Fall Flowering Plants
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It’s finally time to embrace fall in all its beauty. Even if most houseplants flower during the summertime there’s still some options to put color on your window sills in autumn. Check out this article for some seasonal inspo.
Why do most plants stop flowering after the summer months?
It takes a lot of energy for a plant to produce flowers. That’s why most species flower during the late spring and summer months. At that time of year they receive plenty of light and have a long season ahead to produce seeds. There are, however, species that break the pattern and have found their own methods for flowering at other times of the year.
If you live in a region where there are seasonal changes and shorter days, finding and keeping many summer flowering houseplants might be a challenge, but there are ways to keep some of them going. Choosing plants based on their flowering season is also a great way to ensure you have blooms for as much of the year as possible.
Long lasting flowers
There are some plants that flower well, blooming with individual flowers that keep live longer. These do often take a significant period of time to reach blooming size and it may take some time for them to flower again. Factors that affect how long the flowers will last include: the amount of light it gets and the temperature. Higher temperatures usually mean shorter blooming periods. Just remember that the temperature never should fall below what the species tolerates, or you may risk losing the flower buds altogether.
There are a number of different bromeliads that have bright and colorful inflorescences. They are probably the masters of making long lasting "flowers". Bromeliads have colorful leaves that aren't actually flower petals, but bracts. This is a kind of specialized leaf that attracts pollinators in their natural habitat, just as a flower petal does. While the individual small flowers in the inflorescence usually keep for a couple of days, the bracts stay colorful for a long time. Some bromeliads like Guzmania can also revert the colorful bracts back to green in order to produce chlorophyll once flowering is done.
An interesting and important thing to know is that bromeliads only flower once from each leaf rosette. This is called monocarpic growth. Most species do put out new side rosettes before wilting so that the plant will live on. These new little plantlets can in turn flower once they have grown big enough and had a long bright season.
There are many to choose from but we recommend you to keep an eye out for the following types:
Aeschmea - Aeschmea fasciata, the silver vase plant and Aeschmea ‘Blue Rain’
Guzmania - a number of different cultivars with different colored bracts
Wallisia - W. cyanea and W. lindeniana, the blue flowered torch and the pink quill plant
Vriesea - V. splendens, the flaming sword and V. pardalina ‘Lacy’ among many
Neoregelia - N. carolinae and many more
The orchid family is really big and there’s a great diversity among them. They have conquered most biotopes and have very different ecologies. Some of the species more commonly available in flower shops produce flowers that keep for a relatively long time compared to other flowering houseplants. It's important to note, however, that the flowering time is dictated by temperature and from species to species and cultivar to cultivar.
Some of our recommended orchids are:
Phalaenopsis - the moth orchids are common in flower shops and that’s because they’re rather easy to care for and grow flower spikes that usually keep from a week, or if you're lucky several weeks. To make them flower longer it’s important to give them a bright spot but avoid direct sunlight that might burn the plant. Room temperature, or a couple of degrees lower is best. Spots that are too cool might could potentially result in root rot and lost buds. The flowering time is also dictated by the specific cultivar.
Cymbidium - the different boat orchids have especially long lasting flowers if the plant is kept at lower temperatures around 50 - 64 F. They’re perfect for cooler rooms, a sun parlor or glass balcony. They do best if grown cooler in the winter and can tolerate a sheltered spot outdoors during the summer months.
Dendrobium - this is a large genus among the orchids but more commonly available species with longer lasting flowers are D. kingianum, the D. bigibbum-Group and D. Sa Nook-Series
Other long lasting flowers
Anthurium - the Anthurium andraeanum-Group (flamingo flower) and the A. scherzerianum-Group (pigtail plant). Both of these have very long lasting flowers that are just like the bromeliads-- the brightly colored leaf in the inflorescence isn’t a petal, but a bract. Or as they’re specifically called among aroids: a spathe. They come in a range of colors and are easy to care for and are beautiful foliage plants even when not flowering.
Euphorbia milii - the crown of thorns. A member of the spurge family just like the poinsettia and many more. This plant can eventually grow to be a rather large thorny shrub. The plant will mainly flower during the summer months but can keep going during the fall if given a grow light or a bright enough spot.
Hydrangea macrophylla - the hydrangea or hortensia is a plant that gets exceptionally long lasting flowers. Even though it can be grown indoors with extra care, it will do best if kept at a lower temperature. Grown cooler, the flowers will also keep for longer. As with some of the bromeliads the flowers in many hydrangeas can turn green after flowering instead of wilting. The plant will also grow well outdoors in a sheltered spot during the summer.
