Monday, 15 February 2016



House plants are part of the interior décor. Some may be permanent features providing interest in corners, around fireplaces, most of which are no longer a source of heat, in the middle of a table or other focal point or frequently on a windowsill. There is a plant for every occasion, though most are subject to changes in fashion. Forty years ago it was the time for the rubber tree plant and the cheese plant, and cactus were common on windowsills even though they seldom flowered.
Sophie with a couple of cyclamen plants
Today we have a huge range of foliage plants as well as flowering plants. The Dragon tree is very popular just now and the variegated rubber tree is making a comeback, but it is the flowering house plants that make the biggest impact. Most of these tend to have their own season, though sales are always high for Mothers Day and just before Christmas as we want to brighten up our rooms for festive visitors. It is very hard to resist the big bright red Poinsettias as a festive decoration, though we could also choose a cyclamen, an indoor azalea, a winter cherry (Solanum) or the Christmas
Winter Cherry
cactus (Zygocactus). Some are grown to give one display then discarded, but others can be retained and grown on to flower every year. Nowadays it is quite easy to find growing details on the internet to let us know whether to water and feed, or dry off as each plant has its own needs. The Christmas cactus is usually very reliable and as the plant gets bigger each year it can sometimes excel itself by a profusion of flowers in December then another show again a few months later. However this will exhaust it and as I found out it needs a rest for a year.
Another cactus worth growing on a warm south facing windowsill is the Rebutia cactus.
Keep it virtually bone dry all autumn and winter. It likes to flower in late spring to mid summer when it will need some moisture, then a wee bit more as it continues to grow. Then by the end of summer dry it off so it can rest till next year.
Cyclamen can be kept growing right through till spring to build up the strength of the corm, but then they need drying off for the summer. They will come back to life at the end of autumn after their rest.
Another very popular plant for year round interest is the dwarf orange bush with white scented citrus flowers followed by small oranges that can last for several months. However I can’t say the bonny wee oranges are sweet enough to eat when growing in our Scottish climate. They are also prone to scale insect attacks.
Fuchsia Southern Belle
The Amaryllis bulb is a very popular Christmas present, and will flower in late winter. To get it to flower every year it needs watering and feeding up till the end of the summer when you dry it off for about three months. It flowers best when pot bound, so do not be in a rush to pot it up.
Orchids of the Phalaenopsis type are just about found in every home as they are very easy to grow and last for years. Look after them well and they should flower every year. They enjoy the warm moist atmosphere of a bright shower room, away from direct sunlight, as they absorb moisture from their aerial roots that grow outwards from the pot, so don’t cut these off to tidy up the plant. I have had mine for many years giving me such a good display that I must have done a dozen orchid paintings, mainly on large box canvases.
Geranium, fuchsias and Impatiens (Busy Lizzie) are garden bedding plants used for tubs, borders and baskets, but will also be very happy in the house on a bright windowsill, but not in full sun.

Wee jobs to do this week

Check over tree stakes, wire supports and ties on ornamental trees, shrubs and fruit. We are often too busy during the growing season, and tend to put off this task to a quiet moment. This is that quiet moment to secure young plants for another year. Ties on trees can also get too tight as the tree swells up as it grows, so the ties may need adjusting. Make sure the tree stake is well away from the trunk otherwise it is likely to cause damage.


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