River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Garden Talk

March 2002

Indoor Gardening Tasks

Winter is a time when lots of people like to concentrate on indoor plants rather than braving the weather outside. And many will have been given and received over the festive season -such as Cyclamen persicum, Euphorbia pulicherrima 'poinsettia' and Hippeastrum. These are all quite easy to grow when given the correct conditions.

Cyclamen is an ever-popular plant, with a combination of attractive marbled leaves and brightly coloured elegant flowers. A cool even temperature is essential, and a position in good light but not direct sunlight. A minimum winter temperature of 55 degrees F or 10 degrees C is adequate.

Allow the compost to become quite dry between watering, but not so the plant foliage wilts. I water Cyclamen by standing the pot in an inch of water and allow this to rise by capillary action. This makes certain the root ball is evenly and thoroughly moist without the risk of the flower buds or the corm becoming too wet. As the flower buds start to show give liquid feed every 10 -14 days. Dead leaves or flowers should be removed so no stump is left to rot. As the flowers fade, gradually reduce the watering and keep the compost dry during the summer. In July water the compost, then as growth starts re-pot using any good compost.

The easiest way to build up a good stock of flowering plants is be raising them form seed. It is possible to buy pre-germinated seed that is to say that the seed had already got a leaf and sprout. Ensure that they are kept moist until you are able to pot them up.

Poinsettia has an unrivalled brilliance at Christmas with its scarlet leaf-like bracts surrounding the insignificant flowers until they are fully developed. Over recent years the range of colours has been extended to include varieties with pink, white and creamy yellow bracts. Like the Chrysanthemum, the Poinsettia can be treated with chemical to stunt their stem growth, so the plant remains more compact. The normal flowering season is during the winter, but keeping plants in the dark for 12 -14 hours each day for 8-9 weeks will cause the flowers and bracts to appear out of season.

Avoid high temperatures, which cause the bracts to fade quickly. A winter minimum of 55 degrees F or 10 degrees C will suffice rising to 65 degrees F or 17 degrees C during the day. Keep the compost well watered with luke-warm water until flowering is completed. As the leaves turn yellow water less frequently until almost dried off. In May prune back to the top shoots and re-pot in good compost. A constant temperature, good light and correct watering will help the bracts retain their colour for several months. The biggest secret with poinsettias is to keep them out of draughts.

Hippeastrum or amaryllis, to have these flowers for Christmas you will need to buy prepared bulbs in September. These bulbs will have been grown in a particular way to encourage early flowering. Plant them in October and grow in room temperature of 65 degrees F or 17 degrees C. In subsequent years the bulbs should be re-potted every other autumn, using any good potting compost. Position the bulbs so that two thirds protrudes above the surface. Stand the pot in good light and just damp the compost until growth begins, gradually increase the water as flower bud grows, an indication that roots are also active. A liquid feed can be given every ten days until the flowers open. As the leaves turn yellow stop watering and feeding. Should the leaves remain green as they sometimes do, keep the compost just moist - the flowers will open slightly earlier than those from dried off bulbs. The pot can stand outside from June until September in a sheltered spot.

Martin Davey

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