Monarch Butterflies Need Our Help

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
Monarchs—those beautiful orange butterflies we’ve seen all around in late summer in past years—are becoming scarce.  This is due in large part to loss of habitat—both where they overwinter in Mexico and summer in the U.S., as well as some recent temperature extremes.  While we can’t do much about the weather, we can help monarchs by restoring their habitats and food they require to survive and reproduce.
          
 Monarch butterflies overwinter in a unique forest habitat in central Mexico.  Ecotourism, illegal logging, and natural disruptions such as fire or disease threaten this small region where all the monarchs overwinter.  Since record keeping began in 1994, their numbers peaked at an estimated one billion in 1996, compared to an estimated 33 million during the winter of 2013-2014.  During this winter, only 1.65 acres were covered with monarchs, compared to 51.8 acres in 1996.
           
After winter, monarchs migrate to the southern U.S. states where they breed.  They have 3 to 5 generations per year, each generation only living 2 to 6 weeks, except the last.  The final generation that migrates up to 2,500 miles back to Mexico can live up to 8 months.  It is the successive generations, after the first, that migrate north and that we typically see there in mid to late summer.
           
Understanding how they feed is a key to how we can help monarchs.  While the adult butterflies are “generalists” and can feed on the nectar of a variety of flowers, the caterpillars (or larvae, that of course latter change into the butterflies after forming a “chrysalis”) are “specialists” feeding only on milkweed. Female butterflies use visual and chemical cues to locate milkweed plants for laying their eggs. They seldom lay eggs on other plants if there are no milkweeds, as the larvae that hatch will die.
           
Much of the “breeding” ground or habitats of the monarch in this country have been lost.   In populated areas, this has been due to development and loss of the important milkweeds, replaced by either paving or manicured landscapes.  Over half the monarchs that end up migrating back to Mexico have done so historically from the central states or “corn belt.”  Milkweeds have been decimated in these areas from the increased use of weed killers on herbicide-tolerant (GMO) soybeans and corn, and the increased production of these for biofuels.  Couple these factors with a changing climate of extremes, including cold and wet springs and summer droughts, and many fewer have bred and returned to Mexico.
           
Based on these facts on the monarch butterfly habitats and needs, here are ways you can help these beautiful pollinators.  In your community, encourage local towns, property owners, and farmers to delay mowing areas with milkweeds until fall.  This is especially important in late summer when the migratory generation is developing. 
           
Also encourage local, state, and corporate officials from spraying pesticides and herbicides in monarch habitats (particularly those with milkweeds) along roads, railroads, and powerline right-of-ways.  Especially avoid spraying for insects when monarchs are present.
          
These same practices apply in home landscapes.  In addition, you can plant butterfly gardens and plants using native milkweeds and nectar plants.  A key is site selection—it should be in full sun (at least 6 hours or more a day), sheltered from wind, and with well-drained soil.  Swamp milkweed is an exception to most butterfly plants, as it will take poor drainage and water-saturated soils.
                    
For eastern states, milkweeds to consider include the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), common milkweed (A. syriaca), and the swamp milkweed (A. incarnata).  Annual flowers for nectar include Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), lantana, Egyptian star flower (Pentas lanceolata), Texas scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea), Mexican sunflower (Tithonia), and zinnia.  Most other annual salvia are attractive to pollinators too, except perhaps the common scarlet sage bedding plant (Salvia splendens)
           
Perennial flowers that should grow for more than one year include fennel (also a host for the black swallowtail),  Joe pye (Eupatorium purpureum), tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), ironweed (Vernonia), sedum,  and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).  When choosing flowers, particularly from groups like the coneflowers which have many selections with double or frilled flowers, try to include species rather than cultivars (cultivated varieties).  Species often contain more nectar and may be more attractive to pollinators like the monarch.
           
There are many resources to learn more details on these topics, and to help monarchs as well as pollinators in general.  The Xerces Society (www.xerces.org) works to help all pollinators, and offers a book (Attracting Native Pollinators) as well as a pollinator habitat sign for purchase.  Journey North (www.learner.org/jnorth/monarch/), while designed for kids, offers much easy to read information on all aspects of monarchs, and the chance to be involved in “citizen science” with tracking migration.  Perhaps the most extensive resource is Monarch Watch (www.monarchwatch.org).  Begun in 1992, this non-profit organization based at the University of Kansas provides information, products (even milkweeds) and a Monarch Waystation certification program (www.MonarchWatch.org/ws).

