eichlerii, which goes by the appendage of king of tree philodendrons. And it is a truly magnificent plant when fully developed with arrow-shaped leaves several feet in length radiating from a stout central stem. However, it is only suited to very large rooms, and even then must have its roots confined to pots of 10 in (2Scm) in diameter. Fully mature plants are best when seen in the botanic garden where proper conditions and space can be provided for
Vastly different is P. melanochrysum, which has leaves very similar to the sweetheart plant. P.scandens (see page 63) in shape. However, they are much more attractive in colour, being a rich dark olive that gives the plant an almost velvet appearance. It is also a much more difficult plant to care for. and will almost certainly require a mossed support for the aerial roots to cling to, or a damp wall against which to grow.
Among the philodendrons there are many other plants that are occasionally available, all of which will need the moist, warm and shaded conditions mentioned here. Most of these plants can be propagated from either seed or cuttings, and all of them will require an open peaty compost when potting on is necessary.
Here we have a confession - this is one of the plants that seldom does well for me, in spite of the fact that I have tried it in all sorts of situations that would seem to be right for it. Yet a colleague with a minute greenhouse measuring some 6 by 4 ft (2 m by l-25m) grows it. much to my consternation. with almost nonchalant ease. Perhaps his secret is that, for reasons of economy, his plants do not enjoy minimum temperatures of more than about 7°C (45 F). Come to think of it. the finest plants of plumbago that I have ever seen were grown in the cool corridor that ran along the end of a collection of greenhouses. In this situation Plumbago capensis presented a sheet of incredible azure-blue flowers throughout the summer.
Indoors, maximum light is essential and cooler conditions will, it would seem, also be beneficial. When actively growing plants will need ample watering. less when they are resting during the winter months. Well-drained compost is essential; John Innes potting compost No. 2 or 3 depending on the size of plants seems to suit them if the advice of my successful colleague is anything to go by!
New plants may be raised from seed sown in the spring, or cuttings of firm shoots may be rooted at almost any time in a warm propagator. After flowering, plants can be hard pruned and will come to no harm -they will also occupy less space and be much easier to care for when treated in this way.
Available in a wide range of colours, the sainlpaulias (also known as African violets) have attained universal popularity as indoor plants, and plants for the garden room and greenhouse. Much of their popularity is obviously due to the fact that they are comparatively inexpensive and that they are available throughout the year, whereas most other flowering pot plants are seasonal. They are also reasonably easy to propagate from seed or from cuttings.
If a heated propagator and moist conditions can be provided, then the raising of new plants from seed is not much of a problem. However, it is usually very much better for the average person to take leaf cuttings from his own plants for propagation purposes, or to procure a few leaves from some other source. It must be emphasized here that only the best leaves should be used, as small or sickly leaves will almost certainly produce poor results. Rather than cut leaves from the plant it is better that they should be broken off ensuring that no piece of the leaf stem is left attached to the plant to rot.
Although cuttings can be rooted by sible and satisfactory to use a peat and sand mixture in shallow boxes or small pots and to insert the leaves just far enough for them to stand erect. The rooting medium should be moist but not soggy, and to speed the rooting process a small propagating case heated to a constant temperature of about 20°C (68 F) will be necessary. When growth develops it will be as a cluster of small leaves at the base of the leaf stalk. Once this 82 reaches a reasonable size the complete cluster of leaves can be potted into a small pot of peaty compost and a plant will develop fairly quickly. However, when treated in this way the finished plant has a very full heavy appearance as a result of the leaves being closely clustered together, and push their way unattractively through the mass of foliage and are not seen at their best. Although it is a slower process it is very much better to tease the young plant-lets gently apart when they have developed two leaves that are large enough to handle, and to space them out individually in pans or boxes of potting compost. Thereafter they may be potted into small containers when they are large enough. The principal benefit of this method is that the plant develops with a single crown, and when flowers appear they stand proudly away from the foliage.
Sainlpaulias do very much better in positions that afford them the maximum amount oflight, needing protection indoors from strong, direct sunlight only. The greenhouse and garden room become more intensely bright, so plants in either of these places would need a little more protection from the sun. In addition to a good draught-free window position during the day it will be found that sainlpaulias respond very favourably to being placed under a wall or table lamp in the evening. They arc also excellent subjects for growing in Wardian cases, or in converted tropical fish tanks, provided some form of lighting over the plants can be arranged. To prevent scorching of the foliage any lights placed over plants should be at a reasonable distance.
