Archive | House & Greenhouse plants

Tips on growing indoor plants, conservator, windowsill and greenhouse cultivation

Bromeliads and the Pineapple Family

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Members of the Pineapple family Bromeliads grow in the tropical and sub-tropical forests of the Americas. There are also hot desert and cool mountain varieties amongst this large family.

What Are Bromeliads

  • All 3000 + varieties of Bromeliads are composed of a spiral arrangement of leaves sometimes called a rosette.
  • There are Terrestrial (soil grown plants) and Epiphytic species growing on other plants and trees.
  • They are slow and hard to bring into flower generally only flowering once. After flowering they produce offsets called ‘Pups’ from which new plants will grow.
  • The green, leafy top of a pineapple is a pup that may be removed and planted to start a new plant.
  • Flowers are generally central spikes held away from the plants or short with the flower nestled in the centre.


Popular Groups of Bromeliads

  • Guzmania have long lasting red bracts and like humid conditions
  • Vreiesea are probably the most freely available plants with over-lapping bracts producing a sword shape.
  • Tillandsia and air plants are epiphytic Bromeliands.
  • Continue Reading →


Gladioli 100 Day Display


Gladioli are reliable flowers for the show bench or the flower vase. Timing is important for the exhibitionist as they want to have the flowers in peak perfection just at the right time.

Timing can be important for the local grower as well. If you want Gladioli for a particular event, birthday or wedding celebration, then it is useful to know that corms planted now will be in flower in 100 days. That is just over 3 months so by the middle of August you can expect displays like these from a may planting.


Gladioli Pointers

  • Gladioli have a front and back to the flower with the florets facing the sun. It helps the flower arranger but can frustrate the gardener.
  • Gladioli will twist the flowering stem unless they are supported so it is worth staking your blooms.
  • Leaves are needed to help feed the new corms for next year so leave them on the plant after cutting the flower.
  • Unless you are a keen breeder remove flowers before seed sets to preserve energy. You may get small offsets, cormels, spawn or bulblets to grow on and bulk up next year.
  • Gladioli need lots of water to flower well. Apply tomato fertiliser when flower buds start to appear.
  • I grow blocks of single colours together so they will be ready together.
  • Sorry to disappoint but the flowers will not last 100 days that is planting to blooming time

Growing Dried Flowers

I guess when they are growing they are not dried flowers so the real title should be growing flowers for drying. As the display above shows you can get colour and texture into a bunch of dried flowers. The display is likely to last longer than a bouquet of fresh flowers and will be available when other material is expensive or in short supply.

There are 5 stages of development when a plant can produces flowers for drying.

  1. In bud as colour appears, examples being Helichrysum (Straw flowers) and Ammobium ( Everlasting flowers).
  2. As the buds open, with Echinops (Globe thistle), Eringium (Sea Holly), Lavender and Ornamental Grasses.
  3. In full bloom, with Achillea (Yarrow), Alchemilla mollis, Gypsophillia and Alliums (ornamental onions)
  4. After seeds have formed, like the Honesty in the bunch above and Antirrhinum, Poppy and Digitalis (Foxglove)
  5. Just before the seed pods open, but after spraying with hair lacquer to prevent seeds scattering, Nigella and Scripus ( Bulrush)

The best way to dry flowers is to pick them  in mid morning when the dew has evaporated.

  • Group them into small bunches and hang them upside down to dry.
  • To preserve the colours, hang them in a dry well ventilated space with little or low levels of light.
  • Large heads like Alliums and Artichokes need to be dried standing up. Make a chicken wire frame to separate and hold each bloom.
  • Continue Reading →


Choisya Bonsai


This small pot containing an even smaller Choisya ternata is growing happily in our front room. New leaves of light green are almost translucent and provide clean foliage. The leaves when crushed give off a very pleasant scent.

This plant was one of many grown from cuttings the siblings are now in the garden. Also called Mexican Orange Blossom I do not expect it to flower indoors but you never know and it is providing some interest in this quiet pre-Christmas season.