 

(author’s notes:  I just saw my first Monarch this first week of August, only the one. I hope it found all my milkweeds.

Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Shrub dogwoods with white froth?

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Yet another new pest appeared for me this week, this on my red-twig shrub dogwoods—spittlebugs. If you have or see these, here is some good advice from Donald Lewis, Dept. of Entomology at Iowa State University.

“The dogwood spittlebug is one of several species of this commonly recognized group of sap-feeding insects. Spittlebugs are familiar because of the frothy, wet mass of “spittle” that surrounds the nymphs as they feed on sap from their host plants. The spittle is produced by the immature stage of the insect (the nymph) and is a protection from natural enemies and desiccation.

The most common spittlebugs are the meadow spittlebug which feeds on a wide range of plants (alfalfa, clover, strawberries, and many others) and the pine spittlebugs occasionally seen on pine tree foliage. Feeding by spittlebugs may cause wilting and stunting on some plants, but damage to ornamental plants is limited. The greatest concern is the obnoxious appearance of the spittle. Many people are also distressed by being wetted when they inadvertently come in contact with the viscous mass of bubbles produced from the anus of an insect.

The dogwood spittlebug feeds only on dogwoods, blueberries and buckeye. Eggs spend the winter beneath the bark of twigs and hatch in late spring. The nymphs and their spittle masses are present in June and early July and are located in the junctions between stems or leaves and stems. Adult spittlebugs emerge in late July and feed on the same plants as the nymphs. Females lay eggs in punctures in the stems during the fall.

Although spittle masses of the dogwood spittlebug are conspicuous and often very numerous, otherwise healthy shrubs are not injured and control is not warranted. If you prefer to limit dogwood spittlebug populations, I suggest hosing the plants with a forceful stream of water from the garden hose. Special insecticide sprays will not be needed.”

(author’s note:  Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Delightful Dahlias

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

We have the Aztecs to thank for the dahlia, a tender bulb (actually a tuber) planted in late spring for gorgeous blooms in late summer.  A long-lasting cut flower, the dahlia makes a great addition to any garden.

Dahlias range in color from white and yellow to orange, pale pink, lavender, and red.   Bloom size ranges from half an inch to a foot or more across.  Flowers may be in tight balls to very open, from single to double, with petals that are flat, curved, or rolled into tubes.  Based on flower type, the American Dahlia Society (www.dahlia.org) lists 20 classes.

The dahlia, a relative of the daisy, was first cultivated by Aztec botanists in Mexico. In the early 1500s it was discovered by Spanish explorers who brought this tuberous plant back to Europe. Interestingly, they had the same problem with storage of the tubers as do many modern-day gardeners. The genus Dahlia gets its name from an 18th-century Swedish botanist, Andreas Dahl.

The dahlia became a favorite in the gardens of working class Europeans after being distained by the upper class as being too flamboyant for their carefully manicured gardens. However, it gained prominence in the mid-1800s after a devastating blight wiped out the potato crop in France as it was thought to be a good substitute for this starchy vegetable. Unfortunately, it was not, but it soon became popular in gardens both for its flowers and interesting foliage.

Although a perennial plant, in northern climates dahlias don’t survive winter so are treated as annuals. They are planted in the spring as soon as the soil has warmed up and after the last chance of frosts—about when you plant tomatoes outside.   They can be grown one year as annuals, or tubers lifted and stored in the fall after the first hard frost and the foliage is killed.

Dahlias do best in a sunny spot with light, fertile, well-drained soil. If you have heavy clay soil, work in a two- to four-inch layer of well-rotted manure or compost a few weeks before planting. Add fertilizer–about a quarter pound of a balanced fertilizer like 5-10-5 per ten square feet of garden—once a month after plants start growth, or lightly sprinkle fertilizer around plants. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers (those with a higher first number) as they will result in leaves at the expense of flowers.  Use a general garden or tomato fertilizer.

Wait until the danger of frost has past before planting the tubers, unless you planted them in pots in early spring. Plant at least four to six inches deep, laying them horizontally on their sides, with roots down and buds facing upward. Cover with two inches of soil, adding more as shoots appear.

Space smaller varieties two to three feet apart, larger ones three to four feet. Larger plants also will require support as they grow. To avoid damage to the roots later on, drive a stake into the ground now, a few inches from where you plan to plant each tuber. As the plants grow, tie the stalks to the stakes with double strands of garden twine. Pinching back the center shoot once three sets of leaves appear will keep plants more bushy.

