Add color and aroma with houseplants

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— Adding aroma and color to your home through the use of houseplants is a wonderful way to freshen your interior spaces. Most any houseplant can make it in our dry, sunny climate as long as we create an indoor micro-environment conducive to healthy growth.

For aroma, you're most likely looking for a houseplant with white or light-colored flowers. In general, brightly colored flowers emit less fragrance. Among the houseplants with scented flowers, white jasmine, gardenia, waxflower and wax plant as well as angel's trumpet have the strongest aromas. Try placing them near an area with good air flow so their scent will disperse throughout the room.

Most citrus plants, such as the calamondin orange, flower year-round and emit a refreshing fragrance. White spider lily (Huymenocallis caribaea) is a pleasant-smelling potted plant that tends to flower primarily in the summer.

Sometimes it is the oils in the foliage that create aromas. Some release the scent continuously, especially when the air is warm, or just when the leaves are touched or crushed. Thymes, basils, and many indoor kitchen herb plants fall into this category.

Pelargoniums or geraniums are a group of plants with a variety of leaf sizes, flowers and fragrances that do very well in our climate. These are the most vigorous of all my flowering houseplants, blooming profusely year-round. Hybrids have been developed with scents of roses, lemon, pine, spicy nutmeg, peppermint, and apples. The scent is released when the leaves are touched, making it an ideal plant for an area of the home where people pass by and gently brush by the leaves.

If you were forward-thinking enough to place some bulbs in cold storage last fall, you can bring color and aroma into your home with hyacinths, daffodils, lily of the valley, freesia and paperwhites. Bring in a few bulbs each week for blooms throughout these winter months. Scented cyclamen, oleander, miniature roses, and tulips will also do well indoors.

For colorful, non-aromatic displays, you have a wide range of plant choices from bold primary colors to muted pastels. They can give an otherwise lackluster area an instant lift.

African violets, azaleas, primroses, begonias, cyclamen, caladiums, and crotons come in a variety of leaf shapes, textures and colors. Their arresting colors and patterns will add interest and complement most any decor.

Plants with colorful leaves tend to scorch more easily than all-green foliage so it's best to place these plants in indirect light, away from your sunny south and west-facing windows. Pay attention to the information on plant care provided by your florist as some plants such as caladiums, Wandering Jew and African violets require continuous moisture while others such as geraniums, prayer plant, and Polka-dot plant benefit from allowing the soil to nearly dry out between waterings.

There are other houseplants that do well here, too, including many succulents and varieties of cactus. Watch for a future article on these types of plants.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail gardeners@co.routt.co.us.

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