2008-01-04 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

A Bit Of Color This Time Of The Year
Commentary By Danielle McShane Danielle's Rockaway Florist

DANIELLE McSHANE DANIELLE McSHANE In a dreary month like January, the winds are high, the air is cold, and our gardens are bare. We are all in need of some color and warmth. The perfect houseplant to add to our collection at this time of year is the bromeliad. It is a tropical plant that thrives in warm temperatures and thanks us in return with large pink blooms that last for months on end.

When on display in the florist, they seem to be quite the eye catcher. Some might love the fantastic, bold pink flower stemming from the center of the plant. Others may love the striking light green foliage. The long leaves have silvery stripes that create the perfect compliment for the flower.

The leaves all stem from the central stork, creating "cups" or "rosettes" that hold water for the plant. In its natural habitat, this helps the bromeliad to survive periods of drought by storing the water. It is best to keep the soil evenly moist without drying out at times. Keep in mind though, the soil should never be soggy. Bromeliads are an overall easy care plant so just check on them about once a week.

When bromeliads are in bloom, they grow offsets. Small leaves begin to form at the base of the mother plant, and can grow to full maturity. It is best to keep the two plants attached until the new growth is about half the size of the mother plant before putting it in its own pot. Use peat moss mixed equally with soil for ideal growing conditions.

The new growth should flower when the plant reaches full maturity, although, there is a trick that may help induce flower growth in addition to fertilizing your plant with a bloom booster fertilizer every few months. Ethylene gas makes the bromeliad bloom. At this point, you are probably thinking that I am crazy to expect you to search for a place to get ethylene gas - but surprise, surprise! Fruit actually releases this gas naturally, so empty all of the excess water from the leaves of the plant, and place a ripe apple and the bromeliad together in a bag for one week. It's true! It really does help the flower to appear sooner.

I hope this little burst of color helps you to keep in mind that time moves fast, and those long days of working in the garden in the hot sun are just around the corner. Make it a point to stay inside with the heat turned up with your single bromeliad flower shining bright, as it is of the few blooming plants around at this time of year. Enjoy this for now, spring is sure to come.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year, and look forward to serving you all in this coming year. Please feel free to write to us with gardening questions or tips for our readers at: Danielle's Rockaway Florist, 436 Beach 129 Street.

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