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Notes from the Nursery - December

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

During this time of year houseplants begin to come to the fore as we spend less time in the garden and more time in our homes.


During the pandemic houseplants started to become more popular and this trend has continued to grow. Not only do they brighten up our own homes, but they make great Christmas gifts. Some look great as single plants but also when made up in a basket or container as a display look wonderful.


Below I will go through a few of the more popular plants for this time of year and how to care for them. I hope you'll find it helpful.


Wishing you a very happy Christmas.


Adrian Smith

Nursery Manager



Schlumbergera (Christmas Cactus)


Christmas Cactus is a deservedly popular houseplant, which comes in an array of flower colours. It's best not to move the plant when in bud as this can cause the buds to drop. For the rest of year, they are easy to keep so long as its given a bright spot on an east or west facing windowsill, water when the soil feels dry and feed every two weeks. In summer they will thrive outside in a shady spot and leaf cuttings can easily be taken to produce more plants.



Orchid


Phalaenopsis-type orchids are arguably the most popular type of flowering houseplant, and they come in a vast range of colours. They require a bright spot with no direct sunlight and should only be watered if the pot feels light when picked up.


Cymbidium-type orchids prefer cooler growing conditions than other orchid varieties and to flower well they require a distinct drop in temperature between day and night from mid to late summer. Therefore, it's a good idea to put these plants outside during the summer months.



Azalea


This tender blooming houseplant flowers in abundance in shades of pink, white, peach, lavender, red or bicolour. The flowers are often double or semi-double. Dark green oval leaves cover this small, spreading shrub. Its woody stems bare clusters of flowers at their tips.


They require a bright and cool location and will continue to flower for about a month. Dead head any flowers that are spent to encourage more blooms to come. Repot only when necessary, which is usually every 3 years or so as they flower best when slightly pot bound. Use a pot with drainage holes and water thoroughly to wet all the roots. Empty drainage tray/saucer so that the plant isn’t sitting in water. If allowed to dry out, foliage will shrivel and flowers will wilt. As this plant requires acid conditions plants should be watered with rainwater where possible.



Stephanotis

Otherwise known as Madagascar Jasmine they are grown for their glossy leaves and fragrant flowers. They are best grown in a humus-rich, well drained compost, in a well-lit room but away from direct sunlight. They require high humidity which can be done by spraying the foliage with water and are best placed in a gravel tray/saucer. Feed every couple of weeks with high-potassium feed such as tomato feed.


Kalanchoe blossfeldiana


Also known as Flaming Katy, Panda Plant or Widows Thrill these succulent plants are popular for their brightly coloured flowers in shades of red, magenta, yellow, orange, and white. They are named after Robert Blossfeld, who discovered the plant in its native Madagascar. In that area they grow in acrid areas, so they require little watering. Here in the UK they require a bright sunny location. Dead head the flowers and only water when the top layer of compost has dried out.



Cyclamen

Here at the nursery, we grow quite a few of these (a slight understatement, we grow thousands). We begin in the summer months so they are full of flower colour during the winter period and especially for Christmas. They come in various shades of white, pink, and red. Some varieties are frilly or marbled and some more scented than others. Given the right care they will flower for at least 6 weeks.


The smaller flowered cultivars, also known as ‘mini-cyclamen’ are known as outdoor bedding plants which are great for adding colour to pots and window boxes. They are not truly frost hardy but will tolerate temperatures down to about -5°C.


Cyclamen need a cool, bright spot away from direct sunlight with a temperature of around 10-15°C so a cool conservatory, porch or east or north facing windowsill is ideal. Keep the soil moist but do not over water which is where people tend to go wrong with this plant. They can be made to flower the following year by letting them go dormant over the summer then repotting into fresh compost to start them into growth again.


Water once the soil begins to feel dry and do this by standing in a saucer of water for about an hour and then let any excess drain away. People go wrong here by watering from above and causing the crown of the plant to rot.


Grey fuzzy mould on stems and flowers is most likely to be Botrytis which develops in humid conditions which is why it is important to remove any dead flowers or leaves by twisting and pulling them away so as not to leave any stem which can cause rotting.

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