Plants

The beginner lo indoor-plant growing would be well advised to make his or her selection of starter plants from this section, rather than choose more delicate plants that may initially be more colourful but will, almost inevitably, be more disappointing in the end. Among the easier plants can be found a wealth of kinds with colourful and interesting foliage: even the humble tradescantia when properly grown can be much more appealing than the most delicate and beautiful plant that is suffering as a result of indifferent culture and inadequate temperature.

Generally speaking, the easier plants are the ones that will tolerate lower temperatures without suffering unduly. In this respect the ivies are ideal, as they remain fresher and crisper in moderate temperatures. Other plants that are especially suited to cool and airy conditions where adequate light prevails are the spring-flowering subjects such as azaleas, primulas and the winter-flowering Jasminum polyanthum. It is important, however, to avoid really cold and miserable situations that are totally devoid of feeling, so somewhere in the region of 10°C (50°F) should be the aim when setting minimum temperatures for indoor plants that are considered easy to manage.

For areas that offer poor light it is better to select plants with green foliage rather than those with colourful or variegated foliage. Aspidistras seem to thrive in poor light, as does the grape ivy.

20 Rhoicissus rhomboidea.

Abutilón Achimenes

Although it eludes me at present, there must be some very good reason why abutilons are not more popular as indoor plants. Some are most attractive on account of their maple-like variegated foliage and although often seen as centrepieces of garden summer bedding schemes are not too frequently found as indoor plants. Others produce masses of pendulous bell-shaped flowers that are not unlike miniature hollyhocks.

the garden room and the larger room indoors. they will cover a trellis or similar framework quite quickly to provide an excellent backcloth of flowers and foliage for smaller plants placed in front.

Plants may be raised from seed or cuttings - both kinds of propagation being done in the spring. From seed it is possible to get plants with a wide range of colours, the best of which can be used as a source of cuttings in the following year.

Abutilons will flower over a long period and do not require a temperature of more than IO C (50°F) in order to succeed. They should be kept moist and well fed during the growing season, on the dry side at other times, and will develop a more compact habit if the growing tips are pinched out to encourage them to branch. In September or October the stems may be shortened by half their length.

Abulilon megapolamicum has small red and yellow flowers and is one of the most popular kinds. Another favourite, with mottled variegated foliage and orange-yellow flowers, is A.striatum thompsonii.

If differing methods of propagation are anything to go by there is every reason for this plant being as popular as any. Not only can it be increased by leaf and stem cuttings taken in April but it can also be propagated from seed sown in February or March, or the scaly rhizomes may be teased apart in February and planted individually to form new plants. When starting plants from dormant rhizomes they will grow much more freely if the rhizomes are first plunged in hot water. This practice has. in fact, given achimenes its common name of hot-water

Not at all difficult to care for. achimenes should have a light position by a window. While the plants are actively growing the compost must be kept moist and regular feeding with a weak liquid fertilizer will be beneficial. Although there are some compact kinds, most achimenes will need to have the growing points removed to improve the habit and. even so, plants will need staking. These are also good subjects for hanging baskets where they can be grown without staking. The attractive trumpet-shaped flowers come in a range of colours - pink, red to purple, mauve, blue, yellow, and while - according to variety-.

The growth dies down naturally in the autumn and water should then be gradually withheld until the compost is quite dry. The rhizomes should be stored in a warm, dry place until they are started into growth again in the spring - in warm, agreeable conditions February is the best month.

Not all of us can accommodate, far less afford, the somewhat grand prospect of incorporating a water feature as part of the indoor-plant display, but for those who can it offers many fascinating possibilities. The soothing effect of moving or still water can add a new dimension to almost any display, and where the water is still there is the added pleasure of seeing the reflection of one's

Alas, there are not many of our true house plants that can be put to use as water plants. One that can be utilized in this way is Acorus gramineus which can be placed in the water in its pot, and will often be much happier in this situation than it would be if occupying a more conventional house-plant position on the windowsill.

Acorus form grassy clumps which reach a height of some 15 in (38 cm). and are not in the least difficult to care for provided the compost is kept permanently saturated - on the windowsill this can be achieved by standing the plant pot in a dish of water. Propagation is simply done by division of the clumps of roots at any time of the year. Divided pieces can be potted up into John Innes potting compost No. 2 immediately, there being no need to bother with peat mixes and proper propagating methods.

This acorus is hardy out of doors but plants may need to be hardened off before being planted outside - preferably in midsummer.

For the person interested in, or involved with, the business of displaying plants to good advantage there can be few plants that compare with adiantums, the maidenhair ferns. Colourwise they blend with almost anything that comes along and. being of full yet delicate appearance, they are most useful for concealing pots and other materials that may be used for creating a display.

The majority of ferns require conditions that are shaded, moist and reasonably warm if they are to succeed indoors. In view of this it is often an advantage if young plants can be encouraged to develop in the early stages in a glass plant case, in which they will be free from draughts, reasonably moist and just that little warmer than they would be if placed on the windowsill.

Most of the glossy leaved house plants will benefit from having their leaves cleaned periodically with a damp cloth or a proprietary leaf-cleaning chemical. However.

adiantum than mist the foliage over with a fine spray of water; this may be done daily in warmer conditions, less frequently if plants are in a cool room. Although it is not commonly accepted, few plants are harmed as a result of watering with water that comes direct from the domestic tap. But it will be no disadvantage to water adiantums with rain water, or water from a kettle which has been boiled and allowed to cool off" before being given to the plants. Less water is required during the winter but the soil should never be allowed to dry out. The minimum acceptable temperature is in the region of 10°C (50°F).

Mature plants can be increased by using a sharp knife to divide the clumps into sections for planting individually into small pots of peaty compost. Alternatively, they may be increased in much greater number by sowing ripe spores on moist peat in very warm conditions.

When the plants seem too large in relation to the pols in which they are growing they should be potted on into slightly larger containers using a peaty compost. However, adiantums seldom require potting into containers that are larger than 8 in (20 cm) in size. FulL healthy plants in such containers can be particularly handsome when placed on a pedestal of some kind that allows them to be viewed from all angles, and also gives them ample space in which to develop.

