Belonging to the same family of plants as the humble coleus, Labiatae. the plectranthus are equally easy to care for. There are four in cultivation, but only two that one is likely to come across in the normal course of events; these are Plectranthus australis and P.oertendalilii. The first has rounded glossy green leaves that arc deeply crenaled along their margins and is of natural creeping habit. P. oertendhatii has leaf margins that are only slightly crenated and the leaves are less waxy in appearance, but this is more than compensated for by their attractive
Both plants are extremely easy to care for indoors, needing only a light windowsill position in reasonable warmth and watering that is moderate but never neglected. To retain their attractive crisp appearance it will be necessary' to feed them with a balanced liquid fertilizer at regular intervals once they have become established in their pots. If a proper feeding programme is maintained plectranthus should only need potting on into larger containers every second or third year. In any event, plant pots should never be too large, and it is usually better to start new plants from cuttings rather than pot the old favourite into larger and larger containers. Cuttings require very little preparation as almost any piece will root in peaty compost in warm
If you are green fingered, or lucky, there may be the bonus of white or whitish-lavender flowers in the autumn.
Podocarpus are very slow growing and would seem to have little appeal for the present-day pot-plant owner who wants plants that grow at a reasonable pace. The attraction, therefore, lies in the fact that podocarpus has somethingdifferent to offer, the leaves being slim and green and very congested. It is also a fairly tolerant plant that will accept lower temperatures without too much discomfort provided the compost is not allowed to become too wet. It requires annual potting in John Inncs potting compost No. 3 until it is in 10-in (25-cm) pots and must then be fed regularly.
Acquiring plants has become a difficult matter, although podocarpus may be raised from seed if this can be obtained in the first place. There are a number of these trees, but Podocarpus macropliyllus is probably best as it is very compact and would make an ideal plant for the patio or balcony during the summer months. Plants are in no way demanding.
Belonging to the Araliaceae family these are plants that develop into tall evergreen woody shrubs with attractive green or variegated foliage. To grow them well they need lightly shaded conditions in a warm perature in the region of I8 C (65°F). Plants will be less inclined to be top heavy if. as they increase in size, they are transferred to clay pots rather than the lighter plastic ones. It will also be necessary to use a fairly heavy compost such as John Innes potting compost No. 3 and to ensure that it is freely drained by placing a layer of crocks in the bottom of the pot.
With green and cream coloured leaves. Polyscias balfouriana is probably the best known, but P. b. marginala has much softer and more attractive colouring in a mixture of green and yellowish green with touches of cream. When grown in large pots in ideal conditions both plants will attain a height of some 15 ft (4-5 m), but tlie upward progress of polyscias can be curtailed by removing the growing tips.
There are several more compact species, such as P. dissecla, P.filicifolia and P.fruiii-cosa elegans. all of which have more delicate foliage and are of more manageable size for
All can be rooted and grown from cuttings about 4in (10cm) in length taken in the spring, or they may be increased by means of cuttings of fleshier root sections taken at the same time of the year.
During the winter and spring months there can be few potted plants that match the graceful appearance of the primulas, which are available in a very wide range of delicate colours. With greenhouse facilities that offer a minimum temperature of around 10°C (50°F) it is not difficult to raise plants from seed sown between February and May according to variety. Sow the seed very finely on the surface of John Innes potting compost No. I and place the seed-boxes or pots in a warm propagator, temperature 16°C (60°F) if possible. Once the seedlings can be handled they should be transferred to small pots. or. spaced out in seedboxes and put in pots at a later date. Keep the compost and surroundings moist, but avoid splashing water over the foliage, particularly during the colder weather.
In common with many flowering plants it will be better to remove the early flowers that develop as this will help to build up the plant so that a much better show is provided later. Once the plants have become established in their final pots they should be fed regularly with liquid fertilizer at least once
Although essentially winter- and spring-flowering plants, it is not uncommon to find that Primula obconica will often flower for ten months of the year. There are few flowering pot plants, other than the saint-paulia, that can match this sort of performance. A disappointing aspect of this plant, however, is that after handling it many people suffer skin rashes and irritation, and one would certainly suspect P. obconica if anyone in the homestead complains of skin
Púnica irritation following the introduction of the plant. In fact, it is not even necessary to handle the plant, susceptible people will be affected simply by being in the same room as one. This is, no doubt, one very good reason why this superb plant, with its Sowers in a range of pink, lilac, blue, and white, has been less popular in recent years.
Primula malacoides is another favourite that has been improved in recent years with the introduction of many new colours -lavenders, pinks, reds and white. It is also easy to care for indoors and only requires a light position in a cool room to give of its best.
There are a number of other primulas that can be raised from seed or purchased as mature plants - among them P. sinensis and its several forms, and the yellow-flowered P. kewensis which, alas, seldom seems very popular. There is also P.acaulis which is not unlike a miniature form of polyanthus and may be planted in the garden after Bowering.
Of these the most commonly available are Pteris cretica, with fronds about 1 ft (30 cm) in length, and P.ensiformis which has slender fertile fronds to about 20 in (50cm). and shorter sterile fronds. There are several forms of both of these, all of them attractive and not difficult to manage.
Protection from strong light is necessary and temperatures in the order of 16°C (60°F) will suit them, though lower temperatures will not be damaging if the plants are not left cold and wet for long periods. Almost the best way to be rid of any plant that prefers reasonable warmth is to keep the compost very wet and to lower the temperature at the same time - wet and cold conditions are never a very satisfactory combination as far as indoor plants are concerned. All ferns when growing in reasonable warmth should be kept moist all the time, care being taken to avoid extremes of wet and cold^
Plants may be propagated by sowing spores on a mixture of sand and peat in a temperature in the region of 27"C (80'F). but this is a business requiring a degree of skill and is best left to the experienced nurseryman. It is also possible to increase plants by means of division. Do this carefully and pot up the divided pieces in John Innes potting compost No. 1: do not over-water plants while they are settling into the new compost and keep them warm.
This is the pomegranate and it is another of the plants that may form part of the patio scene during the summer months, or all the year round if the patio is sheltered and very severe weather conditions are not experienced. In milder areas the pomegranate is relativefy hardy, but should have the protection of a wall when planted outside.
There are several varieties, but for pot culture Punka granatum nana is by far the best as it seldom attains a height of more than 3ft (I m), while P.granatum is much larger, coarser and less attractive. Growth is very woody, the leaves are small and green and the attractive flowers, which are produced in summer and early autumn, are double and a pleasing shade of orange. Plants may be raised from seed sown in the spring, or increased by means of firm cuttings taken in the summer and inserted in John Innes potting compost No. I.
Getting stock and seed may. however, be a problem as they are in short supply but if you have the space to accommodate a plant they are worth keeping an eye open for. and with luck you may be able to grow your own pomegranate fruit. However, even when pot-grown plants fruit they arc not very exciting as the fruits seldom swell to more than large marble size. When caring for them well-drained compost and good light are essentials, keep them moist in the summer and a little on the dry side in
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