Archive | House & Greenhouse plants

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

Sunflower Insects Van Gough Missed

No flies on Van Gogh

Van Gogh walks in to a florists ‘Hi Van, can I get you a sunflower?’
‘No, thanks, I got one ear.’

Vincent’s fruit loving cousin, Man Gogh

“What does the letter “A” have in common with a sunflower?
They both have bees coming after them.”


Quick Facts about Allium christophii

Allium christophii, common name Star of Persia or Persian onion. Perhaps they have dropped the religious ‘h’  to become Allium cristophii as a nod to the Iranian roots.

Three Quick Facts about Allium christophii

  1. The clusters of ‘stary’ flowers look good in a vase, dry beautifully and hold their form for years.
  2. This allium is attractive to butterflies but not pests.
  3. Grow your own Allium christophii, by collecting seed sowing them when just ripe or  remove offsets in autumn. You get three seed capsules from each star flower.



Hibiscus senensis

The flamboyant Hibiscus senensis is now readily available as a housplant from garden centres. This yellow flower was growing on an Italian road side.

In a conservatory this evergreen is a neat rounded shrub. Good drainage and light are required for good flowering but plants can have a very long life.

If you want to know more about the species of Hibiscus you could do worse than read a book ‘Hibiscus Hardy and Tropical Plants for the Garden’ by Barbara Taylor Lawton extracts of which can be found here.


Growing Excellent Auriculas

This spring has been a good one for my Auriculas. I have been please with a powder blue flower that I hope to propagate by division in July. First I will water well and add some dilute feed.


These Alpine Auriculas look excellent  when grown in 3 inch pots. The ‘Long Tom’ pots are silghtly taller than the traditional pot and are useful as Auricula tend to grow a ‘carrot root’ used to anchor the plant in the wild. Alpine Auriculas have either a golden yellow or cream centre surrounding the tube.

Show Auriculas are considered to be the star Auricula plants and must have a ring of dense Farina around the eye of the flower. Selfs (all one colour) and Edges including most stripes have an outside edge composed of leaf tissue such as the ‘Orlando’ a grey edged show Auricula. Green edges usually have larger flowers. Stripes have recently been reintroduced with Monmouth Star having red petals with yellow rays out to the flowers edge.

Double Auricula ‘Sibsey‘  is a blue to purple flower and can be found at Specialist grower Angus Auriculas. Doubles arise from mutations of border or garden Auriculas and were amongst the first novelties cultivated and shown. There is now an increasing number of doubles including striped doubles at NAPS shows.  The Fantasia variety is deep maroon with white frosting a real eye-catcher


Border or Garden Auriculas have old names like Dusty Miller, Recklasses and Ricklers. Only a few  have ‘Farina’ the white powder found on leaves and flowers that resembles flour or meal which is a must on Show Auriculas.  Some are European primula hybrids and occasional are scented. Best grown in a position that gives them shade from midday sun. Water in very dry spells but plant in well drained soil. Ideal for partially shaded positions on rockeries or borders, or spring flower beds, pots, tubs

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Streptocarpus Care and Propagation Tips

Windowsill orchids are a houseplant favourite and I repeat and update some tips given 3 years ago.

Plant care tips from Dibleys National Collection

  • Always cut off dead flowers.
  • Excessive or incorrect feed and poor light make the plants produce very large leaves and few flowers.
  • It is quite natural as plants age for the old leaves to die back, and the ends should be trimmed off, especially in winter.
  • In March or April gradually start watering more often and commence feeding.
  • Do not over-pot you will get more flower by keeping on the pot bound side. Using half of three quarter depth pots is a good idea.
  • Given this treatment you will be rewarded by a continuous display of flowers from about May until well into winter.
  • You will also find the flowers are good for cutting.
  • Shallow pots are recommended but I find the roots quickly mat up and become hard to water.
  • I have taken to only using clay pots (Wide Toms)
  • Start with AGM varieties.
  • Dibleys attend a large number of plant & flower shows where plants can be bought.

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Tips for Growing Hibiscus Indoors

Buying tips for indoor Hibiscus. Smaller plants with3-5 branches each with buds are generally the best value. If they loose there buds new ones should soon follow. Look at florists and chain stores as well and garden centres.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Hibiscus is a large genus of over 200 species. One species Hibiscus cannabinus, is extensively used in paper making. Another, roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa is used as a vegetable and to make herbal teas in the Caribbean but it is as an extravagantly coloured flower that we know it best.

If your hibiscus has flowers of red, pink, orange, yellow, salmon, peach, orange, or two coloured double or single flowers, it is probably a tropical hibiscus. Hardy hibiscus do not come in these colors or in doubles! If it is a perennial, hardy hibiscus they need very little care over the winter, they are root hardy and die to the ground each year.


Houseplants and Indoor Hibiscus

  • Chinese Hibiscus are shrubby plants that make fine indoor exhibitions if given plenty of light.
  • Bought plants will have been treated to keep them small and compact. You can prune them to keep in shape.
  • Short lived, trumpet shaped flowers are available in many colours and there is a regular supply of new buds.
  • Keep in a constant temperature to avoid bud drop.
  • Don’t over-water, keep on the dry side but water copiously in summer.

Look at Thompson & Morgan for more ideas.


Cultivation Tips for Hibiscus

  • Most hibiscus have a few yellow leaves when they get old and need replacing. If your plant too has many yellow leaves it is stressed probably from over watering.
  • Hibiscus want loamy, coarse open soil that is not too heavy.
  • For prolific flowering, hibiscus need weekly feedings during March-October. Low phosphorus and high potassium feed is best.
  • Repotting is usually carried out in spring if you can see roots poking out of the bottom of the pot or if they are filling the pot.


