Friday, 2 January 2009

Me and House Plants

I am not really very good at house plants, but I do have some successes.
Of the ones that were mentioned in the comments on the last blog:-

Cyclamen. Some survive, some I lose. When they are new, the secret is to keep them moist but not over-wet. If they dry out, they fall outwards and do not come up properly again, even if watered soon enough. If overwatered they will just gradually give up the ghost. There is much talk about not getting the top of the corm wet and watering from the bottom. I have never bothered about that, and I don't think it matters, if you tip any excess water out of whatever they are standing in if you have given them too much and the conditions in the room are correct. This house is more likely to be too cold than hot. It is frost free though. If there is a radiator, I keep the cyclamen well away from it, (this goes for most plants). As they are in bloom in winter, the sun is not a problem and they do like plenty of light. I pull out flowers that are dying, hoping to get the whole stem.
If the plant is worth it, I keep it in the greenhouse after it has flowered. This does not get as much light as it should, which in summer suits cyclamen. Watering goes on as before - only when needed but do not alow to dry out. Now comes the "don't know" bit! I have allowed them to dry/go dormant during the summer - about June to September - and also kept them going all year. I think the natural way is to let it go dorment. Either way, for me, they go leafless or nearly at some point and then start up again. The old one in the picture was certainly allowed to take its own course this year. Can't remember how long I have had it or whether it has ever had the dry-out-under-the-bench treatment. If it had it would have been repotted in nice new compost in September. I do not bring them into the Conservatory until they have several flowers out and plenty of buds. I do not try to keep them in the house proper for two reasons - I forget to water them and the conditions are not as good.

Poinsettia - Make sure that the shop wraps the plant so that not a breath of a draft can get at it. When you get it home, put it in a draft-free place. Not too much light. I haven't got one this year but if I had it would be on the kitchen table against the wall with very little natural light. There is an electric light above it which is on quite a lot - enough apparently as it then lasts from before Christmas to about Easter, though by then it has lost most of its leaves. It needs to be kept just moist, not wet. It must not dry out though. Either way it would drop all its leaves. I do not try to grow them on afterwards. The Christmas ones have been grown in specialist conditions, with the amount of light per day very carefully controlled, as this and temperature decide when it will produce its red (or yellow) bracts. Not flowers - they are the tiny things in the centre. On Gardeners' Question Time, you will find that they all turn up their noses, whoever is on, because the plant is so fussy. Huge quantities are produced, presumably because a well grown plant does look very Christmassy. Very few survive more than a few days!

Other queries were:-
Wizzard - the plant in picture 6 down is Hebe Crystal. It, or its near relations are quite common. I saw one in Suffolk that was about 8ft tall but I think this one is not as vigorous. It could be controlled by pruning, anyway. It is very good value because it flowers from about August/September to early Spring.
Tiggy - What bulbs?!!! Usually there are lots poking through by now, even up here, but this year there are hardly any. I do not have any really early snowdrops, perhaps I should get some.
Frances - We are as far north as you can get in England, almost, only Crystal and @themill are further up. Scotland is another matter, of course - run from the chain-saw! We are at 650 feet, which is quite high, and very exposed to the wind, though we do have a wind-break to the West. Very open to the East, only a stone wall which doesn't really help much. The temperature gets down to -4 or -5 on the house wall, quite a lot lower out in the open, I should think. In the past this used to happen quite often and we had lots of snow. Now not so often and much less snow. This winter has been colder though. Highest shade temperature reaches 24 or even 25.


Wizzard said...

Thanks Withy. I asked cos I saw one similar at a golf course near me, and thought it looked really nice. Wanted one, but didnt know what it was.

Will now look out for one locally.

Happy New Year BTW.


WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Ah thanks for that Withy. I have managed to keep pointhingys until Easter, but thought all the leaves dropping of was because I was rubbish at looking after it. I did once manage to get a cyclamen to come up again - after letting the corm rest - but more often than not I do end up losing them.

Cait O'Connor said...

Thanks Withy, I will follow your advice and keep them moist not wet. I usually stand them in water and then they dry out for too long and I over water again...the cycle goes on they soon die.

Can you plant them in the garden after they finish flowering (cyclamen)?

Withy Brook said...

No, Cait - not that sort.

Frances said...

Withy, thank you so much for answering our questions.

I guess I always knew that the almost insurmountable challenge facing any plant that enters this apartment seeking a long life is that the two windows (one north- and one south-facing) are edged by my hissing, but necessary, radiators.

Any time that I do let a fresh-faced plant take a place on the sill, it has to be summer, when the hissing is quiet. Over the years, I do have a few hearty plants that have overcome all obstacles to their survival.

A Christmas cactus that has not flowered in over a decade, but still reminds me of certain plants in early works by Lucian Freud. A swedish ivy that seems eternal, and a strange little plant whose common name is string of hearts (due to the shape of the leaves and the thin green string that connects them.)

I do envy you your greenhouse! My paperwhites do find a way to bloom each December and January and give me a little gardening joy each day of this cold season.


CAMILLA said...

Hello Withy,

I have always loved Poinsettia's, usually have one at Christmas time. I do remember a friend having one of these plants and it survived for many years.

A friend bought me a pink variety Cyclamen five years ago, it is still flourishing, it is out now and has many petals. I found that these plants do not like too much sunlight and not too warm either.


Puddock said...


Just found you via the Purple Coo. Love the pics of gardens - very cheering at this time of year :)

david mcmahon said...

Came here from my good friend Riverdale Rambling's blog.

Cyclamen do not fare well indoors if the heating is on. Water them wisely (as you rightly poit out) and leave them out on a cold night.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Hello Withy, I have just found your blog!

I love your garden photos, especially the ones with the dogwood stems.

The only indoor plant I have is a pot of hyacinths, which keep flopping over! I think maybe I don't water them enough - I'm worried about overwatering them.

Outdoor gardening is what I love best!

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