Most dahlias will bloom in late summer and early fall. Some of the newer and bedding varieties are relatively short, a foot or so high, and generally bloom repeatedly through the season. Pinch off spent blooms from these to encourage continual flowering. Once frost has blackened the foliage, and after the tubers have hardened in the soil for a week, it’s time to dig them up and store until the following spring.

With a sharp knife, cut the stalks at a height of about a foot. Then carefully dig up the clumps, taking care not to injure or spear the tubers. Trim the stalks to a few inches. Shake off the loose dirt and separate the tubers, allowing them to dry for only a couple days (or they will start to shrivel and dry too much).

Brush off the remaining dirt, then place in a plastic bag in a box, or plastic box (to keep them from drying out) containing peat moss, wood shavings, coarse vermiculite, fairly dry compost, or similar. Cover, label and store in a dry, cool (non freezing) place. The ideal storage temperature is 40 degrees F. Check every few weeks to make sure tubers aren’t shriveling (add a little moisture) or staying too wet which will cause tubers to rot. If too wet, leave uncovered until the storage medium dries out, or replace it with drier material.

If you have large clumps of tubers, individual ones can be separated off with a knife.  Just make sure to keep a piece of the crown (the thickened stem where the tubers join together), which has the future growing points or eyes.  Then wrap each tuber with plastic wrap.  Easiest, especially if you are already growing tubers in large pots, is to just bring the pots into a non-freezing area for winter, keeping them dry.

More dahlia tips, cultivar (cultivated variety) listings, resources and sources can be found from the American Dahlia Society.   More information, as well as heirloom cultivars, can be found at Old House Gardens (www.oldhousegardens.com).

(author’s note:  Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

An Easter Basket of Flowers

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

The flower that most often comes to mind when we think of Easter is, of course, the Easter lily. But there are other flowers appropriate for this time of year as well, all with rather interesting origins.

In the Alps, the narcissus has been associated with Easter for centuries. In fact, even before Christianity, the narcissus represented springtime in Greek mythology.   It is still widely used as the main Easter flower in many countries.
In England and Russia, pussy willows are used for Easter flowers. In the Middle East, it is wild tulips, while in Mexico, tropical flowers fill the churches during this spring holiday season. The early Germans decorated with red flowers and red fruited plants such as English holly, believing the red color represented the blood of Christ. The field anemone (Anemone coronaria) also was associated with the passion of Christ.

The Easter cactus (Hatiora gaertneri, formerly Rhipsalidopsis), is so named as this relative of the Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti, all looking almost identical, blooms in spring.  The funnel-shaped, flaring flowers are either rose purple or scarlet orange, coming out of flat, segmented leaves.  These, as their kin, are often found in hanging baskets where they’re well adapted, growing naturally on trees in Brazil.  The flowers open during the day, closing at night.  Being a cactus, keep this one on the dry side.

Do you know the Bermuda lily?  You probably do, as this is the true name of the Easter lily, deriving from its origin.  It is a pure white flower, believed to symbolize purity. Coming from one bulb, the flower is said to represent the tomb of Jesus with the blossoms symbolizing his life after death.  It is the most common flowering potted plant of spring.

When buying a lily, select a plant with many unopened buds and leaves all the way down the stem. Poor growing conditions or root disease will cause the loss of leaves from the bottom up, so be sure to pull back the wrapper to check.

Choose a well-proportioned plant, one that’s about two to three times as high as the pot. Check the buds, flowers, and leaves–especially the undersides–for signs of insect pests and disease.

To keep your lily healthy at home, remove the decorative foil or paper covering the pot, or make a hole in the bottom, to allow better drainage. Put your plant where it will get plenty of bright, indirect light and cool temperatures. About 40 to 50 degrees F at night, or as cool as possible, and below 68 degrees F during the day is ideal.

You also will need to keep the soil constantly moist. To prolong the life of the blossoms, remove the yellow, pollen-bearing pods or anthers found in the center of each flower as it opens.

Don’t expect your lily to flower again as it’s already been “forced” once by the grower to bloom in time for Easter. However, you might get your lily to bloom again next fall by planting it outdoors once the soil has warmed up.

If you plan to replant your lily outdoors, remove the flowers as they fade. Put the plant on a sunny windowsill for four to six weeks until the foliage matures. Continue to water.  When the leaves turn brown, cut the stem off at the soil line. Then in late May, plant the bulb four to six inches deep in a sunny, well-drained location. Fertilize twice during the summer. With luck, your lily will bloom this fall. Just don’t count on it surviving a northern winter.