A range of species and varieties is available. Adiantum cuneatum (botanically A. raddianum) with its dark green fronds being one of the most popular. Another favourite with greyish-green, rather hairy fronds is A.caudatum. A.tenerum with arching fronds and stalked leaflets is particularly good for pot culture, as are its various

Acorus

Adiantum

Acorus

Adiantum

Alpinia

Amaryllis

Allemanda

The majority of these are best suited to a greenhouse that can be maintained at temperatures in the region of 25°C (77°F), with a high degree of humidity. Needless to say. where these conditions are available, plants such as the climbing Allemanda calharlica, with yellow flowers some Sin (13 cm) across, will provide a spectacular display. Trained up to the roof of the greenhouse they look fine but, being of climbing habit, few of the allemandas are suited to average home conditions.

However, in A.neriifolia, we have a plant that is much more compact in appearance and very much less demanding in its requirements. In warm conditions cuttings a few inches in length are not at all difficult to root; a fact which is worth remembering as most of these plants must be acquired as cuttings from friends, there being few allemandas offered for sale on the open market. Once rooted, cuttings should be transferred to 3-in (8-cm) pots filled with John Innes potting compost No. 3 as they are greedy plants that soon fill their pots with roots. Pinching out the early growing tips of the plant will induce it to become more compact and attractive. Established plants will require regular feeding, and potting on should not be neglected when pots have become filled with roots. It is also of particular importance to ensure that the compost does not at any lime dry out - during the summer months more mature plants will need watering daily and. if this is done. 3-ft (1-m) high plants bearing rich yellow flowers in midsummer will be the reward.

For the experienced house-plant grower it is often more rewarding to have a measure of success with an unusual plant than it is to grow a more ordinary and easy plant to perfection. And in Alpinia sanderae there is just such a plant which, when well grown, has few peers in the world of purely foliage

New plants are raised by dividing more mature plants and using the younger pieces on the outside of the plant for propagation. When removed it is important that the young plants, which will have some roots attached, are potted into 3-in (8-cm) pots filled with a peaty compost. Thereafter they will have to spend a few weeks in the agreeable conditions prevailing in a heated propagating case until roots have established

In fact, in order to provide alpinias with an environment reasonably near the ideal, it would be wise to continue to grow them in a plant case or terrarium of some kind. When they become too large for the case young plants can be propagated to take their place. Keep the compost moist and feed with a weak liquid fertilizer once the plants have become established.

Many plants masquerade under two names and the amaryllis or hippeastrum is no exception. In fact the latter is the correct one but I have given precedence to amaryllis as that is the name under which it is most generally known by the gardening public.

The amaryllis is one of the most spectacular of all flowering plants and, though costly to purchase at the outset, it is not a difficult plant to manage once it has been acquired. These days amaryllis are usually offered ready planted in the potting medium and in an attractive presentation pack with directions on how to proceed in order to obtain the best results.

Bulbs purchased without directions, however, should be planted in pots that arc only a little larger in diameter than the actual bulb, and about two-thirds of the bulb should be above the surface. A rich compost containing a good proportion of leafmould and rotted cow manure (if it can be obtained) will suit them best. After potting, water very sparingly until the flower bud is evident then gradually increase the supply.

After flowering it is important that the plant should be kept moist and regularly fed in order to build the bulb up for flowering the following year. The plant may be placed out of doors in summer but should come in before frosts occur. In late summer the foliage should be allowed to die down naturally and the compost kept dry until new growth appears. Pot on every third or fourth year only.

Aralia Araucaria

Asparagus pluniosus

Aralia Araucaria

Asparagus pluniosus

Asparagus

The green form, Aralia sieboidii. possesses many excellent qualities that help to make it one of the most popular of the less expensive house plants. It is easily propagated from seed, can be grown in cool conditions, and is among the easiest of plants to care for indoors.

With careful culture mature plants may reach a height of some 8ft (2-5 m) and still retain most of their lower leaves, but compact plants in smaller-size pots are by far the most effective indoors. Aralia sieboidii. or Falsía japónica to use a synonym, has green, palmate leaves that are particularly well suited to plant grouping.

In milder areas this plant can be overwintered out of doors; a cool, shaded and moist situation being preferred. Indoors it will respond best to the location that offers similar conditions to those suggested for outdoor planting - cool and shaded - with a watering programme that keeps the compost moist without being too saturated for long periods. As they are somewhat vigorous plants regular feeding is essential, and plants should be potted on into slightly larger containers each year in the spring. Use a good quality John Innes potting compost No. 2 or 3 with the addition of just a little extra peat when potting.

New plants may be raised from root cuttings propagated in temperatures of about 25°C (77°F) but it will be much simpler to sow seed in agreeably warm conditions in the spring or, if only a few plants arc wanted, to purchase tiny plants and grow them on.

The variegated form, Aralia sieboidii variegala, is slower growing and a little more demanding in its requirements.

For sheer elegance of form there can be few green foliage plants that match the beauty of Araucaria excelsa, or the Norfolk Island pine to give it its common name. The tiered leaves of this South Pacific native have an unmatched beauty that sets it apart from most other house plants. It is essentially an individual plant that is seen to best effect when set in splendid isolation rather than when arranged with other plants in a group.

New plants are raised from seed, but as this is very difficult for anyone outside the nursery trade to obtain it is usually better to acquire either established plants, or to purchase smaller plants and to grow them on. Cool, light conditions with some protection from strong sunlight will suit them best - in hot, dry rooms the needle leaves tend to brown and fall off at an alarming

Potting on should only be necessary every' second year, and once plants have become established in larger pots they can be sustained for many years simply by maintaining a regular feeding programme. The potting medium should contain a reasonable proportion of leafmould and sharp sand as it is important thai the compost should be free draining - stodgy compost that holds water for too long will inevitably present problems.

In its natural habitat araucaria will attain a height of 100 ft (30 m) or more, but in the greenhouse and the home growth is, fortunately. much slower and it would take many years for plants to reach the 7-ft (2-5-m) mark.

