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Indoor Citrus and Flowering Plants

The Martha Stewart Show, January 2010

Nothing brings nature home like a houseplant. Byron Martin, owner of Logee's Tropical Plants in Danielson, Connecticut, shares some unusual options for indoor greenery.

Citrus Fruit Plants
Keeping citrus plants indoors is surprisingly easy, says Byron, as long as you have a sunny window. Grow them in terra-cotta pots, and keep the temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit for best results.

It's best to fertilize citrus plants during active growth and discontinue feeding in fall and winter. Prune selectively once flowering is complete to avoid pruning next year's fruit. Also, to prevent leaf yellowing known as iron chlorosis, add chelated iron to your citrus plants.

Here are some of the citrus plants Byron recommends:

Variegated Calamondin Orange: This tiny, sour fruit is a cross between a kumquat and a mandarin orange, and its marmalade is highly sought-after. It will flower in late winter or early spring and fruit thereafter.

Sunquat: This yellow fruit is a cross between a lemon and a kumquat. The entire fruit, including the skin, is edible. Unlike other citruses, there is no uniformity to the size of the fruit, which is determined more by the size of the plant and the amount of fruit on the tree.

Ujiktsu (Sweet Lemon): Thought to be a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine, this fruit looks like a lemon and tastes like an orange. It ripens from late winter into spring.

Kaffir Lime: This plant is popular for its aromatic leaves, which have a lemony flavor. The rind of the fruit is used in curry dishes.

Citrus Myrtifolia (Maple Leaf Orange): This fruit is very sour, so it's usually grown for ornamental value. It ripens in late fall and winter.

Citrus Otaheite (Tahitian Orange): This ornamental fruit blooms year-round. The leaves have a slightly pungent smell that's different from other citrus.

Unusual Flowering Plants

Some rare houseplants can require a little extra care and attention, but it's worth it for the beautiful, unique flowers they provide, says Byron. When purchasing an unusual flowering plant, be mindful of the amounts of water and light it needs.

Here are some of Byron's recommendations:

Coffea Arabica (Coffee): This coffee plant fruits year-round, more fruit appearing in fall and winter. The pulp of the coffee bean fruit is sweet and edible.

Bougainvillea Vera Purple: This makes a great standard because of its upright growth habit. It blooms year-round, and unlike most bougainvilleas, its blooms hold their color with age.

Adenium Obesum "Red" (Desert Rose):
With deep red flowers with a well-formed caudex, this plant blooms intermittently and thrives in sunny, dry, warm conditions.

Ilex Paraguarenis (Yerba Mate): This plant yields Yerba Mate leaves, a popular South American tea with anti-oxidant properties similar to green tea. Prune it to form a multi-stemmed specimen.

Burbidgea Scheizocheila ("Golden Brush"): This dwarf ginger has upright stems with individual flowers, which bloom in summer and winter.