Dionaea velopment. and the potting medium should be clean peat with a little sand added. The sap of the croton should be kept away from clothing as it will make an indelible stain that no amount of cleaning will remove.

Loss of lower leaves is a common problem with crotons that are grown indoors, and this can often be traced to the plants becoming too dry at some time or other. Although it is important that the compost should not become soggy and waterlogged, it is equally important that it should at no time dry out, as loss of lower leaves will be the inevitable result.

Croton plants need regular feeding and it is preferable when potting to use a compost that is loam based. John Innes No. 3 being the most suitable for larger plants. Crocking the bottom of the pot is also necessary as this will ensure that surplus water drains freely from the pot, a most important requirement for all potted plants.

Good light is another requirement, and this will mean placing croton plants in the lightest possible window position, it will be entirely futile to attempt to use croton plants to brighten up a dark corner. The minimum temperature required is 16°C (60°F) and the plants will quickly suffer if it is allowed to drop below this. Keeping a careful watch for pests is essential and particular attention must be placed on the underside of leaves. Red spider is the most common pest of the croton when grown as a pot plant, and regular spraying of affected plants is the only answer - there are many insecticides for keeping red spider under control.

The dieflenbachias get their common name, dumb cane, from the fact that the sap is an irritant and can cause considerable unpleasantness if it gets into the mouth. They are plants that need warm, shaded and moist conditions although there are some, see page 80, which are not quite so demanding.

One of my favourites is Dieffenbachia oersiedii. The leaves are dark green, almost to the point of being black, but the interesting aspect is the beautiful ivory-white midribs. As dieffenbachias go the leaves and entire plant are comparatively small. By contrast one of the most majestic is D. amoena. This has dark green leaves which arc subtly blended with light and dark green in the centre. Similar in appearance is D. Tropic Snow with much lighter variegation in the central part of the leaves.

Dieffenbachia Pia has very little green in the leaves and is one of the most difficult to care for. The overall colouring is creamy white with faint green speckling. This must have warm and moist conditions and does very much better if the plant pots are plunged to their rims in damp peat.

Cuttings about 3 in (8 cm) in length taken with an eye will not be difficult to root in warm and moist conditions. It is not necessary to have leaves attached - the bare stems are simply cut into sections and allowed to dry'before being laid on their sides partly buried in moist peat. Because of the poisoAous sap it is important to wash the hands thoroughly after taking the cuttings.

To be grown with any degree of success it is essential that Dionaea muscipula, Venus fly trap, must have warm and very close conditions - close to the point whereby the atmosphere surrounding the plant is at the point of total saturation. Indoors, or in the greenhouse, a separate plant case should be provided, and the pots in which the plants are growing should be plunged to their rims in wet sphagnum moss. Keeping the moss wet will help to increase the humidity level. Treated in this way some degree of success may be achieved but the inside of the glass container will have a permanent film of condensation which will make seeing the plants somewhat difficult!

The potting mixture could scarcely be given the name compost, as it should be composed almost entirely of sphagnum moss with just a little clean peat added to it. The great attraction of these plants is, of course, their ability to catch flies and other insects in their leaves - the slightest touch on the sensitive leaves will induce them to fold together, so trapping any unfortunate insect that may have been foolish enough to find its way on to them.

However, I must add that these are extremely difficult to care for even in greenhouses looked after by the expert, and they are almost impossible for the indoor gardener. They are. indeed, plants for the enthusiast who can offer them the environment of a heated glass cabinet.


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  • alexander
    How often should i water my dieffenbachia?
    6 years ago
    Is dieffenbachia a succulent?
    3 years ago

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