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"Cool House Plants - Plants for Cool Rooms"

Camellia 'April Dawn'There are some areas of the home that you wouldn't think would be very hospitable for growing plants. Unheated porches, breezeways, cool rooms, and cold windowsills are usually considered too cold for growing most plants, but these cold areas of the home just might be the ideal environment for growing a good number of indoor plants that actually do better in cooler temperatures. What's more, many of the cool-growing plants offer brilliant bloom or fabulous fragrance smack dab in the middle of winter at a time when it's needed most.

The otherwise unused cold areas could be home to many desirable house plants matched to those growing conditions. The first step is to monitor the low temperature in the area overnight and during very cold weather. Set a min./max. thermometer where the plants will be. It's best to place the plants in the sunniest-possible location for good growth, but more importantly the area should not get down to freezing. Ideally, the average minimum temperature should be around 45 degrees. Depending on the particular location, that may be possible without any supplemental heat. The following house plants thrive in cool temperatures. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

Camellia 'Fragrant Pink'

Camellia is a shrubby house plant that also puts on a colorful show of wintertime flowers. Depending on variety, large single, semidouble, or fully double flowers are borne at the tips of the branches in white, pink, or red. The single-flowered varieties have a striking bright yellow cluster of stamens in the center of the flower. Flower size can be up to five inches across. Removing all but one bud in a flower cluster produces even larger flowers. Try not move camellia once it has formed flower buds or it may drop them. Prune camellia just after flowering to maintain its shape and size. Grow it in bright, indirect sunlight and always keep the soil moist. Any sudden change in soil moisture may also cause it to drop its buds. Fertilize once in early spring, again in late spring, and then once more in midsummer. Camellia 'Fragrant Pink' has bright-pink, semi-double flowers that have a sweet fragrance. The flowers resemble an azalea flower. It blooms from early to mid winter.

Winter-blooming jasmine flowersA very fragrant house plant for cool locations is winter jasmine. This vining house plant produces clusters of pure-white, star-shaped flowers with an exquisite fragrance. It throws its scent far and wide, easily perfuming a room. It flowers for several weeks in midwinter, usually in time for Valentine's Day. Grow it in a hanging pot where its long, vining stems can be trained around the hanger, or in a large pot with a tall trellis. It will quickly climb to the top. To keep its overall height in check and to encourage future flowering, cut it back right after it flowers. Winter jasmine needs at least four hours of direct sunlight each day. Keep the soil moist and fertilize with Electra Plant Food and Electra Bloom Food, alternating between the two every three weeks.

Heliotrope is a fragrant-flowered house plant that does well in cool locations. It flowers throughout the year with large clusters of small white or purple flowers. The flowers have a fragrance that is a combination of vanilla, cherry pie, and baby powder. The cultivars 'Fragrant Delight' and 'Alba' are the most intensely fragrant.

'Alba' is a white variety with a strong baby-powder aroma. 'Fragrant Delight' has dark purple flower clusters that combine the scents of vanilla and cherry pie. Heliotrope thrives with at least four hours of direct sunlight a day. A cool, south-facing windowsill would be ideal. Keep the soil moist. In fall, heliotrope can be cut back to keep its height in check and to encourage branching and more flowers. Heliotrope can also be trained into a standard with one main stem several feet tall. A standard heliotrope brings the fragrance right up to nose level.

Fragrant OliveFragrant olive, also called sweet olive, as its common name implies, is a fragrant, shrubby house plant. If left untrimmed, it can grow into an attractive indoor shrub four to five feet tall. In warmer climates, like Florida and other states in the Deep South, fragrant olive is grown outdoors as a foundation shrub in the home landscape. The flowers of fragrant olive are small and inconspicuous, but their fragrance can easily perfume a large room with their apricot-like aroma. The tiny, greenish-white flowers are borne in small clusters along the stems. The leaves of fragrant olive are dark green and leathery and resemble rhododendron foliage. Fragrant olive does well in bright sunlight with moist soil.

PlumbagoPlumbago (Plumbago auriculata), also called cape leadwort, has long, thin stems up to four feet long. Placed on the corner of a windowsill in a cool room, the stems can be trained around the window frame. Plumbago flowers from spring to fall. Its flowers are produced in large clusters of 20 or more. Each individual flower has a long, thin, tubular throat which fans out into a five-petaled star. The flowers are up to an inch across and are pale blue or white, depending on variety. Plumbago needs full sun and cool winter temperatures. While it is actively growing in spring and summer, keep the soil moist. During its winter rest period, water only enough to keep the soil from completely drying out. Since plumbago flowers only on new growth, prune it back in early spring. Cut back two thirds of the main stem. New shoots that emerge will produce the new flowers.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Many Different Viruses Affect Gladioli"

GladioliQ. I have a question about gladiolus. I have been planting about 100 gladioli bulbs every year for years. Last year all my bulbs came to a bloom about halfway then died. I always plant some old bulbs along with new ones and they all reacted the same. What could my problem be? Thank you.

A. Gladiolus is a striking plant that grows from a corm. It bears tall spikes of flowers in mid to late summer. The flower spikes begin opening from the bottom and progress to the top. Gladiolus flowers are often used in flower arrangements to add an upright element.

The problem you describe sounds like it was caused by a virus. Unfortunuately, there are quite a few different viruses that attack gladiolus. Some of the symptoms include streaking of the leaves and flowers, yellowing or stiffening of the leaves, and premature blooming. When the plants flower, often the flowers don't open fully, then they quickly fade. Often, the entire plant is stunted and in some cases only the flower spike is affected.

Sometimes the symptoms are hardly noticeable at all and in other cases the symptoms are quite severe. A virus in the plant usually doesn't kill the plant entirely, but it does weaken it significantly.

Viruses in gladiolus increase in the corms year after year. Planting old, infected corms in with the new ones spreads the virus to the new corms, perpetuating the virus from year to year.

Viruses are also spread by aphids. They feed on the infected plant then transmit the virus to uninfected plants.

There is no control for the virus once it has infected the plants. The best way to prevent it from happening again next year is to discard all the old corms and start next season with new ones. During the season, keep an eye out for aphids. They are easily removed from the plants with Neem Oil, an organic, three-in-one insecticide, fungicide, and miticide.

If possible, don't plant gladiolus near beans, cucumbers, squashes, tomatoes, or melons. Two types of virus that attack gladiolus are also common on these types of vegetables.

Click here to read more about Neem Oil and order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

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