Anne Swith­in­bank’s Masterclas­s

Amateur Gardening - - Contents -

QMy house­plants have looked great all sum­mer, but they tend to suf­fer in win­ter with poor growth and brown leaf tips. How can I keep them healthy into the colder months this time round?

Penny Fothergill, Chel­tenham, Glouces­ter­shire

AWin­ter can be tough on house­plants and they all re­act dif­fer­ently to the prob­lems of di­min­ish­ing light, vari­able tem­per­a­tures and dry air. So act now to nip po­ten­tial prob­lems in the bud and keep plants look­ing healthy.

Any still stand­ing out­doors af­ter a sum­mer hol­i­day in fresh air had bet­ter come in be­fore tem­per­a­tures plum­met. My cym­bid­ium or­chids sit out from June to Septem­ber, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing cooler night tem­per­a­tures to help them set flower buds. Look for slugs hitch­ing a lift un­der pots. Un­like trop­i­cal moth or­chids, cym­bids pre­fer tem­per­a­tures be­low 60ºF (15ºC).

Other tem­per­ate plants like cit­rus and clivia pre­fer cooler rooms around 50ºF (10ºC) with less heat­ing. Trop­i­cal an­thurium (oil­cloth and flamingo flower), Ama­zo­nian ele­phant’s ear (Alo­ca­sia x ama­zon­ica) and ze­bra plants (Aphe­landra) en­joy con­stant balmy tem­per­a­tures over 65ºF (18ºC). In our house, we are mean with the heat­ing and have dif­fi­culty keep­ing these alive. Smaller trop­i­cals like snake plants ap­pre­ci­ate a ter­rar­ium or bot­tle gar­den.

Par­lour palm, peace lily (Spathiphyl­lum), satin pothos such as Scin­dap­sus pic­tus ‘Ar­gy­raeus’, maid­en­hair ferns and the prayer plant tribe (maranta, ctenan­the and ca­lathea) are prone to brown leaf tips or friz­zling if the air is parched or their roots dry out. Even this late in the sea­son, it is worth pot­ting on con­gested plants or those that are in old, stale com­post. Keep them away from ra­di­a­tors, and group to cre­ate small mi­cro­cli­mates of hu­mid­ity.

For those with few win­dows, LED bulbs for cul­ti­va­tion will help. Suc­cu­lents need bright, cool, dry con­di­tions from Oc­to­ber to March, be­cause growth made in low light will be long and drawn. Some need an oc­ca­sional wa­ter­ing to keep from shriv­el­ling; the can­dle plant (Senecio ar­tic­u­la­tus) is an ex­cep­tion as it grows ac­tively in win­ter.

Most cacti sur­vive with­out win­ter wa­ter­ing, and peb­ble plants (Lithops) stay dry from Novem­ber to June.

I’m giv­ing this Be­go­nia ‘Lucerna’ and maid­en­hair fern a half-strength gen­eral-pur­pose liq­uid feed (such as Chempak 3) to perk them up ready for the darker months

For­est lily (Clivia mini­ata) likes cool rooms and win­dowsills

Group­ing the likes of satin pothos, dra­caena, Pilea peper­omioides, golden pothos and Scin­da­pus pic­tus cre­ates a ben­e­fi­cial mi­cro­cli­mate

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