Now that our gardens are dormant and fall cleanup is well under way if not completed, many gardeners are turning their attention to indoor gardening.
I am old enough to remember the “houseplant revolution” of the 1970s, when indoor flora were as popular as long hair and corduroys. Almost every home had at least one hanging plant in it, often suspended in some sort of macramé hanger.
Terrariums, too, were popular, as were large tropical foliage plants. Growing houseplants seemed to add a touch of the exotic into the suburban homes of yesteryear.
Fads come and go, and houseplants are again in vogue, and today’s specimens are even more exotic than their 1970s predecessors. We have e-commerce to thank for that; it’s easier to find unusual varieties of plants not sold on the shelves of DIY stores.
The Internet has also been instrumental in connecting armature hybridizers and backyard growers with potentially millions of plant enthusiasts interested in trying something new. From unusual succulents to new varieties of dwarf citrus trees, exotic houseplants are increasing being found in homes and apartments across the country.
Websites like the popular Logee’s (Logees.com), a greenhouse business located in Danielson, Conn., caters to this growing trend and has been expanding its offerings for the past several years. One of many internet businesses supplying the growing demand in exotic plants, Logee’s offers an array of houseplants plants much more diverse than even the hippest of ‘70s households could ever have imagined.
I have bought many exotic plants from Logee’s over the years, but one of my favorites is called Streptocarpus.
Its name sounds more like a disease than a beautiful flowering plant, which may be why it is often referred to by its common name, Cape primrose. Orchid-like in appearance, the flowers have five petals and are carried on tall, wiry stems that arch over the plant’s dark green, strap-like leaves.
Easy to grow in the house, Cape primrose flowers come in a myriad of colors ranging from near black to blue, pink, white, purple, red and bicolors. The flowers themselves can be single, double, large or small. Some have one flower per stem while others have multiple.
Streptocarpus grows wild in Central and East Africa in high mountain woodlands. They are often found growing on rocks or fallen tree trunks near streams, where temperatures are cool and light is filtered.
As is the case with most cultivated plants, they grow best in conditions that replicate their natural environment as closely as possible.
Streps like bright light but not direct sunlight, unless it is early morning or late afternoon, and they prefer to grow in temperatures that range from 55 to 75 degrees.
Although they like to grow in soil that drains freely, they do best when the moisture level of the soil remains even but never soggy. Average potting soil with extra perlite or sand added works well. If they become too dry, they will wilt but will perk back up when watered again. They are very forgiving that way and in time will “train” you to the watering schedule they need.
Cape primrose likes fertilizer, and a water-soluble African violet food works well. If fed regularly, the plants will reward you with an abundance of flowers.