Oh, l’amour! How quickly the calendar rolls around to St. Valentine’s Day once again. This year, instead of buying the same dozen red roses, there are plenty of other plants and flowers out there to add a little romance to your house or garden.
Whereas flowers may only last a week, a houseplant can last for years with the right care.
The one you’ll see everywhere at this time of year is the Valentine hoya, complete with heart-shaped leaves. It’s incredibly easy to keep alive when placed in bright light and kept on the dry side.
However, it may never develop beyond being just a leaf due to the way they’re propagated, and growth is very, very slow.
Anthuriums are far more impactful, with their red heart-shaped blooms that can blossom almost year-round.
Foliage-wise, then you can’t go wrong with the sweetheart vine, which will also tolerate low-light situations.
The string of hearts is slightly better for brighter locations, but both are very easy to grow.
Even outside of Valentine's Day, anthuriums are popular for their long-lasting heart-shaped flowers (spathes).
Romantic plants for the garden
There are many romantically-named plants that you can add to your garden this Valentine's Day.
Cupid’s dart is an elegant blue-flowered perennial, and bleeding heart will add arching stems of heart-shaped flowers (romantic if you forget the bleeding bit!).
Kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate is a robust and somewhat invasive perennial for later interest. Blue passionflower is also an excellent choice to add some late colour on rapidly-climbing foliage.
Weigela ‘Electric Love’ is a compact shrub with dark foliage and red flowers, and contrasts nicely with the more delicate whites of plants like bridal wreath and pearlbush ‘The Bride’.
Shrubs don't come much showier than 'The Bride' and, although not in leaf yet, it will look stunning come early summer.
Sowing the seeds of love
Often, the greatest gift for a gardener is something that we can watch grow from seed to plant.
Love-in-a-mist not only has a somewhat ethereal name, but its intricate foliage and pastel flowers work a charm in borders, as does pheasant’s eye (Adonis).
Heartsease and forget-me-not work perfectly in a cottage garden setting or can be used as bedding plants.
Love lies bleeding may have a somewhat dubious name for a Valentine’s gift, but its striking crimson tassels make it a worthwhile addition to any romantic plant collection.
For something more unusual, you could sow love-in-a-puff – a curious annual climber with tiny flowers and lantern-like seed pods. Requires warm conditions.
And if you like the idea of an annual climber, there's always the rather naughtily-named morning glory!
The botanical name for pheasant's eye, Adonis, refers to the Greek god of beauty and desire.
Passionate reds, pinks & purples
Red flowers and foliage are perfect representations of passion, lust, beauty and love we associate with the colour.
So don’t just pick up the first flaming Katy you see, go for something a little more original.
Red Chinese evergreens are some of the most beautiful houseplants currently on the market but aren't very common.
You’ll also see bromeliads with torch-like flaming flowers, such as Vriesia and Guzmania.
For the experts among us, you could try red or pink angel wings, a little trickier to grow but very much a statement plant.
Also for the more advanced, the Venus flytrap not only has bright red little traps, but is also named after the Roman goddess of love.
If you think these might be a bit much, then the flapjack plant or purple oxalis, which has little heart-shaped leaves, are both much more manageable.
Orchids are also popular gifts: they last a really long time and are very easy to care for. They usually come in pinks and purples, but you should be able to find some reds in garden centres too.
Lastly, if you can find one, the Chinese hibiscus is an extravagant alternative to the traditional red rose.
The Chinese hibiscus is grown as a houseplant in the UK and has incredible scarlet blooms, which will only last one day each.
The scent of love
Most cut-flower roses these days don’t have scent, so it might be worth thinking outside the bunch to add a little fragrance to your gift.
Lily-of-the-valley, although an outside garden plant, is often on sold in little pots for indoor use. These will last a week or so, but must be planted in the garden afterwards. The scent is truly beautiful and not overpowering.
Jasmine, on the other hand, is often too much for a small room, despite its fragile appearance.
Hyacinths also have a strong fragrance and come in a wide range of colours other than white. They are also super easy to care for and can be planted out or discarded after flowering.
Stephanotis has waxy, porcelain-like flowers and is sometimes sold growing around a heart-shaped hoop (like jasmine). It is not the easiest plant but can make an impact on the nose and eyes.
The gardenia has perhaps the most intoxicating fragrance of all, exuded from compact glossy plants. A mesmerising gift, but a word of warning: gardenias are notoriously tricky to keep happy.
They require consistent warm temperatures, even lighting, high humidity and soft/acidic water. Only for the enthusiast, if you want to avoid heartbreak!
The gardenia is arguably one of the most beautiful of all houseplants, but its diva-like constitution also makes it one of the most difficult.