Gift plants Houseplants

Flowering Houseplants: Which to Save, Which to Toss

Ill.:,,, &, montage

When you buy (or someone gives you) a flowering houseplant, it’s not always clear whether the plant is supposed to be a long-lived rebloomer or a temporary guest that will bloom only once. I call the temporary plants—the ones you’re expected to toss into the compost after they finish blooming—“florist plants.” Not that I intend to disparage florists, but their business really is mostly about instant but temporary beauty. 

In the following lists, I’ll point out which flowering plants are true flowering houseplants that you can reasonably expect to flower repeatedly in the average home and which are florist plants, designed as temporary living decorations. I also indicate whether you should simply compost the spent florist plant after it finishes blooming or whether, and under what conditions, you can plant it outdoors so it can bloom again. 

Toss after blooming because they won’t bloom again

The pocketbook plant (Calceolaria × herbeohybrida) makes a charming gift plant, but it’s not one you can recuperate and rebloom. Photo:
  1. Christmas pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  2. Fairy primrose (Primula malacoides)
  3. Florist’s cineraria (Pericallis × hybrida, syn. Senecio × hybridus)
  4. German primrose (Primula obconica)
  5. Pocketbook plant (Calceolaria × herbeohybrida)

Plant outdoors in a cool climate; otherwise toss into the compost pile

You can plant a polyantha primrose (Primula × polyantha) outdoors in a temperate climate (one with a cool winter) after it blooms, but can’t keep it indoors. Photo:
  1. Christmas rose (Helleborus)
  2. Christmas holly (Ilex aquifolium)
  3. Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum
  4. Florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  5. Hardy bulbs (AnemoneCrocusNarcissusTulipaMuscari, etc.)
  6. Hortensia, florist’s hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
  7. Lily (Lilium)
  8. Miniature rose (Rosa)
  9. Polyantha primrose, garden primrose (Primula × polyantha)
  10. Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

Plant outdoors in a frost-free climate, or toss in the compost heap

  1. Christmas holly (Ilex aquifolium)
  2. Easter lily (Lilium longiflorum
  3. Florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium)
  4. Freesia (Freesia × hybrida)
  5. Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides)
  6. Gerbera (Gerbera jamesonii)
  7. Hortensia, florist’s hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
  8. Paperwhite (Narcissus papyraceus)

Can recuperate and be used as a repeat-blooming houseplant

The florist’s gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) is a good example of a plant you can recuperate and rebloom. Photo:
  1. African violet (Saintpaulia)
  2. Amaryllis (Hippeastrum)
  3. Anthurium, flamingo flower (Anthurium)
  4. Azalea (Rhododendron simsii)
  5. Calamondin orange (Citrus × microcarpa, syn. × Citrofortunella microcarpa)
  6. Calla lily (Zantedeschia)
  7. Cape primrose, streptocarpus (Streptocarpus × hybridus)
  8. Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera × buckleyi)
  9. Christmas kalanchoe, flaming katy (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana)
  10. Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum)
  11. Easter cactus (Schlumbergera gaertneri, syn. Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri)
  12. Florist’s gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa)
  13. Fuchsia (Fuchsia)
  14. Guzmania (Guzmania ligularia)
  15. Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
  16. Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
  17. Oleander (Nerium oleander)
  18. Orchids (all types)
  19. Peace lily (Spathiphyllum)
  20. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)
  21. Reiger begonia (Begonia × hiemalis)
  22. Silver vase (Aechmea fasciata)
  23. Sun star (Ornithogalum dubium)
  24. Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata)
  25. Vriesia, flaming sword (Vriesea)

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

6 comments on “Flowering Houseplants: Which to Save, Which to Toss

  1. All plants deserve a chance, but I never have much luck with indoor flowering plants., but I do try to plant them in the yard.

    I live in Raleigh, NC ((USDA 7b), so not cool but not tropical. I’ve had luck planting out Helleborus (blooming now; I call it my Epiphany rose), florist’s Hydrangea, wintergreen, Easter lily, Gardenia, calla lily, Amaryllis, Fuchsia (only magellanica; the fancier ones can’t survive the summer heat), and Gerbera.

    I have spotted a few palm trees around, so I think this area will soon be categorized Zone 8a, but we aren’t allowed to talk about that in NC.

  2. mickthornton

    I live in the Pacific Northwest and am amazed how many plants just grow here with very little help. Gotta love zone 8!

  3. Cultivars of some of the ‘florist’ plants are different from ‘landscape’ plants. For example, florists’ hydrangeas stay quite small with rather ornate blooms. Those grown for landscape applications get bigger, and most have more compact blooms that are easier to support. I happen to plant discarded florists’ hydrangeas at work, but put them in from of the landscape hydrangeas. Florists’ types are weaker than landscape types, but for some situations, their compact size is an advantage. The same applies to florists’ azaleas. They happen to be very nice in pots, but in the landscape, they tend to lay too closely to the ground, and their big flowers can get battered by the weather. Living Christmas trees are a serious problem though. They certainly ‘can’ get planted out in the garden, but they often get planted too close to the house from which they came, and then grow into disproportionately large Italian stone pines, Aleppo pines, or some other big conifer!

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