When watering it is important lo ensure thai the compost dries out a little between each application, and on no account should it remain soggy for any length of time. Watering should be done with tepid water and care taken that the leaves and flowers are not splashed, particularly if the plants are standing on a sunny windowsill. In the hot and dry atmosphere of centrally heated rooms it is beneficial lo group plants together by placing them on a tray containing an inch or two of gravel thai is kepi permanently moist. Alternatively, plant pots can be plunged to their rims in containers filled with moist peal or sphagnum moss.
The ideal temperature is around 18°C (65°F), but it is really more important to maintain a steady temperature, even if il is slightly below this level, as wildly fluctuating temperatures arc more likely to be a cause of trouble. Established plants will benefit from regular feeding with weak liquid fertilizer during the spring and summer. When potting on an open, peaty equal parts of John Innes potting compost No. 2 and fresh sphagnum peat is ideal -but avoid putting plants into pots that are too large as they do less well.
There are many named varieties of African violets to be found. All are cultivars of Sawtpaulia ioiumtha; the more recent introductions being much more resistant and able to withstand less than ideal growing conditions. Double- and single-flowered kinds in a range of pink. blue, deep purple and white and some bicolours are available.
For ihe house-plant grower any plant that produces a flower is an added bonus, so it is surprising that spathiphyllums are not much more popular than they seem to be at present. Of the two varieties that are occasionally available. Spathiphyllum Mauna Loa has stately white flower-like spathes on stout stems produced over a long period but these, unfortunately, are seldom plentiful. However, plants with only one or two flowers can add considerably to any collection or display of plants. When accommodating this plant reasonable space is required for the large leaves that radiate from the centre of the pot.
More suitable for the average home is 5. wallisii, which has smaller leaves and is very much more compact in its habit of growth. The spathes are of a similar shape and colour to the first mentioned, although dentally give the plant its common name of white sails. Both plants grow as clumps of leaves that sprout directly from the soil in the pot. and both may be propagated by dividing the root clumps at almost any time of the year and potting the divisions up in a peaty compost.
At all stages of growth a peaty compost is necessary, and plants will generally do better in the conditions enjoyed by most members of Ihe Araceae family - namely. m6isl, warm and shaded.
Specialist pot-plant growers have done much to improve the appearancc and performance of Stephanotis floribunda, Madagascar jasmine, by using artificial light to get them to flower more freely, and to flower much earlier in the year than they would if grown under completely natural conditions. However, a word of warning is offered to the would-be purchaser who may be tempted to buy plants that are in flower too early in the year the exotically scented flowers of these plants have a tendency to turn yellow and drop off much earlier than plants that are bought during the summer.
Stephanotis makes an ideal plant for the light, airy and reasonably warm garden growth should be provided with some form of support to which it can cling. Vigorous plants will have to be fairly severely pruned each year, otherwise they will tend to lake over completely and become much loo congested and unattractive. Firm pieces with two leaves attached can be used for propagation purposes if a healed propagator is available. New plants may also be raised from seed bul this is usually a very slow business - pollinated flowers will develop large green fruits thai should be allowed to ripen completely on the plant lo the point when they split open lo expose Ihe seeds attached lo silky white "parachutes'.
Keep the plants in reasonable light and avoid overwalering in winter to gel ihe best from them. Pot on every second year using John Innes potting compost No. 3 until Ihe plants are in 10-in (25-cm) pots and then feed regularly.
In common with all members of the Maran-taceae family lo which it belongs, Stromanthe amabilis requires warm, shaded conditions in order to succeed. Shade from direct sunlight is particularly important, as plants quickly deteriorate when not prelected. It is also of the utmost importance that the compost in which Ihe plants are growing should have a high peat content, as the plants will inevitably do less well in soil that is heavy and badly aerated.
Stromanthcs are al their most effective when grouped together with other plants where the attractively marked grey-green foliage is seen in contrast with other colours. They are ideal for larger bottle gardens and terrariums as the close, warm and moist conditions thai prevail in such containers suit them admirably.
New plants may be made by rooting pieces of firm stem with two or three leaves attached, and these can be taken at almost any lime of ihe year provided conditions are satisfactory. Ideally, cuttings should be pul in small pots filled with clean, moisi peal, which in turn should be placed in a scaled propagating case healed lo a temperature of some 20°C (68°F). As with all forms of propagation a careful check should be kept for any signs of rotting or dead leaves, which should be removed immediately. Once well rooted Ihe cuttings are then polled into slightly larger pots, several pieces being put in each pot as individual cuttings lake much loo long to grow up into
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