Archive | House & Greenhouse plants

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

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


John Tradescant the Elder and Younger

Father 1570-1638 and son 1608-1662 both worked as gardener to the Royal family and are buried at St Marys Church Lambeth. At the Museum of Garden History in Lambeth there is a garden laid out using plants they introduced to the UK after trips to Russia, Africa and North America in the early 17th century.

As early traveling plant collectors both John Tradescants’ were responsible for many plant introductions and curios collected on their travels. Plants include Michaelmas daisy, Cistus, Acer,  Maple and Tradescantia

‘Musaeum Tradescantianum’ was the first museum catalogue published. Tradescant willed that the collection was to go to his widow on his death, but Elias Ashmole obtained the collection by deed of gift and established the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Some of these original items can still be seen in that museum and Ashmole is also buried at the Museum of Garden History. The tomb of the Tradescants stands beside the knot garden near that of Captain Bligh of the Bounty, and is covered in carvings representing their interests in life which showed them both to be ‘curious men’.


Growing and Recognising Arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum

Arisaema sikokianum is a herbaceous perennial plant with vertically patterned  flowers.


  • In an alpine house or garden it flowers in springtime upto 18″ tall.
  • It can be planted with shade-loving hostas and Bleeding hearts.
  • They need neutral to acid soil in a moist, well-draining, protected location in dappled shade to flourish.
  • Seeds have a low rate of germination, and take a very long while to get going. Harvested in December & store at room temperature for one month, then planted in shady situations.

Other names for Arisaema sikokianum include Shikoku cobra lily, Gaudy Jack or Japanese Jack-in-the-Pulpit.
Arisaema sikokianum is one of 150 species and an unusual woodland plant noted for its unmistakable smoky-purple base, white cup and large hood with purple, green and white stripes.

There is a specialist international society for Aroids or Arum family plants with Arisaema links.


Hardy and Indoor Cyclamen Post Christmas

Cyclamen Coum

The low growing ivy leaved cyclamen has marbled foliage and Spring or Autumn flowering. It grows from corms that are planted in  shade under trees or in rockeries with some cover.

The Autumn flowering C.Neapolitan (Hederifolium) varieties come in shades of pink to the album white

The pictured C.Coum variety is more hardy and flowers in spring.

In hard weather areas it may be necessary to grow in pots and lift them in severe conditions but if conditions suit they will form ground covering clumps.

The indoor varieties

  • Florist varieties are not hardy but it is important to keep it cool and provide some air movement. If it is too warm the leaves will yellow.
  • Don’t over or under wateror the leaves will go yellow wait until the soil feels dry
  • Do not let the plant remain wilted
  • Water with a good soaking from the bottom to stop the corm rotting
  • Give the plant good light in winter
  • A monthly feed in the growing season will help
  • Dead flowers should be tugged free
  • Leave for a rest period in summer and they will flower again the following Autumn





Watering Houseplants

This Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum) houseplant is being killed with kindness by the family waterer. Too much water kills quicker than too little.This plant likes humidity from a mister or being stood on a damp gravel base but doesn’t want to be flooded.

Watering Houseplants

  • Plants that transpire lots of water from large fleshy or soft leaves need more watering.
  • Plants with frail, rubbery or sticky leaves are generally conditioned to survive with less water. Look at the leaves to learn what works best.
  • Most cacti & succulents with juicy leaves are often able to survive dry spells.
  • Plants that are actively growing need more water and the converse is true in winter when growth is slow they need little or no water.
  • Try aim for evenly moist soil from top to bottom after watering
  • Good drainage in needed for the majority of houseplants so if in doubt err on the side of an open compost
  • Stagnant water is a no-no causing chills, decay and harbouring potential pests.
  • The tepid water with no chemicals is OK or try rain water.
  • Ailing plants should be given only little water and no fertilizer.
  • Gloxinia like other hairy leaved plants dislike water on the leaves as the sun’s heat can be magnified and damage the leaf.

