Houseplants highlight winter garden

Penn State Master Gardener and Member of Warren Garden Club

It’s January and time for the Penn State Master Gardener’s Cabin Fever Gardening Series. Two excellent programs that are sure to be of interest to all are Winter Gardening with House Plants, keeping our thumbs green in winter by growing indoors with Roberta Ward and a lecture on Winter Sowing, start your spring garden in January with Lucy Masterson.

The event will be held from 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Slater Room of the Warren Public Library, 205 Market Street, Warren, PA. Admission is free but the committee would like to know how many to plan for. To register go to or call 563-9388.

My garden at this time of year has become my houseplants. All my African violets are in bloom. My violet window, luckily, is in a high traffic spot and we all enjoy the little flowers.

All house plants are really happier and healthier outdoors. However in Northwestern Pennsylvania they will not survive our winter. Houseplants tolerate the heat and dryness of our homes until they can go back outside in summer to rejuvenate themselves enough to make it through another winter. Therein lies the secret to raising healthy and happy houseplants. Find out what outdoor conditions your house plant prefers and try as much as possible to duplicate these conditions indoors.

If you are just getting started with houseplants, begin with a couple of easy to grow plants such as the Peace Lily the Spider Plant and the Philodendron.

The Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) likes medium to low light and likes moisture. It has deep green foliage with white lily shaped bracts in spring and fall.

The Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum) likes bright indirect light and is easy to grow. It has grass like arching foliage with white or yellow stripes. Tiny new plants form on stems.

The Philodendron is a vining plant with large glossy evergreen leaves. It likes low light which makes it easy to grow in our homes.

Success with these easy plants will give you confidence to try the more challenging house plants such as the Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides) or the Begonia Rex (Begonia rex-cultorum).

Our garden centers are a good place to purchase house plants. The staff can give you information on the plant as to its requirements for light, water and fertilizer. If something goes wrong with your plant the garden center will know how to solve the problem, the grocery store will not.

Many gardeners like to start their annual plants and vegetables in doors during the winter months. Supplies the gardener will need are seeds, soil less potting mix, water soluble fertilizer, seed starting equipment such as seed starter trays or peat pots and fluorescent light units.

Starting seeds indoors is fun especially with children. Start with a few easy seeds and work up to the more challenging plants. The cold and snow outside makes the little plants fun to care for and it gives the gardener hope for the future.

For more information on the subjects of house plants and seed starting information two programs that are sure to answer our questions are the Penn State Master Gardener’s Cabin Fever Gardening Series Winter Gardening with House Plants and the lecture on Winter Sowing.

For registration for the series go to or call 563-9388.

Meanwhile it’s January and my flowers are resting under a blanket of snow. Our gardens need this time to renew and ready themselves for another beautiful Northwestern Pennsylvania gardening season. I must confess, I need a little renewal myself. Gardening season, wonderful as it is, is hard work. See you at Master Gardener’s Cabin Fever Gardening Series.