As we adjust ourselves to the thought of winter, avid indoor gardeners like me continue to invent ways to enjoy colourful plants in our homes. Of course we can purchase any number of inexpensive flowering plants from retail centres, use them as display plants until they cease to bloom and then discard them, but because we are gardeners, there is that irresistible urge to grow our own plants. That s what makes us gardeners the desire to grow things and watch plants develop into attractive specimens that we can use in our home dcor. It is difficult, however, to grow blooming plants indoors during the winter simply because of lack of light, as most require more light than is available on a windowsill.
I have a basement light garden set up in my furnace room so I am able to grow some things that others may not be able to grow. I always take a large number of coleus slips from my outdoor planters in the fall before frost gets them. I simply cut off the top 20 cm or so of the coleus stems and put these bouquets into vases in the sunroom.
As winter arrives, these slips form the basis of a rotating plant system that I employ to supply some colourful foliage during the dark days of the season. The sunroom grows cooler as winter advances and so I start up my light garden. By this time the slips have rooted in the water so I plant up five-inch pots, with about half a dozen slips in each pot, and place these under the lights.
Grown in a soilless mix and kept well watered and fertilized, the coleus grow quickly under the warmth of the light garden s fluorescent tubes and before long I have pots of attractive foliage that I can display in the house as part of a plant collection, as a dining table centre-piece or in an attractive container as a stand-alone display plant. The plants are colourful and bushy and make a great display, but soon lose their vigour in the lower-light locations.
I can usually get about three weeks out of a pot before the coleus begin to elongate and become less attractive. At that point I simply replace the pot with a new one and take the old pot down to the light garden, snip off the tops of the plants and use these slips to create a new pot of coleus. I keep the original plants and allow them to bush out from having been cut off sometimes I am rewarded with another nice foliage display, but sometimes not, in which case it is discarded.
By having about a half-dozen coleus pots on the go under the lights at any given time, I always have one which is suitable for display. The deep burgundy, vibrant lime green and the stunning red colours add unique touches to an indoor plant display and I take added satisfaction from the fact that I have grown the plants myself. This undertaking keeps my green thumbs in the dirt and provides an outlet for my need to garden during the long winter months.
Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba