This month there are lots to be looking forward to in the world of gardening. We are past the winter solstice and can look forward to lengthening days as the sun eventually returns.
Seasonal house plants are full of colour now with Poinsettias leading the list. There are a number of colours available, from the firm favourite of bright red through burgundy and pink to cream and variegated. The colours are borne on the bracts which lie beneath the small yellow flowers. The leaves are below the bracts and are invariably green. Following Poinsettias are Cyclamen and Azaleas, then by Amaryllis and Orchids.
Of all these, Poinsettias are the most susceptible to changes in the air. If you buy one in a warm protected shop, make sure it is covered or wrapped in a sleeve before you go out into cold air and really avoid cold draughts which will harm the leaves or even worse, cause them to fall off. Once home, they do best in a light position but not in strong direct sunlight. Water them sparingly, waiting for the surface of the pot to dry before dunking them in a bowl of water at room temperature. Misting the leaves helps keep them in good condition.
- Cyclamen and Azaleas both enjoy cooler conditions so a north facing window sill is ideal, and you should water from below; give them a soaking in a bowl of water every now and again.
- Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera) grow best when they are ignored.
- Amaryllis (hippeastrum species), with their bright trumpet shaped flowers, will grow in good light in most parts of the house.
- Phalaenopsis and Cymbidium orchids prefer reasonable humidity and a steady temperature to allow flowers to open evenly and last as long as possible.