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Sensi Magazine

Spring On: May Flowers

May 20, 2019 09:20PM ● By Stephanie Wilson
It's cliché but that doesn't mean it's wrong: flowers make people happy. Just ask any person (myself included) who's received a colorful bouquet delivery at the office, stirring envy in the heart's of coworkers while serving as a reminder that someone, somewhere, holds you in their heart. 

Ok, that anecdote may be as corny as it is cliché, but there’s some science behind the happiness-inducing properties flowers bring to our lives. According to Rutgers researchers Jeannette Haviland Jones and her husband Terry McGuire, flowers may be potent mood elevators. In fact, their research concluded that if spring brings a certain lightness to your step, you just may have flowers to thank.

In some double-blind studies, the researchers found that people gifted flowers universally reacted with what’s called the “Duchenne smile,” a.k.a. the real kind that can’t be faked. And the happy feelings that those flowers delivered lasted for days. When asked by university reps what she thought about flowers make humans so happy, Haviland Jones explained that flowers are basically the pets of the plant world. “Flowers, like pets, help reduce stress,” she shared. “And, thanks to the new field of positive psychology, there’s more evidence that positive emotion is healing and enhances reproductive fitness.”

Flowers make us happy. Period. But why? She continued: “One of the original theories, from [biologist and environmentalist] E.O. Wilson, was that flowers were a marker for fruit, and that’s why people liked them. But people don’t actually prefer flowers that lead to fruit, so it seems like a weak argument. … It could be odor, which I think is particularly likely. Color is another good possibility. And there is some research that we’re drawn to symmetrical shapes and patterns.” She does conclude that not all flowers are symmetrical, but “most are.”

Since you’re likely already growing a house plant or two it is the trend of the time, after all, with #plantlady hashtags trending up and garnering a growing number of GIFs why not consider upping the happiness-inducing factor of your green habit by growing some flowers indoors?

I tried my hand at growing some flowers indoors this spring with limited luck. At the local Home Depot on Colfax, I had bought a container with primrose (a sun-loving annual), one with lupine (a hummingbird-attracting perennial), and an Iceland poppy, a fragrant perennial. (I also purchased a cannabis plant clone, but we’ll get to that in the next issue. As a preview, I can tell you that it’s happy and growing. And that makes me happy to be growing it.)

As of this writing, only the Iceland poppy has any hope of survival, but that’s not due to my black thumb; my southern-facing apartment is bursting with greenery and I’ve got plenty of Instagram stories to prove it. (see @STEPHWILLL Turntable highlights if you need visual evidence, I swear.) But rather I was lazy and being cheap; I didn’t buy the bigger pots the plants should have had because I was “going to go thrift shopping tomorrow to save a ton of money” and that never happened. So when I watered these plants, still in their original plastic containers without a drainage plate beneath them, the liquid would run right through and pool on the windowsill, spilling onto the floor below. Basically, I killed the plants by being lazy. Moral of this anecdote: do as I say, not as I do. I’ll be trying this growing experiment again this week…after I head to a thrift shop and find some cheaper pottery in which the plants can live. I swear this time.

And I’ll grow some from the list I put together below of flowering houseplants, rather than just flowering plants, which is where I believe I went wrong. It’s a learning process, one wrought with trial and error, as any home decor project should be. A home is a living, ever-evolving space; sometimes, something you try to do to enhance it just doesn’t work. The important thing is to not give up; keep trying, keep perfecting, keep growing.

Because who doesn’t love having flowers growing at home? It’s a source of pure joy I first discovered while living in humid Miami, where my balcony was overgrown with tropical flowers of all sorts. Vibrant, blooming, ever-changing sources of happiness I was devastated to leave behind when I left the tropics for Denver’s drier clime.

So this year, I bought a few humidifiers and set out to turn my apartment into a tropical wonderland, with varying degrees of success. To help you keep your green thumb, well, green, I’ve consulted expert sources and put together the following recommendations for various kinds of flowering houseplants you can grow in your own home. And then I’ve rounded up some of the best places in Colorado where you can travel to see the flowers blooming this year, where we are expecting one hell of a wildflower season.

GET GROWING
Blooming houseplants don’t have to be a chore. Here are some top expert recommendations. Because everyone can be a tropical gardener, no matter where they reside. “It may be a little tricky, but adding that special warmth and color to your home definitely can be done,” Andrea Haywood, a certified master grower from South Florida, told a cruise line’s onboard magazine.