A tough plant with cascading green leaves, Asparagus sprengeri seems to have an inbuilt capacity for withstanding all sorts of seemingly disagreeable indoor growing conditions. It is very' much the beginner's plant, as it will put up with many variations in temperature, watering and light. However, though it has this wonderful capacity for toughness, this is no reason for making the plant suffer unnecessarily and. of course, the better the treatment the better it will be.

Ideally, the temperature should be in the region of 16:C (60 F) and the growing position should afford some protection from direct sunlight. Compost should be kept moist at all times, but care should be exercised in winter when it is better to keep the soil on the dry side. Feeding established plants with weak liquid fertilizer is important if they are to retain their bright green colouring. Small white flowers that are fragrant and followed by red berries are an added attraction.

Asparagus pluniosus is a much more delicate and generally more graceful plant, and the more compact miniature forms are quite delightful when grouped with other foliage plants in mixed arrangements - they are also much used in the floristry trade.

Similar conditions and treatment are required by all the asparagus. They are also adaptable in that they may be used as trailing plants in baskets or hanging pots or. in the case of the stronger-growing ones, they may be encouraged to climb a trellis.

Propagate by means of spring-sown seed or, more simply, by division of the roots; water the compost and separate the roots 23 at almost any time of the year.

Aspidistra

Astilbe

Aucuba

Aspidistra

Astilbe

Aucuba

The dear old cast iron plant. Aspidistra lurida, almost inevitably dominated the main window position in grandmother's parlour, and it seemed to go on for year after year with comparatively little treat-

To succeed with this particular plant it should be remembered that it is tough and does not require too much attention with the watering can and with fertilizers and potting on into larger containers. It is important, however, that plants should enjoy a reasonable temperature, in the region of 16 to 20°C (60 to 68°F), and that they should not be exposed to direct sunlight. Even more important, it is absolutely essential that one should not resort to using chemically prepared concoctions when cleaning the leaves, as these are extremely sensitive to this sort of treatment in spite of their apparent toughness. Another interesting feature of this plant is the purplish bell-shaped flowers that appear at soil level.

Potting on need only be tackled when plants are very full and well established, and really old and mature plants in large pots can have the lower part of the root system cut away with a strong knife before resetting the plant in the same pot on a bed of John Innes potting compost No. 3. Harsh treatment perhaps, but no harm will be done to healthy plants - the alternative is to pot on into larger pots every four or five years. Can you then imagine the enormous sort of plant pot that a mature aspidistra some sixty years old would be in?

There is also a rather rare variegated form 24 with dull white and green leaves.

In very wet outdoor situations the astilbe. or spiraea as it is sometimes incorrectly called, develops into a fine garden plant and produces large plumes of white, pink or red flowers. Being colourful and reasonably easy to manage it is also ofTered in limited numbers as a summer-flowering pot plant. The leaves are somewhat coarse in appearance, but when purchasing a plant the buyer should have in mind the dual advantage of the astilbe in that it will make a perfectly good garden plant when it has outlived its attraction for indoor decoration.

Far and away the most important cultural consideration is that the compost must remain moist at all limes while the plant is in flower and leaf. Actually, moist is hardly the correct word: wet or saturated would be a very much better condition for the compost to be in. From the moment of purchase it will be important to ensure that plants are fed regularly as the pots are invariably very congested with roots.

Besides using them for indoor and garden decoration they are excellent plants for brightening up the garden room or the patio. Whatever the location it is better that they should have protection from bright sunlight as this tends to bleach the colour out of the flowers.

Plants may be propagated by means of seed or. to get plants of mature size more quickly, by division of the roots.

The spotted laurel, Aucuba japónica, is a garden plant that is also put to many uses as a pot plant. Indoors it will do perfectly in a light window position, with protection from direct sunshine, and a moderate temperature provided the compost in the pot is not allowed to become excessively wet for long periods. There are male and female plants, and the females produce attractive crops of red berries in winter provided there is a male plant in the vicinity when the plants arc in blossom.

Although suitable for indoor use the aucuba is usually seen to best advantage when grown in a large tub on the terrace or patio, where it will develop into a plant of some 5ft (I-5 m) in height with appropriate spread of leaves. If some shelter from the worst of the winter weather is given it will ensure that plants get an earlier start and grow away more freely in the spring.

Outdoors window boxes offer a further use for aucubas, which can be either individually planted or utilized in conjunction with other plants.

They are not particularly fussy in respect of compost, but John Innes potting compost No. 3 will obviously give better results than soil taken from the garden and given no preparation.

New plants may be raised from seed sown natively, fresh plants can be propagated from cuttings a few inches in length inserted in cool conditions in the autumn - sophisticated equipment is not needed as they will root in the open if given a sheltered position.

Azalea

Bambusa

Usually available in winter and spring the florist's azalea, or Indian azalea, when it comes to propagation and early development of young plants, is very much the prerogative of the experienced nurseryman with the necessary skill and equipment at his disposal. Highly colourful in many shades of white, pink, orange and red they are. however, among the easiest of plants to care for indoors provided one follows a few simple rules.

Principal among these rules is the absolute necessity for keeping the compost in

Any drying out will assuredly result in premature shrivelling of the flowers and subsequent loss of leaves. I am ever afraid of advising the house-plant grower to water his plants well as the tendency very often is to overdo it, but with the azalea this is not at all likely to happen. Submerging the plant pot in a bucket of water and leaving it there until all the air bubbles in the soil have been expelled is probably the most satisfactory method of watering where only a lew plants are concerned. Use of rain water will also-be of considerable benefit.

Following watering the next most important requirement is that the plant should enjoy cool temperatures indoors; the growing position should also be as light as possible without being too sunny. In centrally heated rooms where the temperature is frequently in excess of 20'C (68' F) azalea flowers will open much more rapidly than they will in a cool room, so one's pleasure from the plant will be over a much shorter period. However, it should be emphasized that when purchasing plants that are in very backward condition they must not be subjected to too low a temperature as there is the possibility that flowers will fail to open.

