By Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
Looking for something unusual to give to a favorite friend this holiday season? Try a cineraria, calceolaria, or cyclamen. All are unusual, festive, and available at many garden centers or florists in Vermont.
The cineraria has conspicuous daisy-like flowers, about two to three inches across, held above large, dark green foliage. Flower colors include red, pink, white, blue, and bi-colors. These potted annuals like bright light and cool temperatures--45 degrees F at night, 55 degrees F during the day. Keep the soil consistently moist--but not waterlogged--to prolong bloom. Cineraria are difficult to flower a second time so should be discarded after bloom.
Calceolaria, also known as the pouch or pocketbook flower, has red, yellow, and bronze-colored pouch-like flowers held above pale green leaves. Some varieties have bi-colored blooms. Others produce small, spotted blooms.
This plant requires bright, filtered light; cool temperatures; and consistent soil moisture for continued bloom. Again, keep soil moist but never overwater. It is better to have the soil too dry than too wet. Like the cineraria, calceolaria is an annual, so discard after flowering.
Cyclamen have variegated gray-green elliptical leaves and large, colorful blossoms held on stalks above the foliage. Depending on the variety, cyclamen produce pink, red, salmon, or white flowers.
This cool temperature plant needs plenty of sunlight, even watering, and nighttime temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees F for long flowering. Poor light or temperatures that are too warm will cause leaves to yellow and drop and buds to fail to open.
When buying any of these or other flowering potted plants, look for a plant with many buds about to open, rather than one in full bloom. Check flowers, buds, and undersides of leaves for signs of insects and disease.
Wrap the plant well for its trip home from the store as the cold can harm these sensitive plants. Most places will provide paper bags or sleeves for protection.