Other appropriate flowers for Easter, and spring in general, are other bulbs such as tulips and hyacinths, and azaleas.  The bulbs can be purchased as cut flowers, or in pots.  If potted, the hyacinths can be planted outside in warmer weather, and may survive to future years.  Most tulips, however, will not come back next spring.  If giving the hyacinth as a gift, make sure the recipient isn’t allergic to the strong odor of the flowers.

Azaleas come in reds, white, and pinks.  They are tender, so wont survive winter outdoors in northern climates.  Still, they are a good value.  Keep them moist (not wet), and cool with plenty of light, and you should get several weeks of blooms indoors.

(author’s note:  Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Shopping for Plants and Seeds

Dr. Leonard P. Perry
Extension Professor
University of Vermont

One of my favorite means of getting through a long winter is to start this coming year’s gardening by looking through catalogs, books, and shopping online.  Several considerations when shopping early for plants and seeds will make the process fun and less overwhelming.  You’ll end up with more garden successes this season, and fewer disappointments.

Whether ordering plants or seeds, keep in mind they will seldom look as spectacular in your garden as they do in the catalogs.  Thanks to photo technology, just as with models, plant photos are often “enhanced”.  Plus, they are usually taken under ideal conditions or at professional display gardens.  The printing process, if not done properly, may alter colors somewhat.  Consider the photos as a useful guide, just don’t despair if your plants aren’t quite the colors shown, and the plants aren’t as tall or wide, nor the flowers quite as large.  I often find this the case in my North Country gardens where the light isn’t as bright, nor are my beds as ideal and fertile as those where those “model plants” were photographed.

Another warning for both plants and seeds is to only order what you can manage to plant and care for.  Remember, you don’t just plant and walk away until bloom or harvest time.  The more you plant, the more time will be needed for watering, weeding, and other care.

Speaking from experience, it is too easy during a long winter to end up ordering a bit here and a bit there.  The final result is way more plants and seedlings than you have time to plant and care for, or even space for.  I try to figure just where plants will go in my gardens when ordering.  Of course all may not germinate, or be available, but you can always buy others later to fill in.  Chances are you’ll end up seeing some plants this season you “must” have, and having a few extra spaces in beds or the garden for these unplanned purchases is always handy.

Especially with seeds, order only enough for your needs.  Otherwise, you will be faced with entirely too many plants or with storing the unused seeds.  Ordering just what you can use and handle is one of the toughest problems most gardeners face this time of year, as seeds are so much easier to get too many of than plants.  But, if so, at least you can store leftovers of most seeds for a year or more under cool and dry conditions ( a jar in the refrigerator works well).

When ordering seeds, first figure how many plants you’ll need.  Then consult the catalog description to find the percent germination, and how many seeds per packet.  The germination is important, since if the packet has enough seeds, but the germination is low, you’ll want to order more.  Some packets such as geraniums may only contain 5 seeds, as they are quite choice and harder to produce.  Others may contain hundreds of seeds and be enough for several years!

Choose varieties that will bear fruit or flowers in our short northern growing season.  This is especially important for vegetables, such as tomatoes or corn.  Days until harvest are usually given in the descriptions.  For instance if your growing season is about 90 days, and you pick a variety that takes 120 days to bear fruit, you may be out of luck!

When ordering seeds, consider the All-America Selections.  These are new introductions that have been judged best by horticulture professionals nationwide.  These selections are one reason to start your own plants, as many are quite good, and can’t be found at many garden stores or even greenhouses.  You can learn more about this program online (www.all-americaselections.org).

There are many new annual plants, often called “specialty annuals”, grown from cuttings rather than seeds.  You can read about these in catalogs and online, but an increasing number are available at local garden outlets so you may wish to plan now but buy locally this spring.

Catalogs and online websites also may be used for ordering plants that arrive in the mail later in the spring.  This is a good way to find many new and unusual perennial plants that may not be available locally.  This is especially true if you are interested in a certain genus, group, or niche of plants such as hostas or aquatic plants.  If you have some complete garden centers and specialty nurseries in your area, you may wish to check their listings first before ordering from catalogs.  More than once I have found and ordered a prized plant in a catalog, only to find it later cheaper locally, and without having to pay shipping!

When ordering plants there are several important points to remember.  Order from reliable sources in order to get good value and plants that are shipped properly.  Such sources are ones you may have used before, or heard recommended by friends and neighbors. Beware of inexpensive plants.  Price is often a good indication of quality and lower prices often reflect poor quality.  These plants seldom resemble those in the catalog, and they often die.