Ideally, an azalea plant should be purchased with a number of flowers fully open and lots of nice fat buds that arc obviously about to open in a matter of a few days. The plants to avoid are those that have shrivelled or distorted flowers.

Having successfully flowered an azalea indoors the owner is then faced with the problem of what to do next in order to keep the plant going for subsequent years albeit, more than a few decide that the dustbin is the best place for the plant once it has fulfilled its initial function of providing a colourful display in the home.

For those with an experimental turn of mind, and the time to care for their plants while they are out of doors during the summer months, the following is offered as a guide. As flowers die they shoukl be pinched off. and when there is no longer the likelihood of a frost plants can go out of doors - in the shade in order to minimize watering. But if shade is impossible, then a sunny position will do no harm. At the time of putting them out it would be as well to pot plants on into slightly larger containers using a compost composed of peat and leaf-mould. Thereafter, keep them moist at the roots and sprayed over with water regularly. Bring them indoors before frosts occur.

There are a large number of named varieties of the evergreen Indian azalea, most of them are hybrids from Rhododendron simsii (syn. Azalea indica).

The majority of the bamboos are strong-growing plants that will attain a height of some 50ft (15m) in their natural habitat: however, do not anticipate them pushing the roof off when their roots are confined to pots, as their tigour will be considerably reduced when root development is restricted. But, where strong growth that will quickly fill a large space is needed, then the free-growing bamboos are fine. They are also very easy to manage and will withstand quite low temperatures in winter [7°C (45 F)] if the compost is not allowed to become excessively wet. Besides being well suited to large rooms, garden rooms or greenhouses bamboos will do perfectly well in sheltered positions in less exposed

Originating from China. Bambusa angu-laia is quite dwarf in comparison with many of the other bamboos, attaining a height of some 3 ft (I m) only, and is, therefore, much more suitable for the average home. Not difficult to care for. the bamboos require reasonable light and warmth and should be well watered during the summer months, less so at other times, and fed regularly when they are growing.

The simplest method of increasing plants is to divide them in the spring and to pot up the divided pieces in John Innes potting compost No. 3 making sure that the pot is well drained. New plants can also be raised from seed or by cuttings of rhizomes taken in the spring; a heated propagating frame will be an advantage when using the latter method.

Begonia

Among the begonias Ihere would seem to flowers, colourful foliage, easy and difficult kinds, even some that can be grown in the garden at milder times of the year. With such a diverse group it is difficult to generalize in respect of care and attention: however, one can say thai temperatures should be in the 10 to 20 C (50 to 68' F) range, with the more tender and difficult plants needing temperatures at the higher end of the scale. For plants in smaller and intermediate size pots a compost of equal parts of John Innes potting compost No. 2 and clean sphagnum peal is advised. It is also advisable to provide some protection from direct sunlight for those growing under glass, or in light window positions

The large-flowered tuberous begonias may be grown from seed but are much better bought as established tubers in February. Acquired in this way the tubers should be planted concave side uppermost, in shallow boxes filled with clean moist peat. These should then be placed in warm conditions in order to start the tubers into growth. When a reasonable number of leaves have been produced the tubers must be lifted carefully and planted into small pots to begin with, the plants later being transferred to larger pots as they increase in size. Regular feeding is essential. Roy Hartley, pink. Gold Plate, yellow and Crown Prince, crimson, arc some of the many superb varieties which are available.

The pendulous begonias (varieties of B.pendula) are treated in exactly the same way. except that they will do infinitely better if they arc planted in hanging baskets instead of conventional pots when the final planting is undertaken. It is also important that the basket chosen should provide a reasonable body of soil so that plants may develop to their full potential; grown in this way pendulous begonias are among the most spectacular of all flowering pot plants.

Begonia rex can have few competitors when it comcs to sheer variety of leaf pattern and a quite astonishing range of colours. Exceptional plants of the larger leaved types that have been grown in perfect conditions may be encouraged to develop into specimens measuring as much as 3 ft (Im) in diameter. Plants reaching this size would be in the region of three years old and should be growing in pots of some 10 in (25 cm) in diameter. However, when they are required for indoor decoration it is much better to choose the varieties that have smaller leaves as they are very much easier to manage and will make fewer demands on available space. In room conditions, most plants tend to lose many of their lower leaves as they age. and as they do so a stout rhizomatous stem develops and the plant loses much of its attraction and may have to be discarded. Though it is not easy, new plants may be made by cutting mature firm leaves into postage-stamp-size pieces which should then be placed on moist peat in a warm propagating case. Alternatively, the leaf stalk should be removed and the leaf pegged down on moist peal after the veins on the undersides have been cut with a sharp knife. New plants will eventually form from the cut veins. In conditions that are damp and cold, mildew on the leaves may prove to be a problem and should be treated with a proprietary fungicide.

Unless it is during the winter months, plants that are of reasonable size when purchased are often belter for being potted on into slightly larger pots without too much

Another rhizomatous-rooted begonia which is useful in plant groupings is B. masomana. This is commonly named B. Iron Cross on account of the dark green pattern in the centre of the leaf which resembles an iron cross. It needs similar conditions to those suggested for B.rex, although it prefers a more shaded position during the brighter months of the year. Il is. however, more difficult to raise from cultings; more time and great care with watering being needed while the rooting process is taking place.

In the larger rooms where space is not a problem there are many fibrous-rooted cane-type begonias that are reasonably easy to care for and also offer a spectacular display for many months of the year. One of the most reliable that is also fairly easy to acquire is B. lucerna which, in fair conditions, may attain a height of 5 to 6 ft <1-5 to 2 m). It has dark green, silver-spotted leaves and pink flowers in spring and summer. Other kinds growing to a similar height are B. fuchsioides. with small leaves and pinkish-red flowers throughout the summer months, and B.maculala, with pink flowers. The

Beloperone

Native to Mexico, the most important of these attractive plants is Beloperone guttata, which is commonly named the shrimp plant. The common name is derived from the heads of petal-like bracts that are shrimp like in appearance and vary in colour from deep pink to shades of light autumnal brown. The variation in colour is dependent on the amount of light that is available. The tubular flowers which grow out from the bracts are not in themselves particularly attractive but they add to the generally pleasing appearance of the plant. Again depending on the growing position, the leaves will vary in colour from pale to dark

The growing position should be light but not loo sunny, and the best growing temperature is in the region of 18°C (65°F); in very hot rooms plants tend to become thin and drawn. Although the plants should not remain saturated for long periods it is. nevertheless, essential that the compost should not at any time dry out excessively, a moist compost that drains freely is the most suitable.

