Columnea

Crossandra

Clerodendrum ihomsonae is a woody, climbing shrub that will attain a height of some 8 ft (2-5 m), and not be too difficult if reasonable growing conditions and a lightly shaded position are available. Some form of support will be needed for tying growth to as it develops. The leaves are green and somewhat coarse in appearance, but any deficiency here is amply compensated for by the excitement of the colourful crimson and white bracts that hang in large clusters throughout the summer months.

Although plants will retain their leaves during the winter months if the compost is watered, it is often better to allow the compost to dry out gradually towards the autumn and to keep it dry until new growth is evident in the spring, when watering can be gradually restarted. At this time it is wise to pot the plant on into a larger container, or to remove some of the old compost and pot the plant with fresh compost in the same container. Plants can be pruned to more reasonable size after flowering in late summer or early autumn, but if space is available they may be left and will form a fine display against a wall.

Being somewhat vigorous they will soon fill their pots with roots, so it is important that feeding should begin as soon as they are established in their pots. When potting on, John Innes potting compost No. 2 or 3, depending on plant size, will suit them: younger plants will benefit if a little additional peat is added to the compost. In a warm propagating frame cuttings of a few inches in length will not be difficult to root 78 if taken in the spring.

These are among the most colourful and interesting of all the subjects that may be used as trailing plants in pots or hanging baskets but they are not seen offered for sale nearly as often as might be expected. However, they are well worth acquiring and will provide a brilliant show of colour in the early part of the year when there are not a great many flowering plants to choose

Cuttings, a few inches in length, will root readily in a heated propagator, and when rooted several pieces should be put in 3J-in (9-cm) pots and allowed to establish before being potted on again about six to eight weeks later. An alternative to potting is to place three or four of these small plants in a hanging basket, using a peaty and open compost.

There are many varieties to choose from but it is frequently a question of getting what is on ofTer. Columnea banksii is the most usual and it is a good plant for the home with waxy dark green leaves and red flowers from November to April. C.gloriosa is rather more delicate with paler green leaves although producing red flowers over much the same period, C.g. purpurea is a good form of this. C.microphylla looks rather like a smaller-leaved form ofgloriosa.

shade and a moist situation if they are to do well. For a few weeks prior to flower production it will be an advantage if the temperature can be lowered to about I0°C (50°F). At this time it is also advisable to keep the compost a little on the dry side.

Crossandra infundibuliformis is one of those enigmas of the plant world which will oblige one person by flowering and growing quite happily, while for another it simply refuses to grow or flower. There are many plants like this and it is often said that the successful owner possesses a form of green-fingered magic that induces plants to perform extraordinarily well for them. There are also those among the house-plant-growing public who swear by the need for talking to their plants in order to get the best from them -and they may be right, who knows?

Crossandras belong to the Acanlliaceae family, from which we get a number of worthwhile house plants, among them the aphclandra and the beloperone. New plants of crossandra arc propagated from cuttings taken in the spring: these should be from firm growth and some 3 in (8 cm) in length. It will also be helpful if cuttings are treated with a rooting powder prior to insertion, and it is essential that they should then be housed in a warm propagating case as they are not the easiest of subjects to root.

The leaves are an attractive glossy green and the floweri, which vary in colour from the red to the yellow side of orange, are bome over a long period during the spring and summer months. When caring for crossandras indoors they will need moist, warm and lightly shaded conditions.

Cuphea plalycenlra (syn. C. ignea) has scarlet tubular dowers with white mouths that resemble the ash on the end of a cigar, hence the common name cigar plant. New plants may be raised from cuttings, a few inches in length, taken in the spring or summer, or plants may be very much more easily raised by sowing seed in the spring in a warm propagator. Fuller and more attractive plants can be obtained if several young seedlings are put in each pot rather than grown as solitary plants.

In summer cuphea can be put out of doors. In the home they should occupy a light position and the compost should be kept moist and fed once the plants have become established in their pots. Almost any reasonable potting medium will suit them, but a mixture of two parts of John Innes potting compost No. 3 and one part of peat is suggested as being ideal.

Plants quickly become straggly and untidy and, rather than trying to keep them from year to year, it will be much more satisfactory to raise fresh plants from seed annually. The usual run of garden pests tind cupheas reasonably appetising it would seem, so a careful eye must be kept on them and pests treated as soon as they appear.

In spite of much opposition from the many other flowering pot plants that are available at the same time, before and after Christmas. the cyclamen is still one of the most popular. This seems even more surprising as so many people tind this attractive plant difficult to care for indoors.

The commercial producer may well give a clue to their treatment once bought for indoor decoration. An essential part of the nursery growing is to ensure that plants are not subjected to hot conditions, the aim region of 13°C (55°F). It is also essential that plants should be grown in greenhouses that will provide dappled shade - this means shading that is sufficient to protect them from the direct rays of the sun but will at the same time admit adequate light. So. when caring for cyclamen indoors it is best to endeavour to emulate the efforts of the nurseryman by providing a light and cool windowsill and not a very hot dry environ-

Except for plants that are being grown on to specimen size for display purposes, almost all of those offered for sale by the commercial grower will have been raised from seed sown in the autumn of the previous year, although there are new strains of cyclamen that will produce good size plants from seed sown earlier in the same year. From their seedboxes the young plants are gradually potted on into larger containers using a reasonably peaty compost that is free draining, as heavy stodgy compost will inevitably produce poor results.

The ideal place for plants indoors is the light and reasonably sunny windowsill where they will enjoy cool rather than hot temperatures. Although cyclamen must be kept moist at all times it is better to err on the side of dry conditions rather than too wet when attending to their needs. Also, when feeding plants it is better to give them weak doses of fertilizer at infrequent intervals.

Following flowering it will be natural for plants to die back gradually and rest during the summer months. As the flowers die and the foliage begins to lose its colour the amount of water should be reduced until the compost is dry. The plant pot should then be placed on its side in a cool dry place, under the greenhouse staging is ideal or in a shed or garage. During June and July the corm of the plant should be frequently inspected for signs of new growth, and when this is seen the old compost should be removed and the corm potted in a completely fresh mixture, using the same pot in which the plant has been growing. The corm should be placed in the compost to about half its depth, as burying too deeply may

The florists' cyclamen are forms of Cyclamenpersiewn and there is a wide range of these available, often with beautifully variegated foliage to enhance the crimson, pink or white flowers.

Cuphea

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