Finally, with perennial plants make sure and check their hardiness. Hardiness zones are often quite variable among catalogs, so look at several for a particular plant. Then take an average or use the more conservative (warmer) zone figures if you want to be more assured of a plant surviving.

(author’s note:  Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Easy houseplants– begonias

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Begonias are an easy houseplant for beginners, with a range of species and selections for the more advanced gardeners.  Some are grown for flowers, others for their foliage.  They come in a range of sizes, shapes, and habit, from upright to spreading.  Many tolerate low light, and they have few if any pests.

Let’s deal first with the main need for begonias indoors, especially in buildings with forced air heat, that being to increase humidity levels around plants.  You can keep a misting bottle (as found in hardware or home stores) nearby and mist plants daily.  If this will harm walls or furniture, try a humidifier (this will help the air for you as well).  Placing plants on a tray of pebbles, and keeping this moist by watering the pebbles every day or two helps.  If plants are under lights, or some form of plant stand, you can place plastic over and around this to maintain higher humidity within the “tent.”  Many begonias will tolerate some dry air, but won’t thrive.

Keep plants watered, but not too wet.  If in doubt, don’t water.  Let soil dry between watering, then water thoroughly so water drains out the bottom of pots.  But don’t let plants sit in a saucer of water.  You can place water in a saucer under pots, letting the soil wick-up and absorb the water, just make sure to drain any left after an hour or two.

So what soil mix is best for begonias?  Use a soil-less mix, one formulated just for indoor plants and usually containing peat moss and perlite or vermiculite.  Don’t use amendments as you would in the garden, such as compost, nor garden soil.  These may be good in the garden but behave quite differently in pots, keeping plants too wet and often introducing diseases.

Begonias don’t like too large of a pot, preferring to be pot bound.  If you have a plant that takes days to dry out, perhaps the pot is too big and you should repot into a smaller pot.  If pots are too large, the mix remains wet for too long and often leads to root diseases.

Provide fertilizer (according to label directions on product of your choice) when plants are growing.  This actually might be in winter when leaves are off trees and more light may come in windows or be reflected off snow outside.  Perhaps better when fertilizing is to use a product at reduced strength, but more often.

Begonias like it warm, not being happy below about 55 degrees (F).  More ideal are temperatures between 62 and 72 degrees, with some difference between day and night.

Light preference varies with the type of begonia, so look for this on labels, in catalogs, online, books, or ask your garden retailer for advice.  You usually won’t go wrong using bright natural light, but little direct sun (such as an east window) or filtered sun (as with sheer window drapes).  Too much direct sun can “burn” leaves, causing discoloration or browning.

Good for most begonias is a supplemental light stand, which could be as simple as inexpensive shop lights with fluorescent tubes.  Suspend these over plants, a few inches between the tops of plants and light tubes.  Or you can use directed spot fixtures with full-spectrum light bulbs, if possible.  Keep any lights on for about 14 hours a day, or in the evening to supplement daylight from windows during short winter days.  Inexpensive timers from hardware or home stores work well for controlling lights.

If you end up with leaves staying too wet, as in a tented structure, a whitish disease called “powdery mildew” may cover leaf surfaces.  Keep the plants drier and this should disappear.  While begonias get few if any pests, keep an eye out for small white cottony masses, particularly where leaves join stems.  These “mealybugs” are easily controlled by dabbing them with rubbing alcohol.

If begonias get too tall and leggy, you can root cuttings for more or replacement plants.  Or just cut (“pinch”) plants back to the desired height, from which point they’ll grow sideshoots.  If rooting cuttings, place in a mix of sand and peat moss, or perlite, keep moist, and keep humid as in a clear plastic bag over the pot (but check daily to make sure plants are too wet).  Too tall and leggy may indicate too low light or too much fertility, or old plants needing rejuvenation.

The begonia family is huge, with over 1,600 species and thousands of selections.  Some are grouped by root type.  Those growing from a swollen yet flattened, brown tuber structure– the tuberous begonias– are best grown outdoors in summer in shade.  Those from an enlarged underground stem or rhizome, or those with fine fibrous roots, generally grow well indoors.  While the former are usually grown for their leaves and tolerate lower light conditions, the fibrous are usually flowering species for bright light.

You may see begonias grouped by habit, such as spreading, shrub, thick-stemmed, or cane types. Some recommend the shrub and cane types as better choices for indoors. The shrub begonias have multiple canes from the base to make a rounded plant.  Cane begonias have tough jointed stems (think of bamboo canes).  Another simple grouping consists of the flowering types, and those grown for the foliage.

