There's something wonderful about a home full of flowering plants, and, as anybody who has spent time around houseplants knows, there's a big difference between keeping a plant alive and actually getting it to flower. So, in some ways, this list of the best flowering houseplants represents a master class in green-thumbery.
But don't despair. The plants on this list are usually already flowering by the time they're offered for sale and, in some cases, they aren't really meant to be flowered by home gardeners.
This is especially true of the holiday plants, such as poinsettias. Other plants on this list are easier to flower at home, and once you get the basics, you can expect regular blooms.
Top 12 Flowering Houseplants
African violets have a passionate following, and it's no wonder why. These plants are compact and free flowering with a wide variety of flower forms and colors. With careful watering, high humidity and bright, but not direct, light, it is possible to coax forth several blooms every year. Some master growers can keep their African violets in bloom nearly all year round.
Poinsettias are the single most popular houseplant in the world, which is even more incredible considering that virtually all of these plants are purchased around Christmas time. In recent years, growers have introduced new poinsettia varieties, in pink and white and variegated colors, but the standard red poinsettia is still the king of Christmas plants.
The actual flowers on these plants are insignificant—it's the big red bracts surrounding the flowers that we like so much. Beware, though: only a truly dedicated grower can bring a standard poinsettia back into bloom the next year.
Orchids are the largest group of plants in the world, with some 30,000 known species and tens of thousands more hybrids.
In her book The Orchid Thief, author Susan Orlean described an orchid show and the dazzling variety of flowers in all colors and shapes. Some are breathtaking, some are strange, and some border on downright ugly. Home growers tend to concentrate on about five popular species, and despite their reputation for difficulty, any careful grower should be able to bring their orchids back into bloom.
Peace lilies are often found in upscale home designs, their folded white flowers nodding peacefully over glossy leaves. These tropical plants prefer filtered light, warmth, and humidity. Under the right conditions, flowers will appear in the late summer and last for weeks.
Flowering begonias are usually thought of as outdoor plants, but they also possess all the characteristics of a great indoor plant. They are tough, undemanding and free flowering. A simple pot of begonias can be planted for next to nothing and will yield a nice season of color. Better yet, there are untold varieties of begonia, including the trailing or bushy varieties, and all manner of foliage begonias.
Somewhere in this vast pool of plants is one that will grow in your particular conditions.
Sometimes called urn plants, most bromeliads grow in rosettes of strappy leaves that form a central water-collecting cup. Their flowers arise from the center of this cup in tall, colorful spikes of bracts. They can be difficult to bring into bloom, but, fortunately, new bromeliad flowers often last for weeks or months and they have beautiful foliage.
If you've ever seen a desert in full bloom, then you know that desert cacti feature some of the most beautiful flowers in the world. There are many varieties of cacti available, and about half of them can be bloomed in the average home. Give your cactus lots of sunlight, hold off on the water, and wait for spring or summer.
These unassuming plants made the list for a simple reason: they are easy to grow and almost as easy to bloom with clusters of small, upright flowers. The most popular variety, K. blossfeldiana, is a dependable bloomer in the spring, provided it's given bright light and adequate water. Kalanchoes are succulents, so the basic rules for growing succulents will work well for them also.
The amaryllis is one of the most magnificent of all bulbs. Technically a Hippeastrum hybrida, the amaryllis bears large, deeply colored flowers on tall stalks. They are sold as potted flowering plants or naked bulbs, and they are available in red, salmon, pink, orange and multicolored. They typically flower from late December until early summer, depending on when the bulb is planted. At the end of its growth cycle, bulbs can be removed from the soil and stored in a cool, dry place for at least six weeks, then replanted and brought to bloom again.
Christmas cacti are technically subtropical forest cacti. They have beautiful, drooping red or pink flowers on unique, paddle-like foliage. They are usually bought in bloom already, but it is possible to bring a Christmas cactus back to bloom.
The hibiscus is one of the most enduring symbols of the tropics. These flowers are available in single and double forms, and in a dizzying array of colors. Some of the newer hybrids feature multicolored flowers as large as a salad plate. The hibiscus is not a plant for beginners, either to keep alive or bloom. They insist on warmth, lots of light, humidity, and they are prone to several varieties of bugs. But for those who have the gumption to make it happen, a flowering hibiscus is one of the most remarkable sights in any temperate home.
The genus anthurium boasts some of the most striking plants in the world, but the only one you're likely to find in an average gardening center is the A. scherzerianum. These plants have distinctive red flower structures that feature a heart-shaped red spathe from which emerges a white or yellow flower spike. Anthuriums are true jungle plants, which makes them a challenge to grow and bloom in ordinary conditions. They thrive on humidity, heat, ample water, bright light and rich soil. Most anthuriums are bought in bloom, and it takes a skillful hand to bring one back into flower.