of all bulbs, Narcissus papyraceus. Also known as Paperwhites, these bulbs are both common and classic, with no special preparation needed. They can be obtained without great expense at any garden store, and will root in water and most decorative mediums (pebbles, glass beads, etc.)
I know it's a lump right now, but soon it will be awesome
Adopt flowerless orchids. Big box stores and many greenhouses have a consistent supply of orchids which have been forced into flower. However, when the first or second flush of orchid blooms fade, these plants lose the bulk of their retail value. Because it takes time and space (which equals money) to encourage an orchid to re-bloom, growers often throw their flowerless orchids away to make room for more valuable stock. So much the better for us! Armed with the know-how to encourage another flowering, we can now have those pricey orchids we might otherwise pass up. If you have a good local greenhouse, ask them if they have any flowerless orchids on sale. In this exact fashion, a friend and I recently acquired some phalaenopsis orchids from a local greenhouse for almost 90% off the ticket price. The waiting can be the best part... the leaves may indicate which type of orchid you're getting, but until you can convince it to re-bloom, the color of your orchid will be a delightful mystery.
Pick up some cacti. When it comes to the dry warmth of heated indoor spaces, few plants will be happier than cacti and succulents. See upcoming posts for more on these delightful little freaks.