Plants that bloom 365 days a year are rare and invaluable. They brighten our homes in winter and continue to shine when moved outside when summer returns. Purchasing them now gladdens the heart of a gardener and pays off when the weather warms.
Geraniums, for example, bloom continuously in a sunny window and are even better as patio plants. Other, lesser-known flowering plants are worth buying.
Shrimp plant, also called flamingo flower, is a small Brazilian shrub with plumes of bright pink flowers. Scientifically called Justicia carnea, it thrives in a sunny window or in a shady place outside, where it will slowly grow and fill in to reach about three feet in height.
The "whopper" begonias bloom tirelessly. With either bronze or green leaves, and with either pink or coral flowers, these sturdy plants can be grown in a bright room or outside in sun or part shade. 'Red Dragon' and 'Pink Dragon' begonias are somewhat similar and also bloom prolifically 365 days a year.
Flowering maples aren't maples at all but are members of the mallow family, which includes hibiscus. Properly called Abutilon, these plants produce hibiscus-like flowers in pink, red, yellow, white or orange. They do best in a sunny window inside; outside they will perform in sun or partial shade.
Dwarf citrus trees make ideal indoor/outdoor plants. Dwarf lemon, lime or calamondin trees usually produce their fragrant flowers in summer. The fruit then develops in fall and winter. I love picking my own lemons and limes in the dead of winter. The calamondin is a cross between kumquat and mandarin orange. Baking calamondin cake--a Florida delicacy--is on my agenda next week.
Queen's tears (Billbergia nutans) only blooms in winter but its grassy foliage looks great in pots outside in summer. Native to Brazil and Uruguay, this bromeliad is very easy to grow. It's been around for a long time and is a favorite "pass along" plant that gardeners share pieces of with friends and relatives. The "tears" are produced on bright pink stems from which dangle tiny flowers that are a brilliant combination of yellow, blue, pink and green. The plants form big clumps and will eventually require a big pot. They thrive in low light indoors and shade when vacationing outdoors in summer.
If you're a gardener who needs an antidote to the winter blues, visit a nursery and invest in indoor/outdoor plants.