Don’t for­get to look af­ter in­door plants dur­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties

Yorkshire Post - Property - - PROPERTY - Ken­neth Free­man

CHRIST­MAS is com­ing, and that brings a num­ber of chal­lenges to peo­ple look­ing af­ter in­door plants, whether they are pro­fes­sional in­te­rior land­scap­ers or keen home gar­den­ers. Here are some use­ful tips:

Poin­set­tias (Eu­phor­bia pul­cher­rima) are among the most com­monly used sea­sonal plants. As well as the tra­di­tional bright red va­ri­eties, new types in deep red, cream, pink and white are also avail­able. Un­for­tu­nately, poin­set­tias have a rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing short-lived and dif­fi­cult to main­tain. But you can help them to look good for longer. Poin­set­tias must be un­wrapped from their sleeves as soon as you get them in­doors.

Keep them warm. Poin­set­tias orig­i­nate from the warm cli­mate of Mex­ico and cen­tral Amer­ica, and don’t like sit­ting in cold ve­hi­cles, cold build­ings or wa­tered with cold wa­ter. It sub­stan­tially re­duces their life span.

They will do bet­ter in warmer, draught free lo­ca­tions. Never place them near draughts or out­side door­ways. Red poin­set­tias of­ten look poor un­der flu­o­res­cent light­ing. In­can­des­cent or halo­gen light­ing makes them look their best. White or pink poin­set­tias will look bet­ter for longer dis­play pe­ri­ods. Red ones tend to fade in colour if in low light for over three weeks.

Many of to­day’s mod­ern poin­set­tias were bred to have flex­i­ble bracts (the coloured leaves around the rather in­signif­i­cant flow­ers); thus they tend to weep a lit­tle. This is nat­u­ral.

On some, the fo­liage has the same ap­pear­ance. Whilst they can con­sume a lot of wa­ter, poin­set­tias should never be al­lowed to stand in wa­ter.

Soak­ing the root ball with warm wa­ter will of­ten cause se­verely wilted poin­set­tias to re­vive. Re­vival should oc­cur within one hour, so don’t chuck out your plants un­til you have tried this.

Poin­set­tia qual­ity varies widely from grower to grower, and year to year. You of­ten get what you pay for. And fi­nally, the an­swer is no, white poin­set­tias don’t turn pink then fi­nally “ripen” to red.

What about al­ter­na­tives to poin­set­tias? One plant that you might con­sider is the Hip­peas­trum, of­ten er­ro­neously called Amaryl­lis (which is a re­lated species, but not the one you’ll com­monly find). It is a bul­bous plant that is of­ten in flower at this time of year. Avail­able in a wide va­ri­ety of colours and flower forms, this im­pres­sive and spec­tac­u­lar plant is easy to care for.

The word cac­tus con­jures up im­ages of the spiky, desert plants seen in cow­boy films. How­ever, the cac­tus fam­ily is quite di­verse, and one mem­ber of this group is the Christ­mas cac­tus – species and hy­brids in the Sch­lum­berg­era genus. Th­ese plants, orig­i­nally from the cloud forests of Brazil (where they grow in tree tops at al­ti­tudes be­tween 1,000 and 1,700 me­tres above sea level) are also very easy to look af­ter. They can be in­duced to pro­duce flower buds by keep­ing them rel­a­tively cool (10°C – 15°C / 50°F – 60°F) for six to eight weeks.

If your of­fices are shut­ting down over Christ­mas, or if you are go­ing away on hol­i­day, spare a thought for your in­door plants.

Most in­door plants are a lot more ro­bust than you think, and can man­age quite well for a week or two with­out much thought. If the lights are go­ing to be turned off, turn down the tem­per­a­ture a lit­tle as well, oth­er­wise the bal­ance of light, tem­per­a­ture and wa­ter will be lost.

But don’t turn the ther­mo­stat too low, some suc­cu­lents can’t cope with tem­per­a­tures be­low about 10°C. Ras­su­las (money plants) can col­lapse and fall apart (al­though they can re-grow, very slowly) and San­se­vieria (Moth­erin-law’s tongue) will go mushy and smelly. Don’t be tempted to over-wa­ter the plants. If it is cool, or darker than usual, the plants can’t make use of the ex­cess, and you might dam­age the roots and the soil struc­ture.

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