New plants may be raised from cuttings, about 3 in (8 cm) in length, inserted in peat and placed in a warm propagating ease until they have rooted: the temperature should be in the region of 20°C (68"F) with a high humidity level. Non-flowering shoots are the best material for making cuttings. but as it is often difficult to find any new growth that does not have flowering heads of bracts it is usually necessary to remove these before inserting the cutting. In order to produce plants that are a reason able size it is advisable to insert four or five cuttings in each small pot. Also, to promote more bushy growth, the growing tip of each shoot should be removed once the cuttings are well rooted and have started to grow away.

Healthy plants of beloperone produce an abundance of beads of bracts which often weaken the plant, so it is wise to remove the first bracts that are produced in order to encourage the plant to develop more leaves and become sturdier and capable of producing a much greater number of bracts in lime. John lnnes potting compost No. 2 with a little peat added will suit them best, and it is important that plants should be potted on into larger pots once each year until they have become established in pots of the 7-in (18-cm) size, thereafter they may be sustained by regular feeding. Regular feeding of established younger plants is also essential if they are to remain attractive.

Pruning is only necessary when the plants become untidy in appearance, or when older plants become overgrown, and should be done in the autumn when there are usually fewer heads of bracts present.

Another interesting species is B.lutea. which has lime-green bracts that are particularly attractive in larger plants: these are seen at their best when growing in 7-in (18-cm) pots. To encourage plants to grow bracts as the plant is developing, so getting maximum-size plants in the minimum time.

It seems that, like cacti, either you like bromeliads or you do not - it may have something to do with the Tact that many of them have edges to their leaves that are not unlike the teeth of a saw. Almost all the members of the fascinating Bromeliaceae family are indigenous to tropical South America where they grow in trees, on the forest floor, and almost anywhere else that offers a foothold. Some develop i specim e than wispy strands of growth that would hardly seem worthy of classification as plants. Tillandsia usneoides. Spanish moss, is just such a plant producing a matted growth of silver-grey strands that require nothing more than the moisture in the atmosphere to keep them not only alive but growing rampantly. So much so that it is one of the most troublesome of tropical weeds.

In spite of their tropical origin bromeliads are amongst the easiest of plants to care for. and most of them are perfectly suited to room conditions. Besides their exotic rosette shapes, many of them have brilliantly coloured foliage and others have flowering bracts that are a match for any flower in both colour and shape. Some flowering bracts are carried on stems several feet long while other plants in the family have flowers that barely emerge from the water reservoir in the centre of the rosette of leaves. An important need with all the rosette-forming species is that of keeping the water reservoir topped up. In room conditions all the many years to produce their flowers.

Among the aechmeas there are a number of plants that the keen house-plant grower may be tempted to purchase in order to improve his collection, but it must be said that some of them, such as Aechmea mariae-reginae. will become much too large for most households. This species also lakes somewhere in the region of twelve years before it produces flowers, so it is really best suited to the plant collector with a large greenhouse at his disposal.

Doubtless the best known is A.rhodo-cyanea(A.fasciata), the culture of which has been developed to a very fine pitch by one or two specialist nurserymen on the Continent. For commercial purposes new plants are raised from seed and, as they lake a number of years before they get to flowering stage, they tend to be expensive to buy.

The leaves are predominantly grey in colour and have a natural downy covering which should not be wiped or cleaned as this will mar their appearance. They are broad and strap like and are formed in the shape of a rosette which, in fact, provides a natural watertight vase. Keeping the centre of the rosette permanently filled with water is essential to the well-being of the plant: the compost in which the plant is growing should be kept just moist.

The head of pink bracts and small blue flowers is very exciting in appearance and will remain colourful for six to ten months from the time of its appearance in the bottom of the vase of water. I am asked many questions about what should be done when the plant has finished flowering. The best procedure is to remove the head of e the e8of leaves when this dies down naturally. By then new young growths (offsets) should have developed at the base of the plant and care should be exercised not to damage these as they will be the rosettes that will bear flowers when they have developed to sufficient size - usually in three years. Alternatively, the small rosettes can be removed and planted up individually when they have produced several leaves of their

This advice applies to all the rosette-

Aechmea

Billbergia

The principal distinction of Ananas com-mosus is that it is the only member of the truly exotic and fascinating bromeliad family that is of any value to commerce - to those with a taste for exotic fruits it is better known as the pineapple. The dull green leaves with vicious spines along their margins cannot be described as beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, but the plant has the distinction of being able to produce small pineapples on the ends of long stems when grown in pots as small as 5 in (13 cm) in diameter. Even when in fruit it cannot be described as beautiful, but it has a fascination for many people who feel there is something special in having a pineapple plant in fruit on the kitchen windowsill!

Raising new plants in quantity is a task for the skilled plantsman. but there is no reason why anyone with an experimental turn of mind should not attempt to grow the odd plant from a pineapple fruit. The tufted lop of the fruit should be removed with an inch or so section of the fruit itself. Follow this by removing the sappy part of the fruit from inside the skin, which should be dusted with a hormone rooting powder. A potful of peat covered with a generous layer of sand is prepared and the pineapple is pressed, tufted section uppermost, into the sand. The pot should then be kept in a closed case or propagator in a heated greenhouse until roots have formed and the tuft starts to grow. It may surprise you to discover that it is not so difficult as might be

Where the foregoing plant may be at the end of the scale as far as beautiful brome-

liads are concerned, there can be no doubt that the variegated A.bracieaius siriaius when bearing fruit must rank as one of the most beautiful of all-the plants that is likely to be purchased in a pot. The leaves tend to be very much longer and broader with rich cream and green colouring. When about to produce fruit (on plants some four years old) there is an added bonus when the central leaves of the rosette change to a rich reddish pink, and one may also have the good fortune of seeing the larger outside leaves suffused with the same rich colouring. The fruits are also much more spectacular being carried on stems that may reach a length of 18 to 24 in (45 to 60 cm) and are again reddish pink in colour with shortlived flowers of the most intense blue.