Recommended Hibiscus Organisations

The American Hibiscus Society lists the following links

Hibisucus genevii in the Princess of Wales Conservatory
See the endangered hibiscus ‘hibiscus genevii flowering during May in the Princess of Wales Conservatory Kew. In the wild it is only found in small numbers in specific areas of Mauritius.’

Hibisucus genevii in the Princess of Wales Conservatory by Kew on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Book Cover


More Phalaenopsis Moth Orchids

It is easier to call a Phalaenopsis by its common name of Moth Orchid

This moth orchid (called Phalaenopsis) is blooming for a second time this year and the last blossom lasted over 5 months. On one arching stem there are 12 flowerheads and one unopened bud but there is also 4 other stems at different stages of flower production and at least 25  2½” diameter flowers are currently on display. This floriferousness may be due to a happy accident after the first (and only) stem flowered I followed received wisdom. I trimmed off the spike to around 1 inch above the first node on the spike stem, somewhere below where the first flower had appeared, near a little bump. The stem regrew but horizontally and I wanted to tie it up a cane. Being too vigorous I broke the new flowering stem but all the new ones have turned up at the funeral so to speak.

Book Cover
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Easy Phalaenopsis Orchids


Some orchids are temperamental but this Phalaelenopsis has give unstinting blooms for eight months on the trot without any trouble. Growing on one stem which branched into three side shoots there were upto 20 flowers on the Orchid at anyone time. The variety must be resilient as we gave it no special treatment but these Phalaelenopsis or Moth Orchids are one of the easier Orchids to grow.

Orchid Flowering Tips

  • Orchids like a humid atmosphere but apart from  keeping the soil moist, not heavily watered this plant thrived on a north facing window sill.
  • We don’t have under the window radiators so there was no dramatic drying
  • This plant wasn’t fertilized but we didn’t get any new leaves either so perhaps we should have encouraged new growth for next season.
  • The stem has now been cut back by a half to just above a joint. New flowers may grow and if not the plant will be given a rest in a light bathroom. Looking at the Orchid I see a new flower shoot growing from a leaf joint so there are more flowers to come
  • Wipe the leaves to remove dust but do not let water stand on the leaves.
  • Phalaenopsis like warm, shady conditions so fit in well to most modern homes.
  • Leaves are important to the health and flowering ability of the plant. They should be turgid and glossy and mine are 9 inches long and about 4 inches wide.

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Generic Houseplant Advice

Commonsense will help you get the best out of your houseplants. Compost for bought plants will have enough feed for the short term but careful watering will be needed. Go with the seasons do not fight nature just because your plant is indoors.


Flowering plants need good light. Place near a window but avoid harsh sunlight.
Foliagae plants like good natural light but avoid direct sunlight.
Protect all indoor plants from sudden cold and draughts.

Ideally keep plants at the temperature recommended on any plant label.
An average warm temperature of 15-29 degrees centigrade is a default temperature.
If plants droop it may be too warm and or dry. Move to a cooler place.

Do not stand pots in puddles of water for long periods.
Water from the bottom with room temperature water.
Keep compost moist but not sopping wet.
Do not allow compost to dry out completely or it will be very hard to re-wet.
More plants drown than are killed by lack of water.

Plant Selection

Grow the types of plants normally grown indoors. If they work for others they should grow for you.
Foliage plants are a good place to start as I think they stand up to a bit of rough treatment eg late or infrequent watering.
Bulbs are popular indoors but do not last as long as they might outside.
Exotic plants bought from a nursery should be cosseted. Ask the grower for tips as they should have knowledge to share.

Other Advice
Removing faded flowers may encourage new blooms.
Occasional feeding can prolong plant life.
Plants that like a humid atmosphere will benefit from being sprayed and stood on grit or granules.
Get more advice about your specific type of plant by searching the box above.

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Red Spider Mite Control and Prevention

There are a lot of things to go wrong with plants in the greenhouse but a red spider mite infestation is one of the most frustrating. This tomato plant in India has had its day.

Basic Information on Red Spider Mite

  • Plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers and strawberries grown indoors in poly-tunnels or greenhouses are the most susceptible . Apple, peach and plum trees can also suffer.
  • Identifying the mites by the naked eye is difficult but the webs between plant stems often show up when watering or by evening torch light.
  • Plant damage is mainly to the leaves with light mottling, loss of colour and curled edges. This is followed by leaf fall and death or the plant.

Red spider mite (Tetranychus urticae)

Organic Control of Red Spider Mite

  • Keep the atmosphere humid by misting, spraying the underside of leaves and damping down the soil to discourage development and destroy breeding sites.
  • Eliminate over wintering sites by clearing out debris and disinfecting plant pots
  • Hot dry conditions attract red spider mites so give your pot plants some fresh air outside.
  • Use a biological control which breeds faster than the red spider mite and eats them and their eggs as its staple diet. Phytoseiulus persimillis will do the job these insects die when all the mites are eaten so you need new stock each year.
  • Spider mite killer and bio-controls available from Amazon and Tozer seeds.

Red Spider Mite - Mitopus morio

This summer has seen a new control of red spider mites. It is called bad weather.
Red spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) by Gnilenkov Aleksey CC BY 2.0
Red Spider Mite – Mitopus morio by omarrun CC BY 2.0


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