Short day plants - A fall specialty
Some species of plants are adapted to start flowering once the days start to get shorter. The flowering is triggered by the longer nights whereas other plants' time of flowering is usually determined by temperature or other factors. Here are some well known plants that do this:
Holiday cacti - S. truncata and S. × buckleyi
The holiday cacti in the genus Schlumbergera contains one species and a hybrid species that flower in fall. Appearing under many different common names, the christmas cactus (Schlumbergera × bucklei) and the false christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) both put on a dazzling display of flowers in late fall or early winter. Both are easy to care for plants that do well in a bright spot sheltered from most direct sunlight. They are rather sensitive to overwatering and prefer an airy and porous soil mix. They can be grown outdoors in sheltered conditions during the summer months or be kept indoors all year around.
Cacti in the S. truncata - Group are a lot more commercially available than the true christmas cacti in the somewhat forgotten S. × bucklei - Group. Both are very easy to propagate from individual stem sections (in epiphytic cacti, they’re called phylloclades). Flowering colors vary from purplish pink and magenta to pink, peach, red, orange, golden yellow, white and multicolored.
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima
This spectacular and well known spurge relative gets stunningly colored bracts once the nights turn to be at least 14 hours of total darkness. To many people, it’s associated with Christmas but in some places with mild enough growing conditions, it can be a stunning garden plant. In some regions it’s also sold during the fall. The small flowers are greenish yellow but are surrounded by colorful bracts that can vary between burgundy, red, pink, peach, and white and are either solid color or multicolored in different patterns. If you have a poinsettia at home and want to prepare it to get color in time for Christmas, the plant should get at least 14 hours of darkness a day for around 8 weeks before you want them to be colored up. If you live in a place where the nights are shorter than that and want to prepare the plant ahead. You can put it in a dark room or closet to give it the night length to promote the coloration.
Flaming katy - Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
They come in a great range of colors from red, orange, yellow, white, pink and multicolored. Given time this plant can grow into a small succulent shrub and is perfect for a bright spot or even acclimated to some direct sunlight. It's also very easy to propagate using a branch or a single leaf. They need a night time of at least 12 hours a day to induce flowering.
Spur flowers - Plectranthus
There are some species of spurflowers that only flower as short day plants. They get many individual white, pink or purple flowers in their inflorescences. Among the more common to find in flower shops are the hybrid Plectranthus hilliardiae × saccatus 'Plepalila' (also known as Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'. This hybrid spurflower grows one of the the biggest individual flowers in this genus and the plant develops beautiful dark colored leaves.
Another spurflower that is more uncommon in the trade is P. oertendahlii, the silverleaf spurflower that has stunning silver patterned leaves and white flower spikes in fall. Even Plectranthus verticillatus (Swedish ivy) flowers in the fall although it's mostly grown as a foliage plant.
If you have grow lights at home, you have a wider assortment of fall and winter flowering houseplants to choose from. A good quality grow light with high enough light output can be a game changer. You can read more about grow lights in our article here: https://getplanta.com/article/growlights
Houseplants that usually keep on blooming well under grow lights are:
Streptocarpus × hybridus - the cape primrose. This prolific flowering houseplant is almost orchid-like in habit, with elongated leaves and a number of flower spikes. Individual flowers keep for a rather long time too. There are many solid-colored as well as multicolored cultivars.
Streptocarpus ionanthus - the african violet is a classic flowering houseplant that often gets enough light from a grow light to keep in flower all year around. They come in a wide range of flower colors from blue, purple, pink, white and green with many combinations of the colors. They are very easy to propagate from single leaf cuttings.
Begonia - there are many different species and cultivars of begonias out there, but many of the species grown for their flowers can keep on blooming under artificial lights. To name some: Begonia sutherlandii 'Papaya', B. dregei and many of the different cane begonias like B. maculata, the polka dot begonia.
Impatiens - There are a number of different species but most common are Impatiens walleriana, the Busy Lizzie, that's usually grown as an annual outdoors but can be kept as a houseplant too. Others are I. hawkeri, the New Guinea impatiens, I. niamniamensis, the parrot impatiens and I. morsei the velvet impatiens.
Kohleria - unfortunately not commonly grown, but well worth the search. Most cultivars have an upright growth habit and flower very well under a good quality grow light. These plants are easy to grow and propagate either from cuttings, leaf cuttings or from dividing rhizomes grown in the soil.