As the fruits develop it is usual for the plants to produce strong side growths from amongst the overlapping leaves. These should be removed in their entirely and used for propagating new plants: for this operation a heated greenhouse will be required. Side growths should be allowed to develop to a reasonable size before detaching them, by which lime they will, in fact, resemble young plants rather than a conventional cutting.

Good light and reasonable warmth are the principal needs of all pineapples. The compost should be on the dry side for the best results and feeding should not be necessary. When potting, an open free-draining potting mixture is important, so I would recommend a peat and leafmould compost.

Given reasonable growing conditions the is one of the easiest of indoor plants to care for. in fact it often seems to thrive with the minimum of attention. The foliage is typically that of the bromcliads. but clusters of plants increase much more rapidly than those of the majority of plants in this family. Consequently it is necessary to split up the clumps much more frequently than would be expected of most bromeliads.

Clumps may be divided at almost any time when the plant is not actually in flower. When division is deemed necessary the compost in the pot should be well watered in advance, and the plant must be knocked from its pot before being divided into either individual plantlets or more manageable smaller clumps that may be potted up individually. Individual plants should go into 3j-in (9-cm) pots, while the small clumps will do better if potted immediately into 5-in (13-cm) pots. For a few weeks after potting in this way the compost must be kept on the dry side until the plant makes a reasonable amount of new roots. In any event, the compost should at no time remain saturated for long periods.

Alternatively, a number of young plants may be planted up in hanging baskets of reasonable size to give a grand display when they produce their multi-coloured flowers with exotic pink bracts. Individual flowers last for little more than a few days, but a large clump in a hanging basket will provide

Cryptanthus

Although much smaller than the other members of the fascinating bromeliad family, cryptanthus. or earth stars as they are commonly known, are no less attractive in their way. Few of them have flowers that can be described a^anything other than insignificant, but their shape, colouring and. in particular, their usefulness make them firm favourites with the plant enthusiast.

Being small plants that seldom produce individual rosettes of more than a few inches in diameter they are ideal for the keen collector who does not have a great deal of space at his disposal. They are also particularly useful when it comes to planting up small dish gardens and bottle gardens, as they are never invasive and can be especially attractive in a naturalistic setting that incorporates small rocks or cork bark.

Many of the more choice kinds, such as Cryptanthus fosterianus, are almost museum pieces and are keenly sought after by the enthusiast, but there are more common types, such as C. bromelioides tricolor and C.bmttatus. that arc reasonably easy to obtain. New plants are raised from offsets, so increasing one's stock of cryptanthus is inevitably a slow business.

Another excellent use for cryptanthus is in the making of bromeliad trees, as they fit perfectly in the many smaller recesses that will be formed naturally by smaller branches of the tree. Though naturally more terrestrial in their habit, the cryptanthus will adapt very readily to tree dwelling where they often grow very much better, and almost invariably produce rosettes with 30 very much brighter colouring if the moss surrounding the roots is kept moist.

Of all the many interesting plants in the bromeliad family. Guzmania musaica must surely rate as one of the most striking with its mottled foliage and colourful yellow-orange flowering bracts. Alas, these are slow-growing plants and so are not often offered for sale by the commercial grower. Besides being slow growing they also require a slightly higher temperature than the average run of bromeliads in order to do well, a minimum of I8°C (65°F) should be the aim. As they produce a lot of leaves they become rather heavy and so are not particularly suited to being grown on trees as epiphytes - clay pots that offer a good anchorage are the best type of container for

Less demanding and more easily obtained is G. zahnii, but it is equally impressive with long strap-like crimson-coloured leaves and conspicuous yellow bracts that will remain colourful for some two months. Guzmanias are larger plants and more space is required for their development, but otherwise they need similar treatment to other bromeliads.

Guzmania lingulata minor is another interesting species which enjoys being grown as an epiphyte on a bromeliad tree. It has bright orange-red bracts and the typical rosette arrangement of leaves.

Here there are a number of plants that are much favoured by the professional plant decorator who is interested in their clean lines and exotic appearance. Neoregelia carolinae tricolor is possibly the most exciting with its rather flat rosette that may be 24 in (60 cm) or more in diameter. The leaves are cream and pink variegated, and as the insignificant blue flowers appear the short leaves in the centre of the plant turn a brilliant red in colour. Although the flowers are short lived the leaves retain their brilliant colouring for many weeks. Eventually the parent rosette will die, but before it does so up to five young plants will be produced around the base of the original rosette. When these young plants have produced some five or six leaves of their own they may be removed with a sharp knife and potted up individually in small pots filled with a peaty compost. When no longer attractive the old plant should be discarded. As an alternative to removing the young plants they may be left attached to the old stump of plant and allowed to form an attractive cluster of new growth.

Neoregelia spectabilis is commonly known as lady's fingernail because of the crimson tip at the end of each green leaf which resembles a painted fingernail. When the flowers appear the short leaves surrounding the water reservoir change to an incredible purple colour which does give the plant a spectacular appearance.

Nidularium

Tillandsia

Vriesea

Nidularium

Tillandsia

Vriesea

This is a typical rosette-forming bromeliad. the overlapping leaves of which form a perfectly watertight "vase' that must at all times be kept filled with water. With older plants it is advisable to tip away existing water periodically before replenishing, otherwise it is likely to become stagnant. Nidularium innocentii is one of the larger bromeliads and is only suitable for more spacious rooms. The leaves are dark green with touches of purple and arc wine coloured on the reverse side. The flowers are an insipid green in colour and are not of much consequence as they barely break the surface of the water in the vase. Plants will do reasonably well in lower temperatures but it is usually advisable to maintain a minimum in the region of 16°C (60°F) with a fairly high humidity level.

