Freshen up and brighten up

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Deb Babcock

Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.

Find more gardening columns here.

Adding aroma and color to your home through the use of houseplants is a wonderful way to freshen your interior spaces, especially during these gray days of winter.

For aroma, look for a houseplant with white or light-colored flowers. 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 are year-round and emit a refreshing fragrance. White spider lily is a pleasant-smelling potted plant that tends to flower primarily in the summer.

Sometimes the oils in the foliage cause 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.

Geraniums are a group of plants with a variety of leaf sizes, flowers and fragrances that do very well in our climate. They are vigorous and bloom 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. Unfortunately, the spent flower petals can be messy when they drop.

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.

For colorful, non-aromatic, displays, you have a wide range of 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 that 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.

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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