Plant of the Month - December

As the days get colder and shorter most of the plants hibernate in the garden ready for warmer spring days. This month for plant of the month we will be looking indoors to houseplants. There are many plants which boast a colourful display for the winter months whether for your own home or as a beautiful living gift.


Flowering Indoor Cyclamen


Indoor cyclamen are popular house plants grown for their large, snowy winter flowers, in shades of white, pink and red. The flowers may be frilly or scented, and are set off by marbled heart-shaped leaves. In the right conditions they will flower happily for many weeks well into the new year.

Cyclamen need a cool bright spot to thrive ideally around 10-15oc. Keep away from direct sunlight. Keep the soil moist but do not overwater – this is a common way to kill cyclamen. If you want your plant to flower again the following autumn, you will need to let it go dormant over the summer, reducing watering. If you keep your cyclamen in a room that is too warm, the leaves will turn yellow, the flowers will quickly fade and the plant will go into early dormancy.


Phalaenopsis orchids


Phalaenopsis (moth orchids) grow well in centrally heated rooms and have long-lasting flowers produced all year round. They are one of the most popular indoor orchids with a long flowering season and are relatively easy to care for. They like a bright window out of direct sunlight. They favour temperatures any were between 15 and 30oc but do like an area where the temperature remains consistent. You will probably need to wipe the leaves clean regularly as they are prone to collecting dust. Phalaenopsis produces flowers that last about three months (sometimes even longer) at any time of the year. Once the flowers have faded, cut the flowering stalk back to just above the second node (joint) visible beneath the spent flowers. A new flowering side shoot may develop.


Phalaenopsis need watering regularly throughout their growing season, reduce watering slightly during the winter. Always keep the foliage dry, taking care not to splash the leaves when watering. Do not let the roots dry out completely, but avoid letting the plant sit in water. Mist the plant lightly in summer.


Feeding can be done regularly in the growing season – almost every time you water – but plants do need the occasional 'flushing out'. So, apply proprietary liquid orchid fertiliser with three watering’s, but use only plain water (with no fertiliser) every fourth watering to ensure that any potentially harmful accumulations of salts are leached from the compost*. Feed sparingly during the winter months.


*• Garden compost is a soil improver made from decomposed plant waste, usually in a compost bin or heap. It is added to soil to improve its fertility, structure and water-holding capacity.

• Seed or potting composts are used for growing seedlings or plants in containers – a wide range of commercially produced composts are available, made from a mix of various ingredients, such as loam, coir, peat, sand and fertiliser, although you can mix your own.



Poinsettia

Poinsettia are attractive houseplants with dark leaves and colourful bracts (the coloured part is not a flower but a colourful bract, the flowers on poinsettia are often small and insignificant), they are native to Mexico so like to be kept warm 13oc in a bright spot away from direct sunlight and cold draughts. The biggest killers of poinsettia are cold draughts and over watering. Keep watering to a minimum, only water sparingly with tepid water once the top of the compost has dried out. We are often asked how to achieve the colourful bracts, this is quite a tricky process but if you would like to try we would advise reading this RHS article https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=146. It is worth also noting that they are a member of the euphorbia family, so to some people the sap is a mild irritant.

As well as the wonderful selection of flowering houseplants there are also many foliage plants with a selection of leaf colour or interest. Foliage plants generally prefer a bright place away from direct sunlight. Some can be used as statement pieces in a room such as large dracaena palms or smaller plants such as ferns or peace lilies, which can be used in a bathroom or work equally well when used in home offices where they will help to purify the air.



Hellebores Verboom Beauty

This is one plant which can be used both indoors and out. This unique hellebore is the first white-flowered form that has the potential to be in flower on Christmas Day. If kept in a pot, it can be brought inside in November (to a bright spot well away from a radiator) and it should soon produce masses of buds that open over several weeks. After 4-5 weeks, it should be gradually acclimatised to outdoor temperatures and then planted out in the garden, where it may continue to flower intermittently for another few weeks. This plant makes a great seasonal gift, but is equally useful for livening up a shady spot in the garden during the winter.



In addition to indoor colour interest we also have a selection of outdoor containers and colourful Christmas wreaths along with hyacinths in our bedding area, bring indoors to speed up their growth and you'll have flowers on them in no time at all.



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