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Keeping that Christmas gift alive

19th December 2016

Poinsettia

How to care for flowering pot plants

Maybe flowering house plants are not the popular Christmas gifts they were, however many of you will be given one at some point over the festive period: a poinsettia, cyclamen, azalea, or even a foliage plant or bromeliad. In some homes they will thrive and bring pleasure for many weeks; in others they will perish all too quickly, fading away long before twelfth night! It simply is not true that some have green fingers and others cast a spell of doom over all things growing. All it takes is a little common sense not to kill them with kindness, or destroy them through neglect. Here are a few tips to keep them looking good.

First of all the poinsettia. I am firmly of the opinion that a poinsettia is for Christmas, it is not for life. I see the Christmas star as a bunch of flowers with roots. I want to keep it looking good over the festive period, then out it goes. It likes a reasonably warm position, but away from radiators and direct heat sources. It appreciates watering lightly from the top of the pot when the compost feels dry. Pick it up and feel the weight, rather than just testing the compost with your fingertip. If it is standing in a pot cover, make sure it is not standing in water; that spells certain death. If the leaves drop it is often a result of over or under watering. No need to feed: you are not going to keep it!

Some find cyclamen tricky, simply because they do not enjoy our overheated homes. Back in the days before central heating they were easy houseplants. Plenty of light and a cool, airy position is the order of the day. If the flowers lose colour and some of the leaves appear small and straggly they are suffering in subdued light and too much warmth. Either water around the rim of the pot or from the bottom, but never leave them standing in water for long. Feeding with Vitax Houseplant liquid feed every couple of weeks helps to keep them blooming for longer and builds the foliage ready for a summer holiday out in the garden, if you are going to try and keep them for next year.

Orchid Mist SprayOf course the Phalaenopsis orchid has become our most popular flowering houseplant for good reason: it blooms for ages and is easy to keep. It will bloom again and again, as long as you give it a little care; check out my tips on “How to get an orchid to re-bloom”. The secrets of success are plenty of light, away from direct heat sources, and regular watering.   Basically if you are comfortable in a room, your moth orchid will be. Water thoroughly about once a week, allowing the plant to drain well before returning it to its pot cover. Every couple of weeks add Vitax Orchid Feed to the water to give your plants all the nutrients they need. Keep it close to a window, but just out of direct sunlight. Because the air in the house is dry, misting with Vitax Orchid Mist spray really helps to keep your plants happy.Soluble Orchid Feed

Some of you may be lucky enough to be given an azalea; these were such popular flowering house plants a few years ago. Plants you can keep from year to year, standing them outside in the summer months, then bringing them indoors to bloom in winter. They like cool conditions and will be quite happy in an unheated conservatory. They need plenty of water and as they have dense fibrous root systems, the best bet is to immerse the pots in a bucket or bowl of water until they stop bubbling, then allow them to drain. If you really want to make a difference water azaleas with Vitax Seaweed plus Sequestered Iron. These are ericaceous plants, lime haters. They hate tap water and rain water is not always available so giving an iron rich treat really helps.

You can use Vitax Seaweed plus Sequestered Iron on stephanotis and gardenia too. These are both lime hating flowering houseplants, both well worth growing for their fabulously fragrant flowers.

One final word on foliage plants. The flowering plants may fade, but foliage plants and bromeliads survive, however they eventually become starved as the growing medium runs out of nutrients. Be careful not to overwater and feed every two weeks with Vitax House Plant Feed. If the plants continue to grow and you are sure they have outgrown their pots you can repot them in spring. Remember to use Vitax Multi-Purpose compost, it is ideal for all foliage houseplants. The good news is that indoor plants are back in fashion- so make the most of them.  

Andy McIndoe for Vitax – Winter 2016 

Cyclamen
Phaleonopsis
Poinsettia

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