ImageThis long, narrow room has wrap-around windows on three sides. The other side opens into the dining room on one end and a music room on the other end. This Florida room, as I call it, offers a sweeping vista of my garden, but it becomes very important to the welfare of some of my plants during the winter.
At present, I count some 75 plants overwintering in the heated comfort of the Florida room. A few of them are permanent residents and serve as floral or horti-décor, as well as air purifiers. My prized Aglaonemas, a beautiful Cherita that blooms in waves throughout the year, and the heart-leaf philodendron (Philodendron hederaceum) and satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus) that decorate the top of the piano in the music room are present year round. The room would be diminished without the presence of the burro’s tail (Sedum morgianum) that drapes gracefully from a pedestal in one corner. Much of my cactus and succulent collection is housed in this room year round.
Added to the collection in December, however, is a room full of plants that were just too pretty to stuff in the overfilled greenhouse with all the other plants that need to be protected from cold weather. Plants line the window sills, cover the surface of every table, and fill every corner of the room. Several days were spent washing plants with the hose, finding drip trays to fit each container, and coverings to protect my furniture and floors.


The mélange includes several bromeliads that spent the summer on cypress knee stumps near the entry of the house. They are temporarily planted in pots for overwintering in the Florida room. Bright red-orange spikes or “flaming swords” are emerging on the Vriesia ensiformis and will be showy for months. The “painted fingernails” on the green leaf tips of Neoregelia spectabilis vie for attention. The Aechmea fulgens discolor is saved from commonness by the leaves that curl just enough to reveal some of the reddish purple undersides. Rounding out the bromeliad display is an assortment Billbergias that for a couple of weeks regale me with iridescent purple, chartreuse, and pink blossoms that hang downward like queens’ tears. Several brightly colored earth stars (Cryptanthus) and assorted Tillandsias round out the bromeliad show.
ImageMy collection of brightly colored crotons (Codiaeum) was just too pretty to go to the greenhouse where nobody could see them. The large leaves of C. var. pictum are a kaleidoscope of reds, yellows, greens, and pinks, and all colors in between. Some cultivars have leaves that spiral, some have leaves that are so narrow as to be almost threadlike, and some curl back on themselves. Some are interrupted as a leaf blade stops and only the midrib is present for an inch or so, and then the leaf blade continues. ‘Aureo-maculatum’ with its green leaves spotted with yellow are often confused with the similar looking Japanese aucuba (Aucuba japonica).
Hanging baskets have been brought inside to decorate four pedestals Amiable Spouse built for me. A sambac jasmine (Jasminum sambac ‘Maid of Orleans’) blooms just enough to keep the room perfumed. A speckled hoya (Hoya carnosa) thrives in its corner, and an Epipremnum that became thick and beautiful under a shade tree this past summer drapes long strands of foliage to the floor. Then, of course, there is the single leaf cutting of a beautiful little cut-leaf philodendron given by a Flower Show School instructor to each student. I look forward to using its leaves in floral design as well as growing it up a totem pole. It has a long way to go, but it is well rooted and on its way.
How lucky I am to have such a room for plants during the winter! They keep me from being so starved for greenery and flowers during a time when so few are blooming outside. They refresh my outlook and lift my spirits. Every once in a while about this time of year, I vow to get rid of some of my tropical plants. I never quite manage to do it, though. I like them all too much.