Houseplants will test your gardening skills
Cyclamen plants will continue to bloom for a few weeks if they are kept in a north window in a cool room (55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and watered enough to keep the soil evenly moist and never soggy.
Avoid splashing the crown of the plant or the foliage, as this might promote mold. Remove fading flowers and their stems as needed.
Most gardeners find it too difficult to force the plant to bloom again the following season. Those willing to take the challenge should follow these suggestions:
As foliage and flowers begin to fade, withhold water. Remove all dead foliage from the tuber, clean off the soil, and store the tuber in peat moss or vermiculite in a dark, cool (50 degrees) spot for its dormant period. Later in spring or early summer, check the tuber for new growth. As soon as growth begins, repot the tuber with its top half exposed and bottom half buried in fresh, soilless mix. Resume normal watering and fertilize with a dilute 10-10-10 or 15-15-15 mix twice a month.
Cyclamen benefits from summers spent outside in a protected spot in the garden where it receives morning sun. Bring the plant indoors before there is a frost in fall.
• Ivy topiary is a popular house plant that can last for years if given proper care. Ivy also prefers cool conditions in bright light, away from heating vents or fireplaces. Mist the plant regularly or swish upside down in a bucket of tepid water to keep the foliage clean and free of mites.
As the new growth emerges from the stems, train tendrils to the desired form. You can move the plant outside after the danger of frost has passed.
• Color is a common design element in the home garden and an important consideration as you select plants for your garden. Complimentary colors such as orange and blue are opposite each other on the color wheel and can create bright, vibrant effects when combined in the garden. Harmonious or analogous colors, such as yellow and orange, are next to each other on the color wheel and create a visually harmonious effect when used in the garden.
Combinations of hot colors such as reds, yellows and oranges create vivid and exciting displays in the garden. Hot colors tend to leap forward in the landscape. Cool colors in shades of blue, violet and green can create a soothing and tranquil effect in the garden. Cool colors tend to recede in the garden and can be used to exaggerate the illusion of depth.
• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden, chicagobotanic.org.