Although the flowers are not particularly exciting, this is another of the bromeliads that provides a dramatic colour change in the leaves immediately surrounding the water reservoir when the flowers are produced. in this instance the change is from

Much as one would wish to see these exotic South American plants becoming more popular, if only on account of their durability, it would seem that their slow rate of growth and the amount of space they occupy on the nursery is against them. There is also the problem presented by many of the larger plants in that they have saw-edged leaves which makes working with them a somewhat hazardous business.

Compact little plants with comparatively insignificant leaves that are capable of producing bracts and flowers of quite extraordinary beauty. Tillandsias take up little space and are ideal for use as epiphytes when arranging a bromeliad tree, or for planting at ground level around an old tree stump. They are also very, very tolerant in respect of care and attention, seeming to go for weeks at a time with no care whatsoever. In the greenhouse they are perfect as mobiles - attach them to a piece of tree bark using sphagnum moss and plastic-covered wire and simply hang them up - but do not forget to submerge plant and anchorage in a bucket of water periodically.

Tillandsia cyanea is one of the most excit-

in tidy clumps from which appear incredible cerise-coloured bracts that are not unlike cuttlefish in shape. As if this weren't enough, from both sides of the head of bracts there is a succession of petunia-blue flowers for several weeks. Well established plants will produce a number of heads of bracts and can be particularly attractive. Older clumps can be pulled apart to provide material for propagating new plants, which are not difficult to raise.

Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, has slender silver-grey foliage and the ability to survive on warmth, moisture and fresh air -no need for pots, compost or anything so complicated. It can be grown quite happily simply by draping the leaves over a branch, or hanging them from a piece of wire in the greenhouse. However, it must be said that of its high humidity requirement.

Vrieseas are compact rosette-forming plants that do enjoy a measure of popularity as house plants, possibly because they are not too demanding of space indoors and on the nursery where they are grown. The edges of the leaves are also quite smooth, so there is no problem in this respect. In this context 1 am thinking of Vriesea splendens. There are others, such as V.fenestralis and V. hieroglyphica. which lake many years lo mature and are substantial plants when fully developed. In fact they are among the most majestic of all the vast bromeliad family.

Vriesea splendens has dull green leaves with darker cross bands, and spectacular spear-shaped red bracts that are most impressive. It is interesting to note that where many bromeliads mentioned in these pages gain colour as the bracts appear, it is the reverse with I '.splendens. which gradually loses the cross bands as the bracts emerge from the water reservoir. As with many other bromeliads. where one is unable to obtain plants of V. splendens ihey may be available in seed form. If the seed is fresh then it is not difficult to raise new plants.

In relation to their size bromeliads are not all that well rooted, so it is important when potting on mature plants or seedlings to ensure that a peaty, open compost is used as roots will find it difficult to penetrate into heavy soils.

Calceolaria

The florist's calceolaria produces mas^s of fascinating pouched flowers in a wide range of bright colours - yellow, bronze and red and when introduced to the home as an established plant is not in the least diflicult to care for. Provide cool, light conditions and keep the plants moist, taking care to direct water into the pot and not over the flowers and leaves. It is also wise to keep plants in good fettle by feeding them with a liquid fertilizer each week.

To raise plants seeds should be sown on the surface of John Innes compost No. I any time from May to July and plants from such a sowing will flower the following year. Seedlings should be brought along in cool conditions and potted on into gradually larger pots as required, by autumn they should be in pots of some 5 in (13 cm) in diameter. Should the odd extra large plant be required the best of the bunch can be potted on yet again to give plants which can reach 2 ft (60 cm) in diameter. Greenfly can at times be troublesome and one should keep a watchful eye for them and treat with appropriate insecticide as soon as they are detected. Insecticides should be used at the strength recommended by the manufacturer and rubber gloves should be worn. When the plants have finished flowering and are carded.

Callistemon

Callislemon citrinus, an Australian bottle brush, is one of those plants in which there will always be some interest, as its distinctive flowers in the shape of a bottle-cleaning brush are always an attraction. The flowers are an orange-red colour with small tufts of leaves at the end of each and are mainly produced in summer. New plants may be raised from seed, or they may be propagated from cuttings. 3 or 4 in (8 to 10 cm) in length, taken during tfhe summer months and placed in a warm propagating bed or case. Cuttings are a more satisfactory means of propagation as plants from seed take a long

As their foliage is not particularly attractive, it is best to use callistemons as temporary room plants where possible, keeping them in a greenhouse or warm conservatory while not in flower. To encourage freer growth plants may be planted out in the garden against a sheltered sunny wall during the summer months. When potting use John Innes potting compost No. 3 for pots of 5-in (13-cm) diameter and larger, as plants quickly use up the goodness in peat-

Older, untidy plants can be trimmed back and older branches thinned out at almost any time other than when the plants are in flower or about to flower. Well developed plants may attain a height of some I Oft (3 m), but pruning can easily reduce this should they seem to be taking over their allotted quarters too rapidly.

Campanula

One of the nicest of cottage-window plants is Campanula isophylla alba, commonly named Italian bellflower, which produces masses of attractive white star flowers throughout the summer months. There is also C.isophylla, which is blue and C.I. mayii with mauve flowers, but the white one is by far the most popular and easiest to care for.

t any tn summer months. Cuttings should be placed in peaty seed-sowing compost, either in seed boxes or small pots. Pots are probably best and if five or six cuttings are put in each one they will grow into full plants and suffer less disturbance when being moved into larger pots. Once rooted the potful of cuttings should be potted into a slightly larger pot using a mixture of John Innes potting compost No. 3 and clean sphagnum peal in equal parts. The tips of the cuttings should be removed at an early stage to encourage more bushy plants to develop.

Light, cool and airy conditions are ideal for them, and when actively growing during ihesu dry out, as shrivelling and loss of leaves will be the result. Besides being good pol plants they are perfect for hanging baskets in the garden room where they will get plenty of light. As with all successful plant baskets it is important that the basket should be well furnished with plants at the outset; with the campanula this will mean putting four or five potfuls of plants in to begin with.

