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Winter Abloom

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It's that time of year when your green thumb may be starting to itch and you can't wait until spring to start digging in the dirt.

So garden designer P. Allen Smith showed us how to create indoor gardens. For The Saturday Early Show, Smith used indoor plants that will bloom for months, and add a little color to the long winter days.

Smith says to help freshen the house during the gloomy weather, he likes to create small indoor gardens using flowering houseplants. Smith uses baskets or other containers to group different plants together .

For indoor mini-gardens , Smith says he prefers cyclamen, orchids and ivies. Cyclamen, he says, is easy to care for and tends to bloom for a long time. Smith says orchids make a nice contrast to cyclamen, and they are also easy to grow . Ivy is a nice complement to these plants, says Smith, and helps fill in some of the empty spots.

Smith gave the following tips:

  • Cyclamen
    Smith says he likes cyclamen because it will bloom for months. It comes in a wide range of color, from white through various shades of pink into deep maroon. Smith uses them in a variety of ways, from simply clustering a few in baskets with leftover holiday greenery, to using them in tabletop groupings with other winter bloomers, such as orchids and ivy.

    To keep cyclamen fresh and vibrant, position them in bright, indirect light because full sun is hard on their leaves and blossoms. Never allow them to wilt because they won't fully recover.

  • Orchids
    Smith says despite their reputation, orchids can be some of the easiest and most beautiful houseplants to grow. There are about 35,000 naturally occurring species of orchids from all over the world and almost ten times that many hybrids. With such a large family, it's probably no surprise that some orchids are easier to grow than others. Some of the easier orchids are the phalenopsis and the Lady Slipper orchid. Both of these are ideal for growing in the home environment, whereas the cattleya orchid is a little fussier, it prefers a greenhouse environment.

    Smith says phalenopsis and Lady Slippers are favorite houseplants because they take low light conditions and when it comes to temperature, if you're comfortable, they are too. As for the soil, orchids really don't grow in soil at all. They grow in the bark of fir trees and some growers like to create a blend of fifty-fifty fir bark and lava rock. Now when it comes to feeding, orchids are light eaters. Smith says you only need to fertilize them with 25 percent of the recommended amount on a liquid fertilizer label. And they should be fed about every other week. Orchids hate salt build-up from fertilizer so it's important to wash that out when you water. The blossoms will last up to three months.

  • Ivies
    Ivies are some of the easiest houseplants to grow, says Smith. Most are of the English variety and there are more than 200 to choose from. Each ivy is characterized by different leaf forms and shapes. When it comes to color, there are solid green or variegated ivies in white or gold stripes. Smith says ivies prefer bright light but will do well in reduced light. Let them dry out completely before each watering.

To arrange the plants, Smith says he likes to use taller plants (such as the orchids) in the middle or toward the back, then add the cyclamen and fill in low spots with the ivy.

Almost anything around the house can be used as a container, including baskets. Smith says it's really easy to protect a basket with a plastic liner - you can even use a garbage bag for this. It helps to keep the basket clean and prevents the water from draining out.

Smith says that at this time of year, a lot of garden centers and flower shops are spilling over with flowering houseplants. He suggests indoor gardeners purchase plants with buds because they tend to last longer.