Getting the most out of your pot plants

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WITH the garden virtually asleep, attention turns to plants in the home. Pot plants bring nature indoors and now, as never before, there are lots of different types to choose from – even orchids which, at one time, could only be grown by those with a heated greenhouse and the expertise to go with it.

However, bringing plants in the modern home with central heating after being raised in perfect nursery conditions is not easy. They resent the dry atmosphere and so it must be remembered that, for many, they will not last indefinitely – but still can be helped along to give extended enjoyment.

Unless one likes a challenge with something really exotic, many people choose the all-time favourites. Bowls of ‘spring flowering’ bulbs such as hyacinths are a popular festive gift and to get the best from them a cool room is what they want – too hot and they will not last, in fact, flowering will not be what is expected. Give them a suitable environment, keep the fibre moist – not saturated – and the fragrant flower spikes will brighten the room.

Anyone with a so-called Christmas cactus, having given ample ‘TLC’, will be enjoying their exotic blooms. There are two types of cacti: forest varieties and those that live in the desert. The one in flower now is the former and despite both being cacti, their treatment is entirely different. Christmas cactus should be watered only to keep the compost damp, a minimum temperature of 55F and, most of all, best not to move a plant around once in bud and flower. After flowering let it rest for a couple of months in a cool spot and only water when the compost is dry.

Primulas are pot plants available now – not like the one that flowers outside in spring. This one is P. obconica, often termed the ‘Poison Primrose’ as it can cause a rash on sensitive skin, so it is best to avoid touching any part of the plant to be on the safe side.

Having said that, they provide plenty of blooms over a long period if faded ones are removed and, if the compost is kept moist, given maximum light, a room temperature of 55-60F free from draughts and direct heat, then they will respond at this time of year.