BAGR Blog 159: Houseplants that Bloom
This blog is inspired by Episode 159 of Bloom and Grow Radio Podcast, where host Maria Failla interviewed Lisa Eldred Steinkopf of The Houseplant Guru.
Houseplants are celebrated for their amazing foliage, but are often overlooked for another ability—the ability to bloom! To give us a better grasp of this beautiful subcategory, let’s dive into the must-knows of houseplants that bloom.
How to Care for Blooming Houseplants
The main difference between blooming houseplants and normal foliage houseplants is light requirements. If you want to start caring for blooming houseplants, you need to have a good light setup.
Blooming houseplants require a bit more light. That can look like a Southern-, Western-, or an Eastern-facing window for natural light. If you have Northern-facing windows, you will need to supplement with grow lights.
The type of grow light you have will determine the amount of hours needed, but at most your blooming houseplants will need 12 hours of direct light. Inadequate lighting is often the culprit if your blooming houseplants don’t bloom.
What Does a Houseplant Bloom Cycle Look Like?
Across blooming houseplants, there are long-day, short-day, and day-neutral plants that affect the bloom cycle. A day-neutral plant like the African violet (Saintpaulia) can bloom year round, as it’s not sensitive to day length. A short-day plant, however, will start blooming when the nights get longer, focusing on how much darkness they need.
Houseplants like poinsettias, kalanchoe, and cyclamen are all short-day plants, blooming in the Fall when nights are longer. Most of the annual flowers outdoors like snapdragons and marigolds need light for as long as possible to bloom, so they are categorized as long-day plants. These long-day flowers bloom best in Summer when day length is greatest.
If your plant is not blooming within a year, it may need something different. Often the key can be more light, but it could also be that it’s simply not mature enough yet to produce blooms. If you grow a citrus from seed, it won’t flower for six to seven years—but if you grow a cutting from a mature plant, it could bloom within a year. Consider a plant’s maturity for each variety before you write off your plant parent skills.
Fertilizing Requirements for Blooming Houseplants
While sun and photosynthesis tend to be the most important factors in getting your plants to bloom, fertilizers can certainly help. An all-purpose fertilizer like Espoma’s Organic Indoor Houseplant Food is a great overall fertilizer. To help your blooms last longer, Espoma’s Super Bloom Booster that’s high in phosphorus will give your plants strong, healthy blooms. Opt for every two to four weeks if you choose a liquid fertilizer.
How to Make Blooms Last Longer
To get your houseplant blooms to last as long as possible, focus on consistency. Blooming plants want consistent moisture, so do not let them dry out. Keep your plants in a well-lit spot, but not so hot that they become stressed. Be consistent with moisture and temperature during blooming and your plants will be happy.
Now that we’ve covered some basic care for blooming houseplants, let’s go into some great starter plants for beginners.
The 6 Best Blooming Houseplants for Beginners
The crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) is a wonderful blooming houseplant if you have high light. It can even bloom year round with enough light. They come in many colors ranging from white. red, yellow, pink, and orange.
Hoyas (Hoya carnosa) are another blooming houseplant that are great for beginners. The key with hoyas is to know they won’t bloom until they’re mature enough. It can take anywhere from three to seven years for hoya plants to reach maturity.
Air plants (Tillandsias) are next for beginners. While they need lots of light, they almost constantly bloom and grow. They will send out new pups, because once they bloom, they slowly die off.
The holiday cactus (Schlumbergera spp.) is another great beginner blooming houseplant, and an often underrated one. Holiday cacti include Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving varieties, each slightly different in the shape of their stem segments. Their blooms also come in a range of colors including pink, orange, salmon, and white.
African violets (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia) are another beautifully blooming houseplant that would be a great fit for a mindful plant parent. African violets prefer to never dry out and to be repotted about every 6 months. Their leaves and stems are easy to propagate, making them a fun houseplant to share with other plant lovers. Try feeding your violets with Espoma Organic Violet! African violet liquid plant food.
The goldfish plant (Columnea nematanthus) is another fantastic blooming houseplant that doesn’t need much light to bloom. Their blooms are orange and shaped like goldfish, looking like a sea of goldfish swimming when in full bloom.
Intermediate Level Blooming Houseplants
If you’re ready to move up to the intermediate level, here are three blooming houseplants to get you started.
Orchid cacti (Epiphyllums) are a type of climbing cacti with flat, leaflike stems. Despite being a tropical succulent, they actually need stretches of cold before they will bloom again. Give them enough light and enough of a cold period, and you’ll be wowing everyone with these stunning blooms.
Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae) are another long-blooming houseplant that are typically bought in their blooming stage. Their blooms eventually die back, but not before they send out new babies at the bottom.
While there are beginner orchids, there are plenty of interesting varieties for an intermediate plant parent to try. Dendrobiums, Cattleyas, and Miltonias tend to be a bit more care intensive. To troubleshoot why your orchid isn’t blooming, it can often be a lack of light. Orchids also need to be repotted at least every two years to ensure adequate air for their roots. Try Espoma’s Organic Orchid Mix potting soil to help with drainage and aeration. Apply Espoma Organic Orchid! liquid plant food to make sure your plant has the essential nutrients needed for successful growth.
For an in-depth look into blooming houseplants, make sure to read Lisa’s new book Bloom: The Secrets of Growing Flowering Houseplants Year-Round.
About Bloom & Grow Radio Podcast
Bloom & Grow Radio Podcast helps people care for plants successfully and cultivate more joy in their lives. Host Maria Failla, a former plant killer turned happy plant lady, interviews experts on various aspects of plant care, and encourages listeners to not only care for plants, but learn to care for themselves along the way.
About Our Interviewee
Lisa Eldred Steinkopf is The Houseplant Guru. She’s a blogger, freelance writer, and houseplant enthusiast who loves taking care of her own plants and teaching others to take care of theirs. If you love plants, want to know more, or are just looking to keep your houseplant plant alive, you’re in the right place!
Lisa’s new book Bloom: The Secrets of Growing Flowering Houseplants Year-Round celebrates the beloved houseplants we can grow for blooms in addition to foliage. It focuses on how to get many houseplants to bloom and how to keep them in bloom.