Research shows that houseplants lower blood pressure, increase happiness, and reduce stress. Flowering houseplants serve a twofold decorative function: they provide a brilliance color in their blooming season and cleanse the air year-round, providing a restorative addition to any room in your home. Here are some options to consider.

Bird of Paradise: This colorful plant resembles a tropical bird. And it requires a ton of sun, so only go for this option if you’ve got southern exposures waiting to bathe it in lots of light. If you are lucky enough to have the right conditions, the perennial plant can bloom year-round. During the summer, feel free to transport it to a sunny outdoor spot. Consider it a vacation for your potted friend.

Bromeliad: These plants come in all sorts of varieties more than 3,000 of them, in fact, each one more striking than the last. And despite the exotic appearance, these beauties are anything but high maintenance. And they are just about as prolific as they are easy you can find at least five different varieties at any given Safeway in Denver. Bromeliads produce brilliant, long-lasting blooms with ornamental foliage, and the care needs vary from type to type. Be sure to read the tags in the pot before purchasing one and find one that works for your home.

Fun fact: the pineapple is a bromeliad, and it’s super easy to grow indoors. Next time you buy a full one, just slice off the spikes and top, and stick it in some dirt by the window. It’ll spout a new fruit. It may take awhile for it to be mature enough to eat, but it’ll be fun to watch it grow.

Hibiscus: This plant is powerful, with huge colorful blooms that just keep coming. They typically don’t last very long, opening in the morning with the sun and closing and falling off that night, but a new flower may take its place the next morning. These come in all sorts of colors, can grow tall or stay small, depending on the pot, and despite the incredibly enchanting reminder of escapes to tropical islands are so easy to grow. It’s almost a shame to not grow one if you have any direct sun in your home. Just do it. Thank me later.

Orchids: Not always easy to keep alive but relatively low-maintenance, orchids are a classic choice. You can also fi nd them at any given grocery store. Keep them away from direct sunlight, water by putting some ice cubes in the pot once every seven to 10 days and voila! You should be golden. Or purple. Or white, as the case may be.

African Violets: According to the experts at Better Homes & Gardens, this is among the easiest to grow flowering house plants, and they can bloom year-round with little effort. There are a ton of varieties to choose from, so you’ll likely find one that’s perfect for your home’s conditions. Just avoid getting water on the fuzzy leaves; that causes brown spots.

Peace Lily: This plant tops every list of easy-to-grow house plants, with good reason. The peace lily is tolerant of low light and low humidity. Its subtle white blooms last basically forever, too. However, it is toxic to pets and children, so if you have any ankle biters, best to avoid this plant. If you don’t, you’ll be able to find this one at the local grocery store year round as well. That’s where I picked up mine. And it’s doing just fine. I also grabbed its cousin, the flamingo flower, which is super similar in appearance and care, except with pink flowers instead of white. It’s doing just fine in a shady part of my apartment, although it’s been awhile since it bloomed. I’ll be moving it to a sunnier spot to remedy that situation this month.

BACK TO THE WILD
After a wet winter in Colorado, the state’s snowpack numbers were hovering at above 140 percent of normal at the start of April. While 83 percent of the state was under some sort of drought, just 0.58 percent of the state was experiencing what’s considered “extreme drought” conditions, according to the United States Drought Monitor. The report at the start of April concluded that the entire High Plains area of the United States “remained nearly devoid of drought or abnormal dryness,” with 78 percent of the state experiencing no drought. Compare that to last year, when only 12.38 percent of Colorado was experiencing no drought conditions.

According to the Dictionary of Proverbs, the origin of the saying “April showers bring May flowers” can be traced to an 1886 saying: “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.” As anyone who was anywhere along the Front Range or in the High Plains this March when the Bomb Cyclone hit can attest, Colorado certainly hit the first part of that equation hard this year. And with a rather wet April, the state is on its way to an explosion of color this spring and summer as wild flowers sprout around the state.

In fact, every summer, more than 3,200 species of wildflowers spring up around the state. They tend to start sprouting out of the soil in April and May out on the eastern plains, working up to higher elevations after the snow melts. In some parts of high country, the biggest booming periods don’t happen until August. So if you plan your weekend getaways well, you can embark on wildflower hikes all summer long.