Cerastium

Carex

Cerastium

Carex

With larger plants there is the almost daily task of cleaning them over and removing dead flowers - one will be well rewarded for this by a continual supply of fresh flowers. Once they have finished flowering at the end of the summer the plants should be cut hard back and the compost kept on the dry side until new growth is evident in the spring. At this time the plants should either be potted into larger containers, or most of the old compost should be shaken away from the roots and the plant repotted in the same container using fresh soil - John Innes potting compost No. 3 is suitable.

Another campanula that may be brought in from the greenhouse and used as a temporary room plant is the chimney bell-flower. C.pyramidalis. which attains a height of some 3 to 4 ft (1 to l -25m). Light cool conditions, moisture at the roots and significant house plant but. nevertheless, it is useful in that it offers a change of texture and shape which can be particularly important when arranging plants in small containers. As this is a plant that should have its roots permanently saturated it is also useful for forming part of the planting scheme at the surrounds of indoor pool features - now becoming more and more popular as the house-plant enthusiast becomes more adventurous. Beingquite hardy outdoors carex will tolerate a wide range of conditions, and the most important need is for adequate moisture, as already men-

Carex may be propagated by means of seed, but this is only necessary if a large number is required as plants may be increased very simply by dividing large clumps, or by teasing clumps apart and planting them up as individual pieces.

When grown in pots it will be found that most grassy plants look very much better in wide shallow containers rather than in tall slender ones, and to get the best effect it is better to plant up several young plants in the wider container. Pot fairly firmly and use John Innes potting compost No. 3 as plants become very straggly and untidy when growing in open peat-based mixtures. Feeding is not very important, but it will do no harm for plants to have the occasional application of liquid fertilizer.

not the sort of plant you will find in the house-plant catalogue, or any catalogue for that matter, it being something of an invasive weed in most gardens. However, with the cost of everything including plants forever rocketing upwards it is wise to look around for something for nothing. More or less nothing, as all one needs to experiment with this plant as a possible indoor decoration is a hanging basket, some John Innes potting compost No. 3 and a few cuttings. The cutting, lots of them, are inserted directly into the basket of compost where they will root with no difficulty.

The problem, then, is finding a place to hang a basket of plants indoors. Perhaps it is time we returned to the Victorian idea of utilizing hanging baskets on pedestals and not. in fact, hanging them up - in those grand days very ornate pedestals were used for supporting elegant ferns and similar plants. Here we can well learn a lesson and try out cerastium as a cheap and cheerful pedestal plant that will enjoy the lightest possible growing position, and will also respond to watering and feeding in the same way as almost any plant that is confined to a container. Pinching out the growing tips of the plant, or even trimming the plant around with a pair of shears, will keep it more compact and attractive.

Cestrum

The common name of bastard jasmine is not likely to endear the cestrums to many of the house-plant-growing public, and there are not many other than Ceslruni elegans that one would be likely to come across in the normal course of events. Several attempts have been made to popularize it as an indoor plant but with very limited success. The foliage is somewhat coarse and dull green in colour, which in itself is a drawback for any potential potted plant unless it has significantly attractive flowers to offer as compensation.

The flowers of this plant are a musty wine red and are produced in large clusters that arc best seen when the plant has reached its maximum height of some 10 ft (3 m). Trained over an archway in the garden room or greenhouse cestrum flowers can be seen to good effect as they hang down away from the clutter of the foliage. Grown in this way the plants can be impressive.

Growing conditions are in no way demanding. as plants kept on the dry side in winter will quite happily tolerate tempera-lures in the region of 7°C (45"F); the summer temperature is nol important provided it is not excessive. Adequate watering and feeding is necessary in summer. Cestrum grows vigorously and will quickly need to be repotted into larger pots in the region of 12 in (30cm) in diameter; once having reached pots of this size the plants should be sustained by regular feeding. Prune back Airly hard during the winter but when the plants have become old and woody it is better to start afresh from cuttings.

Could Chlorophytum comosum (the spider plant) possibly be the most popular foliage house plant that is grown today? Perhaps it is not the one that is most frequently sold over the counter of the flower shop, but it is surely the one that is most widely distributed among friends. The reason for its popularity is the ease with which it can be propagated from the miniature plants that grow from the parent on the ends of long stalks. These young plants may be pegged down by means of pieces of bent wire in small pots filled with John Innes potting compost No. 2. There they are left until they have obviously rooted and have started to make new growth when they can be severed from the parent plant and allowed to grow away on their own. We are often faced with the problem plant that seems reluctant to produce young plantlets. but it will usually be found that when plants have become reasonably mature they will all have these "babies', as they are sometimes known. One sure way of getting them to produce little ones is to put the older plant in a hanging basket where it often looks much more effective and will certainly grow very much more freely.

Another frequent question concerns the browning of leaf tips of chlorophytum plants - in my experience this is almost inevitable with plants that arc confined to pots. The problem is that these plants produce large fleshy roots, not unlike miniature dahlia tubers, which results in the plants quickly becoming starved of nourishment even though they are being regularly fed. The consequence is that leaf tips become brown and the leaf in time dies off: it is best to remove leaves completely once they have lost their attraction. The alternative is to repot plants regularly into ever large containers, but this in time results in low-growing grassy plants which appear unbalanced in pots that seem much loo large for them. Because of their need for a rich diet it will be little use potting chlorophytum plants in compost containing only a small amount of fertilizer. So. from the time they are transferred from their small propagating pots, they should be potted into John Innes potting compost No. 3. In the heavier mixture growth will be a little slower, but the plant will be better in the long run.

Growing conditions for the chlorophytum are not very important as they are often seen doing surprisingly well in widely differing circumstances. However, try to ensure that they are in a reasonable temperature and good light and, when feeding, give them at least twice as much as the average indoor plant. They are never at their best in too hot conditions or when growing in compost which remains wet for long periods.

Chrysanthemum

Cineraria

Chrysanthemum

Cineraria

The chance discovery lhal the chrysanthe-

iniliates its flower buds according to the amount of available daylight (whereas» many other plants can be encouraged to develop flower buds earlier than normal simply by subjecting them to higher tempera

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