Of the foliage begonias, the most common are the Rex begonias with their large leaves, perhaps 6 inches wide, in various shapes, and even more striking colors including reds, silver, green, pink, purple, and gray.  These are usually rhizomatous, and often need more humidity and moisture than other begonias. All the variations you’ll find descend from one ancestor, a species native to the northeastern Indian state of Assam.

Of the flowering types, the most common may be the fibrous-rooted wax-leaf (often called semperflorens from the species name), and cane-type angel wing begonias.  The names are descriptive of their leaves, and their small flowers come in various colors of reds, pink, and white.  These are often the types you see and use in summer gardens, and which can be potted before frost in fall and brought indoors.

Elatior begonias are another flowering type, being semi-tuberous and specially developed for long flowering indoors.  Angel wing have winged-shaped leaves, often with white or silver markings.  These two types, the angel wing and wax-leaf, have been crossed to make the Dragon Wing begonia.  They have the leaf shape of angel wing, but are green with no markings.

Another rather new and popular type, with solid green angel-shaped wings, is the Bolivian begonia, found growing naturally on the cliffs of Argentina.  These are great in hanging baskets or pots, reaching up to 2-feet across and covered in flowers all summer.  Popular examples are the bright orange Bonfire and scarlet red ‘Santa Cruz Sunset’.

If you want to see some of the range of indoor begonias, make plans to visit the greenhouses at the Montreal Botanical Gardens (espacepourlavie.ca/en/botanical-garden) where they have one of the top begonia collections in North America.  (A great place to visit in winter in particular.) Or you can find more resources, with photos, from the American Begonia Society (www.begonias.org).

(author’s note:  Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Flowers for Your Valentine

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Although traditional, red roses aren’t the only flowers that say “be mine” this February 14. Tulips (cut or in pots), carnations, iris, fragrant freesia, Peruvian lily, potted azaleas, and orchids are alternative flowers for giving to a special person on St. Valentine’s Day.

If you want to give roses, but can’t afford the high price tag for long-stemmed reds, why not choose sweetheart or miniature roses. They’re less expensive, just as lovely, and are available in the same range of colors including red, pale pink, white, lavender, yellow, and peach. Or, simply give one stem in a bouquet with the small white flowers of some baby’s breath, and a green fern leaf.

When choosing roses, you may want to pay attention to the color as different colors may have different meanings to the recipient.  Red, of course, is the most popular and represents romance and love, while lilac-colored roses are said to represent love at first sight.  Yellow, on the other hand, represents friendship and loyalty.  Pink roses can be used to express gratitude and to say thanks.

Or, select red and white carnations which are less expensive than roses. You may consider a mixed bouquet of red, white, and pink flowers. For example, you could ask your florist to make up a bouquet of white tulips, pink carnations, and a few red roses with sprigs of baby’s breath for the finishing touch. Or include a few long-lasting and more specialty flowers such as alstroemeria, freesia, or even cut orchid stems.  If you want a large and exotic bouquet, look for the large tropical red anthurium or ginger. Some florists have walk-in coolers where you can pick your own flower combinations.

If you select your own blooms, choose ones that are just beginning to open. Wrap the flowers well to protect them from the cold on your way home. Once you arrive home, recut the stems and immediately place in warm water with floral preservative. You can find this preservative in small packets at florists, or they may be included in pre-made bouquets.  Flowers will last longest if the water in the vase is changed, with new preservative and stems recut, every 3 or 4 days.  Make sure to remove any leaves that may be under water.

A flowering potted plant will provide enjoyment for many weeks, usually longer than cut flowers.   Potted tulips, azaleas, and cyclamen are all easy to care for and are commonly available in shades of pink, white, and red this time of year.

When buying a potted plant for indoors, look for one with many buds about to open rather than one already in full bloom. Inspect buds, flowers, and undersides of leaves for signs of disease or insect pests.

You may want to enclose a note with your gift to ensure that the plant will be given proper care. Mention that the plant needs to be kept well watered, but not overwatered, and out of drafts.  If the foil or paper covering the pot is not removed to allow adequate drainage, make a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to drain and of course place in a saucer to keep water off of indoor surfaces.  Most cut flowers and potted flowers last longest when given cool nights (55 to 60 degrees F) and warm (65 to 70 degrees F) during the day.

(author’s note:  Any videos or ads appearing here, added by WordPress, are not in any way related to nor have been approved by the author.)

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized