Staying green in winter

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, January 12, 2012

Flowers that are good indoors this time of year include hothouse hydrangeas and potted roses.

Plants indoors, outdoors can bring happiness during winter months

During winter, there is plenty to make people feel blue, especially less sunlight and the blistering cold, but a lack of foliage doesn’t have to be added to that list.

Although many plants go dormant in the winter, there are still plenty of species that can survive outside or thrive inside the house to bring a little cheer to the gloomy season.

Smithfield Gardens greenhouse manager Jeff Williamson said he thinks having colorful and vibrant flowers and plants around during winter can be the perfect pick-me-up.

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“Because the days are short and we get into bouts of cold weather, it can be depressing,” he said. “Having that color inside and out really does cheer you up.”

With the chilly weather outside, it might be ideal to add indoor plants to ensure they flourish.

Williamson said there are a lot of choices for people looking for nice flowers to have inside during the winter.

One of the most popular is amaryllis, which is a bulbous plant that is often displayed during the holidays, but the problem with amaryllis, Williamson said, is they don’t last long.

“Many of those are still blooming now, but once they are done, that’s it,” he said.

Instead of or in addition to picking up amaryllis, Williamson said, he recommends something like African violets.

He said many garden centers carry them this time of year, so they are easy to find, and there are a lot of options.

“They come in a variety of colors,” Williamson said. “It’s something that can give you flower (blooms) indoors.”

Another good choice, he said, are potted azaleas, which are grown in hot houses during the winter and can look very different from the shrub that grows in the ground.

“They will often last several weeks in the house as long as you keep up with watering and keep them in a room that doesn’t get too hot,” he said.

Other flowers that are good indoors this time of year include hothouse hydrangeas and potted roses.

Williamson said potted roses sometimes don’t show up in the garden centers until Valentine’s Day, but they are worth waiting for.

“They bloom for a very long time,” he said. “They are very hardy and can even be planted in the ground later.”

But rather than focusing on only adding flowering plants, Williamson said, he encourages people to look into shrubs that have colorful leaves.

“I think focusing on things that have interest in their leaf structure and color is important,” he said. “There are a lot of plants that have colorful leaves.”

Williamson said great foliage to have indoors are Chinese evergreens because they have pink or red in their leaves, but another good option is crotons.

“Those are very showy,” Williamson said. “There are lots of color in the leaves and lots of variations in crotons.”

In addition to the indoor plants, there are still plenty of things to put outside for a pop of color.

While many flowering plants are dormant during the winter, Williamson said, pansies are always a nice addition to the garden this time of year.

“That’s really the only one that’s reliable in terms of annuals,” he said.

However, there are a variety of shrubs that can make it through the winter.

Williamson said the advantage of Hampton Roads’ mild climate is that many fall-blooming shrubs will continue to flourish into the winter months and spring-blooming ones will come in early.

He said mahonias are great shrubs for during the winter because they have interesting leaves and pretty yellow flowers.

“That’s a shrub that can give you some winter color,” he said.

Additionally, selecting different evergreens can make for a nice variety of shades of green in the garden.