Azalea, cineraria, primrose & ranunculus
Azalea, cineraria, primrose and ranunculus are cool-loving, indoor, decorative flowering plants that generally are available from garden centers and florists in winter and early spring. They do best on a very bright north or east windowsill with some direct morning sun, and must be kept cool to maintain longevity. Only temperatures that approach freezing are too cold. In fact, extended time above 60 degrees Fahrenheit will shorten their lifespan. You can use these plants as a centerpiece or to accentuate a room, but you must return them to the windowsill for the night.
In addition to cool, bright conditions, this group of plants requires a consistent moisture level. They don't tolerate extremely dry or extremely wet conditions. Let the soil surface begin to dry out before watering, then water thoroughly so that the saucer contains water. After a fifteen-minute soak, empty the saucer.
Regularly remove spent blooms and yellowing lower leaves. Because of the dense foliage and the moist conditions the plants require, some mold may occur.
Azaleas and cinerarias will bloom heavily for about one month. English primroses -- other than the obconica and malacoides types -- can be grown indoors until April. Then it's best to plant them in a shady garden spot where they can be enjoyed as a perennial. Ranunculus is the most temperamental of the group and usually lasts only a week or two.
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Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014