I have cheated a bit with the title as this is not yet a true bonsai plant but the restricted root run is constraining how it develops. I will prune and trim it carefully if it survives the dry conditions. That reminds me to water all the houseplants now the central heating is on full bore most days. Flushed with one success I may grow some Chiosya in bonsai pots for a miniature outdoor garden.


Gardeners Foliage Houseplants Top Dozen

red begonia rex

Gardeners like growing plants and in winter the best location to do this is indoors or a heated greenhouse and foliage houseplants are one group that work well in these environments.

Begonia masoniana has rough surface leaves with a distinctive central brown cross. The plant grows to a good size in the right conditions but may loose some lower leaves in winter. Begonia Rex above is available in all sorts of shapes and colours of leaf and can be propagated from leaf cuttings.

Ferns like the Maidenhair fern Adiantum make shapely plants with fine green leaves on black stems. Ficus, Yucca, Dracaena and Fatshedera plants are currently less fashionable (thank goodness) but you may wish to try a Creeping Fig Ficus Pumila with small oval leaves.

The old varieties are often the better for longevity than style so Tradescantia, Spider plants (St Bernards lily) Chlorophytum comosum variegatum and Aspidistra elatior with its large, tough, sword shaped leaves are still popular. These plants will survive most conditions but thrive when given good conditions.

For architectural leaves I like the Bromeliad family like Cryptanthus Foster’s Favouirite or Cryptanthus bromelioides tricolour with pink green and white leaves. Neoregelia carolinae tricolour has a rosette of leaves that creates an urn for water.

Houseplants can help keep a room fresh, produce oxygen, add precious moisture and filter toxins to reduce pollution. They are better value than a bunch of flowers and with the right TLC can last for years. For a last selection try the Peperomia family Magnoliaefolia Desert Privet, Argyreia, Caperata or the grey green leaved Hederaefolia

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Making Cut Flowers Last Longer

Generic Tips

  • For perfect freshness pick flowers when halfway between bud and opening. Gather early in the morning when they have had a chance to drink over night or later in the evening never in the middle of the day. Plunge into water as you pick. Always use tepid water and keep vases and buckets clean.
  • Condition flowers by soaking in deep water. Cut off the bottom of stems under water to prevent and airlock in the stem.
  • Sugar or lemonade can extend the life of cut flowers like Roses. Bleach and salt can also help some flowers.
  • Woody stemmed flowers should have the ends crushed. If they show signs of wilting try standing them in hot water for a short time.
  • Strip off leaves that would be below the water line and change the water frequently.
  • Spring bulb flowers do not need water changes but a pinch of salt should revive them.
  • Higher the temperature the faster cut flowers will deteriorate so place arrangements where they won’t be exposed to direct sun, heat from appliances, electric lights, or hot or cold draft.

Flowers needing Special Treatment

  • Hydrangeas will last longer if water is taken in through the absorbent head so sink the whole flower into water first then spray the flower heads daily.
  • Forsythia should be picked when in tight bud and it will open of its own accord.
  • Poppies need to have the end sealed by singeing the cut.
  • Daffodils should not be mixed with other flowers as they poison the water.
  • Carnations need cutting between nodes as they can’t take up water if cut on a node.
  • Remember foliage needs to drink as well so condition foliage too.

Anisodontea False Mallow


I saw these pot plants in our local garden centre and inspired by the prolific flowers wondered what they were. They are called the African Mallow Anisodontea capensis and I can see the resemblance.
According to the BBC site ‘The name might be unfamiliar, but this prolific South African plant has been grown for over a century in this country as a tender perennial pot plant. It flowers continuously through the summer into autumn, the hibiscus-like blooms varying in colour from light pink to deep magenta. The evergreen leaves are small and bright green. It needs to be overwintered under glass, but may survive winter outside in very mild, sheltered areas. May be propagated by seed in spring or by semi-ripe cuttings in late summer.’

