What causes Houseplants to bloom? Featuring my flowering Tradescantia nanouk — Pilea peperomioides — Tradescantia fluminensis tricolor — Saxifraga stolonifera + String of Hearts
I wanted to share more of a visual post today to celebrate some blooms on a few of my favourite indoor plants. To be clear, I’m not talking about plants such as Orchids or African violets here, but instead I wanted to show how some of our more typical houseplants look when they are in bloom. These are plants that are grown for their foliage and not for their flowers so more often than not they’ll be busy unfurling new leaves. But very occasionally and if the conditions are right, these leafy plants might start making a flower or two. At the end of the post I’ll be sharing what can make plants bloom in our homes.
When I’ve shared photos over on instagram of some of these houseplants in bloom in the past, I’ve had quite a few messages to the effect of ‘woah, I’ve never seen this plant flower before!’. So I thought it would be helpful to put a blogpost together for reference, as I know that some of these blooms are pretty elusive…
I hope you enjoy seeing a different side to some of our favourite houseplants!
Let’s start with my Tradescantia nanouk which was the inspiration for this post — these plants are definitely grown for their pretty pink variegated foliage + not their flowers!
First up, here’s a photo of the plant just before it started to bloom. As you might have seen in my previous post: Tradescantia nanouk: growth update, propagation + FAQ’s, it had really exploded in size and was pretty pot-bound. I’d been meaning to re-pot it but it was one of those things that I didn’t get around to doing straight away as I was working on the renovation.
My Tradescantia nanouk has flowered twice for me this year, which I attribute to it’s specific positioning in the cottage + the light intensity, coupled with the roots being pretty tight in the pot leading the plant to throw out some blooms. If you also grow other types of Tradescantia, the buds are very similar to the fluminensis tricolour, just on a much larger scale. The nanouk is a larger-leafed plant in comparison + so it follows that the flowers will also be equivalently upscaled.
Second time around, the flowers formed from two different stems to the first time around. This time I managed to capture the petals open, which were white in the centre with blushed pink tips —SO pretty! They were a lot longer lasting than the fluminensis flowers + took a good 6 weeks before crisping.
You might not have seen Pilea blooms before because they can be a bit elusive…but a strong enough intensity of light and a warm enough temperature over a period of time can really help to get the flowers to appear. A few years ago my sister called me + said ‘Laura, my pilea is growing some weird alien looking thing out of the pot… look!’ Her plant lives in the conservatory and had become acclimatised to warmer conditions so decided to bloom that summer. As with all houseplants that aren’t really grown for their flowers but for their foliage, you can choose whether or not you want to cut off the inflorescence (flower spike) prematurely. Some people prefer to do this, as the flowering will be diverting energy away from the plant as it focuses on making the blooms. Here’s Faye’s plant…
A few months ago, a photo popped up from a friend that showed the Pilea plant that I gave to him a few Christmases ago, it was enjoying life on the windowsill and low and behold, was flowering! I’ll see if I can find the photo…
This Pilea was grown from a plantlet from my main plant that I had propagated, so I was delighted to see those rhubarb stems. What was similar for both of these Pilea flowering situations was that they were kept in positions that were warm in the daytime but cooler at night. Now I just need to see if my plant will flower…
Tradescantia fluminensis tricolor
Ah, my Tradescantia fluminensis tricolor… I love this plant. It’s been in my collection for quite a while and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve chopped and propagated it! There’s a blogpost on that here by the way: How to make a new Tradescantia plant from cuttings.