Expert Watering


Solanum Winter Cherry

It is the season for houseplants and this Solanum capsicastrum was raised from seed probably in a Dutch hothouse for the UK’s pre Christmas market.

What to do with your Winter Cherry

  • Like most Solanums related to the nightshades these attractive berries are poisonous. Do not confuse them withthe edible  Cape Gooseberries – Physalis peruviana that looks similar.
  • Keep the plants in good light or the berries/fruit will fall off and leave the plant bare
  • If your plant is in flower with insignificant white blossom mist spray to encourage the fruit to set. The green berries will then turn orange-red
  • Keep the plants moist and regularly fed and the berries will remain for many months
  • Compost the plant when the berries drop – they are not worth saving
  • Other common names include Jerusalem Cherry or pseudocapsicum but they are not related to Cherry or Peppers
  • Do not confuse with Indian winter cherry known as Indian Ginseng

Cape Gooseberries Physalis peruviana below



Spider Plant

What you need to know about Spider plants

Chlorophytum comosum variegatum

  • Whilst Spider plants are common and oft forgotten houseplants a bit of LTC (tender loving care) will produce grand specimens.
  • Spiders are voracious eaters and that is also true of Spider Plants so give them plenty of nitrogen based fertiliser.
  • Spider plants are also called Chlorophytum comosum variegatum – quite a mouthful or another name is St Bernards Lily. Or you could call it ‘Boris’
  • Healthy leaves look good. Keep plants moist for good foliage
  • The flowers are small often insignificant white blossom.
  • Happy plants produce off-spring in the form of baby plantlets at the end of runners.
  • Runners are easy to put in a pot with compost to grow new plants.
  • Repot in loam and feed the fleshy root system
  • Continue Reading →

Conservatory Plants

November is a great time to plan next years plants for your conservatory. I would go for ‘shock and awe’ with some bold colours.

Lantana camara is worth the space in your cool conservatory where it will bloom from spring to late summer. It is evergreen and flowers best with good light. You will often see it in  Mediterranean gardens. There are numerous colour forms for this plant but my favourite is an orange flower changing to red.

Jasminum polyanthum is a favourite evergreen, twining climber. It has big clusters of white flowers tinged pink throughout summer. The heady scent permiates the conservatory especially in the evenings.

For winter interest Correa harrisii is a small evergreen shrub with an abundance of scarlet flowers during late winter. The leaves are narrow ovals with hairy undersides. Fragrant pink flowers are grown on Luculia gratissima.

Good partners for next summer are Cassia obtusa with deep yellow flowers contrasting with the purple-blue flowered evergreen Brunfelsia pauciflora.


Ivy Indoor and Outdoor

Ivy is a versatile green or variegated plant that climbs or acts as ground cover. As an evergreen plant grown for its leaves the plants would need nitrogen based fertiliser but I have found Ivies grow well even in poor soil.

  • Ivy uses it’s airial roots to cling rather than for sustinance and they can be used to climb tree stumps or cover unsightly sheds or walls.
  • I have found most varieties to be hardy, strong growers so keep them in control with hard trimming and pruning.
  • Ivy can grow even in shady areas so is useful for the awkward dark corners. The variegation will be better with good light.
  • Types of Ivy include Hedera helix English Ivy or Heart leaved, large leaved Algerian Ivy Hedera canariensis. There are numerous varieties with different features including white, yellow or cream variegation or crinkled leaves.
  • H colchica Persian Ivy is less hardy but have large leaves and a plesant sprawling habit. Hedera hibernica also known as Irish ivy is one of the fastest growing varieties if you want quick results.

Indoor Ivy

  • We grow several pots of Ivy in the house. The smaller leaved types look best and can trail out of  various pots and survive in lower light conditions than other houseplants.
  • Traditionally Ivy is used at Christmas for decoration and festive wreaths. Gold or silver-leaved ivy can be draped over Christmas trees to make attractive and natural alternatives to tinsel.
  • The National Trust maintains a National Collection of Ivy at Erddig Hall Wrexham

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