I came across Anisodontea scabrosa, Anisodontea hypomadarum and Anisodontea capensis as varieties and I think it is a plant we will hear a lot more about as fashion and climate change impact. At the moment they are imported and I would prefer to see them grown in the UK before buying one for my own use.


Honesty Seedheads & Flowers


Honesty also called Lunaria annua has beautiful purple flowers in April and May that are one of the few early nectar attractions for butterflies. In spite of it’s Latin name, Honesty is actually a biennial putting down a long tap root in it’s first year. This is why you seldom see it for sale in garden centres.

Gardeners Tips Growing Honesty

  • Honesty will also grow in shade and the seed heads make a great Autumn and Winter attraction as the coin shaped seed heads shed an outer skin and become luminous white moon shapes like tracing paper.
  • The growth is stiff and entirely self-supporting, a central stem branching out freely and bearing abundance of small flowers like Wallflowers.
  • Honesty should be massed with say a dozen plants in a group to give the best effect. The white variety is well worth growing, the colour being very pure and luminous in quality but purple is the main colour.
  • Honesty self sows quite freely and young seedlings can be transplanted with care being take of the tap root. Collect the seeds in October as the husks are shed but leave the papery head.
  • Seed heads can be cut, hung to dry in Autumn and used as dried flowers in floral arrangements. They look good with Christmas arrangements.
  • Most are anything but nondescript, and there are some strains with richly coloured flowers of a vibrant deep purple with a hint of magenta.
  • Lunaria annua is a biennial belonging to the brassica  family and will grow in most soil, if it looks unhappy try a bit of lime. When it is happy, which is most of the time since it generally chooses for itself where to live, it can develop into a robust, branching plant, 2ft tall and 1.5ft across.
  • Unfortunately it has no scent. Although a biennial, with each plant living only two years, when it is established it will go on forever, becoming a feature of the late spring garden. When left to its own devices it often turns up in unexpected places.
  • There is a perennial honesty Lunaria rediviva that is an exceptionally beautiful plant. It has a simple grace with yard-high stems clothed in similar fresh green heart-shaped leaves. Its cross-shaped flowers are pale lavender and sweetly scented.
  • Honesty develops thick storage roots, almost like tubers, and, in common with other brassicas, has deep tap roots.
  • Avoid overfeeding and do not use manure Honesty does best without pampering.

Read Honesty is the best policy


Hydrangea Houseplants


Hydrangeas make good houseplants flowering in spring from a shop bought plant. Hydrangea have been successfully grown as blooming house plants for many years. They are colourful full of flower and relatively trouble free if you give them a good drink of water regularly. Keep plants cool between 50-60 ° F when in flower but give them some good light.

Indoor Hydrangea Tips

  • Buy a new plant each year and plant the old one in the garden when it has finished flowering. It may not be hardy enough to survive but getting it to reflower indoors will mean you have to emulate the seasonal conditions it would expect in the wild.
  • To buy a good hydrangea for indoors look for a plant with just a few blooms showing color and lots of buds still developing. The plant should fill out the pot with healthy dark green leaves.

hydrangea-buds Continue Reading →


Iris Reticulata and Histroides Species


Whilst these Iris bulbs are grown in a gravel topped bed Reticulata make great pot plants for an alpine house. Flowering in February many varieties have deep purple or violet flowers with conspicuous yellow blotches on lower petals or falls.

  • If you have relatives called Joyce, Gordon, Natasha, Pauline, George or Katherine Hodgkin there is an Iris bulb named after them.
  • Iris Reticulata Cantab is a cobalt blue with a small orange tongue and a most striking colour worthy of close inspection. Whilst Iris Histroides Katherine Hodgkin is a light blue with distinctive marking.
  • Gently force batches of early bulbs by bringing pots of them into a cool greenhouse. When the flower buds begin to colour up, you can bring the bowls into the house.



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