Pachystachys

An apt common name can often give a reasonably ordinary sort of plant much ing a very good example. At a Chelsea Flower Show one of the most famous visitors looked at Pachystachys lulea for the first time and said it resembled a child's lollipop, so the common name of lollipop plant was a natural step. However, it would seem that the pachystachys needs some-

it to make the grade as a popular flowering plant. The plant is, in fact. fine, but it takes unkindly lo being packed in paper and boxes for despatch to markets and shops, so is better bought from the grower.

The leaves are not particularly attractive, but these are amply compensated for by the months of pleasure that will be derived from the rich yellow bracts that arc borne on the ends of every stem and side growth. The bracts are similar in shape to those of the more common aphelandra. but are much more plentiful and appear over a much longer period.

Cuttings of non-flowering shoots taken early in the year will not be difficult to root in a healed propagating case and. once well rooted, they should be polted into rich compost as they soon lose their colour if there is not sufficient goodness in the compost. Other than that, keep the plants moist, shaded and warm - a minimum temperature of I6°C (60°F) should be the aim. Regular feeding is required and if the compost is allowed to dry out lo the extent that the plant flags then some loss of leaves may be the result. Watch out for whitefly.

Scindapsus

Selaginella

Scindapsus

Selaginella

Members of Ihe important Araceae family, scindapsus have leaves that arc similar in shape to the more common Philodendron scandens. The leaves of the scindapsus will, however, be larger and altogether bolder than the smaller P. scandens, and the stems of the plant will be very much thicker. Many of the philodendrons will tolerate conditions that are much less favourable than the ideal of warm, moist and shaded, and will not suffer too much harm provided the adverse conditions prevail for only a short period. However, the scindapsus must have the suggested conditions, and the warmer and moister Ihe atmosphere surrounding the plant then the better it is likely to do.

In Ihe moist and warm conditions of a warm greenhouse these plants are perfect for growing in hanging baskets, or as plants trailing from pots suspended from the ceiling or attached to the wall. But it is not infrequently thai plants are purchased with the though! in mind that they will cascade from pots and decorate the wall of the home that offers only average growing conditions. Frankly, in most instances it would be money ill spent, as plants of scindapsus seldom do well when grown in this fashion. It is very much better then to grow them more conventionally by allowing them to climb or be attached to a moist support that they will eventually cling to. Wet sphagnum moss wrapped around a stout cane will provide a moist foothold for the aerial roots that will naturally develop along the stem of these plants. If the moss is kept permanently moist by means of regular spraying with water it will be found that scindapsus plants will have a very much better chance of survival indoors - even so they will not be ihe easiest of plants to maintain in good condition.

The most common is Scindapsus aureus, which has yellow-variegated foliage that is most attractive in healthy plants. Variegated colouring always varies and is dependent on the quality of the parent stock from which cuttings are taken. Therefore, it is wise when purchasing to select the most colourful plants. Also available occasionally is S. Marble Queen with white-variegated leaves that contain only slight flecks of green in some types. Having little chlorophyll in their leaves they arc particularly difficult to keep in good order, and will provide a challenge for the most able plant

Scindapsus are propagated from single leaves with a piece of stem attached - these should be struck in moist peat in a warm propagating frame. A rooting powder should be used to encourage rooting and the area surrounding the cuttings must remain moist, but excessive wetting of the peat in which cuttings are inserted should be avoided. At all stages of potting an open peaty compost should be the order of the day.^nd plants should only be potted on when they have well filled their existing pots with roots.

Although some species of Selaginella tend to be more straggling in their habit of growth, the majority form beautiful clumps of fern-like foliage that are ideal for use in small dish gardens, terrariums and bottle gardens. In the closer and moister atmo-phcrc of the latter they seem to grow very much better than when placed in isolation on the windowsill. One should aim to provide a temperature in the region of I6°C (60°F) or above to keep plants in good order. It will also be beneficial if the area surrounding the plant is kept moist.

New plants may be raised from cuttings of about 2 in (5 cm) in length placed in small pots filled with a mixture of peat and sphagnum moss. Varieties with smaller, more compact leaves can be propagated simply by placing small pieces of leaf on the surface of the suggested compost - when employing propagation methods of the latter kind it will be most essential to ensure that a propagating case is used, and that the surface of the compost is not allowed to dry out at any time. Otherwise, cuttings, being so small, shrivel and die before they have had a chance to produce

At all stages of potting a mix of sphagnum moss and peat should be used, and for preference shallow rather than very deep containers. These will not only be better for the plants but the plants will be very much more attractive in pots that are shallow and more in keeping with their ap

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