Anyway, this plant has flowered for me three times over five years + the little white coloured blooms are pretty tiny — unless you pay close attention to your plants it’s very possible that you’ll blink and miss these. In the photo below I managed to catch the buds just before they opened…
My Saxifraga stolonifera was one of the plants I featured in my piece Plant style: 5 houseplants I’ve grown to love (that I didn’t like last year)… so you’ll be able to tell that it took me a while to get on board with these fuzzy leaves. I propagated this plant from the tiniest of cuttings and I really doubted whether it would mature into anything substantial, but here we are! This is one of those plants for me that I really need to keep on top of watering as it starts to look bedraggled pretty quickly if I forget about it. Last year, my plant lived on the table around 0.5m from my South-East facing window behind a net and casually threw out an inflorescence (flower spike) over Summer. It took a few weeks for the flowers to appear as it’s not the fastest of growers in general, though when they did open up they were pretty spectacular.
As you can tell from the variety of photos here, I obsessively photographed the little white petals opening up, to the point when the flower spike has completely dried out. It was so delicate-looking that it captivated me for the whole duration of the process! My plant was quite tired out after making that inflorescence so it looked somewhat worse for wear for a few weeks afterwards, but this is entirely normal (it’s also why some people prefer to chop off the flowers). I continued to feed it and gave it some extra attention in this post-blooming phase. I’m certainly hoping for more blooms next year if I can find a similar position for it in my new place.
String of Hearts
Lastly, my big old String of Hearts! As I’ve said in my SOH Care Guide, I really unlocked what (in my conditions) was the PERFECT position for this plant when I was living in the cottage! It grew so so well over the 18 months I lived there and was in continual flowering mode for months. I’m even still seeing some blooms now and that’s after the ordeal of moving the plant etc! See the instagram post below which details where I was growing it:
These trumpet-shaped blooms are quite unique looking and if you see them in bright light, are the most beautiful dusky pinky-lilac colour — the whole colour palette of the minty green hearts is lovely!
What causes houseplants to flower?
The questions ‘how to do I get my houseplants to flower?’, or ‘what causes houseplants to flower?’ quite commonly arise, even when the plants in question are primarily not grown with an emphasis on flowering — especially in a typical home environment! Of course, I can relate to this as the curiosity of the ‘plant experimenter‘ in me always likes to discover aspects like this first hand and understand what causes plants to behave in this way. There are a few ways that as a grower, you can promote or encourage blooming:
1. Light intensity
First of all, consider the growing conditions and whether your plant is just about surviving or is growing well. Plants that aren’t in optimum lighting conditions are much less likely to flower, so if you want to encourage your houseplant to flower, it might need to be receiving a greater intensity of light, so move to a brighter position.
2. Plant maturity
Sometimes plants will only come into bloom at a certain level of maturity, so if you are growing on a young plant, it might take a while. My String of Hearts took a few years to flower for the first time, but has since flowered every year for the last 3 years, particularly in the Summer months.
3. The plant needs repotting
If you haven’t repotted your plant for ages, it might have outgrown its current pot size, with roots circling around the base of the pot. When houseplants are pot-bound you might notice that they start to produce offsets (new growth), but they can also throw out a flower spike too or blooms along the stem (like String of Hearts). So in order to encourage flowering, you might want to keep the plant relatively tight in the pot — new plant lovers can sometimes enthusiastically re-pot too often (I’m sure we’ve all been there…!) which means the plant is consistently focused on growing new roots over leaves or blooms.
4. It might be stress-flowering
If your plant has been experiencing a period of stress, you might also find that this can actually trigger the plant to bloom — keeping your plant pot-bound as mentioned above is one way, as is reducing watering. Also, moving your plant can have a similar effect.
5. It’s been subjected to a fluctuation in temperatures between day and night
Lastly, creating a temperature change in the plants’ environment is a method that works for some plants like Jewel orchids such as Ludisia discolor + Macodes Petola. Cooler night time temperatures can increase the likelihood of your plant coming into flower, so if you have a suitable location, you might want to test this out if you are interested.
I hope you enjoyed seeing some houseplant blooms in this blogpost and thanks for reading! For more photos and videos, come and follow my pages over on Pinterest or Instagram. I’ll pop some pins to share or save below and thanks as always for your support.
Published at Sun, 07 Nov 2021 10:15:05 -0800