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  • Paddy
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.
  • Born and educated in Germany, I came to live in the UK in 1982. After working in various jobs over the years, I am now a freelance writer. I have a passion for wildlife and nature in general and love my family, my dog Jet, writing, music and dragons.

A - Z Plant List

A - B - C - D/E

F - G - H/I/J

K/L - M - N/O

P - Q/R - S

T to Z


The A - Z of House Plants is currently under construction. Plant names will be linked to their corresponding articles as they are added. Please be patient - there are a lot of plants, and there may be days when only one or two articles can be added at a time. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of these general care articles:


A brief Guide to Potting Mixes


When and how to repot House Plants


Grooming House Plants - the Basics


Indoor House Plants and Light


Ten House Plants tolerating low Light Conditions


Indoor House Plants and Humidity Levels


Watering Indoor House Plants


Fertilising House Plants


To save readers having to scroll through the whole alphabet when looking for a specific plant, each section will be moved to its own page once all corresponding articles have been added. 


Yet to come: 




(Haworthia species)

Heartleaf Philodendron

(Philodendron scandens)


(Helleborus niger)


(Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)

Hyacinth Flower

(Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids)


(Hydrangea macrophylla)




(Impatiens hybrids)

Iron Cross Begonia

(Begonia masoniana)

Ivy Geranium

(Pelargonium peltatum)


(Ixora coccinea)



Jade Plant

(Crassula ovata)

Janet Craig Dracaena

(Dracaena deremensis)

Japanese Aralia

(Fatsia japonica)

Jasmine Plant

(Jasminum polyanthum)

Jerusalem Cherry

(Solanum pseudocapsicum)



Kaffir Lily

(Clivia miniata)

Kentia Palm

(Howea forsteriana)



Lady Palm

(Rhapis excelsa)

Lantana Plants

(Lantana camara)

Lily of the Valley                                      

(Convallaria majalis)

Lipstick Plant                                          

(Aeschynanthus lobbianus)

Living Stones                                           

(Lithops species)

Lucky Bamboo                                        

(Dracaena sanderiana)



Madagascar Palm                                    

(Pachypodium lamerei)

Maidenhair Fern                                       


Mandevilla Plant                                       

(Mandevilla hybrids)

Martha Washington Geranium                   

(Pelargonium domesticum)


(Medinilla magnifica)

Ming Aralia                                              

(Polyscias fruticosa)

Miniature Roses                                        

(Rosa chinensis hybrids)

Mona Lavender                                        

(Plectranthus hybrid)

Money Tree Plant                                     

(Pachira aquatica)

Moses in the Cradle                                 

(Tradescantia spathacea)

Mother of Thousands                                

(Kalanchoe daigremontiana)

Mother-in-Law's Tongue/ Snake Plant        

(Sansevieria trifasciata)



Nerve Plant                                              

(Fittonia verschaffeltii)

New Guinea Impatiens                              

(Impatiens x hawkeri hybrid)

Norfolk Island Pine                                   

(Araucaria heterophylla)



Oleander Plant                                         

(Nerium oleander)

Orchid Cactus                                         

(Epiphyllum species and hybrids)

Ornamental Chili Pepper                           

(Capsicum annuum)



Paddle Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe thyrsiflora)

Panda Plant                                            

(Kalanchoe tomentosa)


(Viola x wittrockiana)

Paperwhite Narcissus                               

(Narcissus jonquilla)

Papyrus Plant                                          

(Cyperus papyrus)

Parlor Palm                                             

(Chamaedorea elegans)

Parrot Flower                                           

(Heliconia psittacorum)

Passion Flower                                        

(Passiflora caerulea)

Peace Lily


Peacock Plant                                         

(Calathea makoyana)


(Peperomia caperata)

Periwinkle Flower                                     

(Catharanthus roseus)

Persian Shield                                         

(Strobilanthes dyerianus)

Persian Violet                                          

(Exacum affine)

Piggyback Plant                                      

(Tolmiea menziesii)

Pink Calla Lily                                         

(Zantedeschia rehmannii)

Pink Quill                                                

(Tillandsia cyanea)

Pitcher Plant                                           

(Nepenthes hybrids)


(Plumeria rubra)

Pocketbook Plant                                    

(Calceolaria herbeohybrida)


(Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Polka Dot Plant                                       

(Hypoestes phyllostachya)

Ponytail Palm                                          

(Beaucarnea recurvata)

Pothos/ Devil's Ivy                                    

(Epipremnum aureum)

Powder Puff Tree                                      

(Calliandra haematocephala)

Prayer Plant                                            

(Maranta leuconeura)

Primrose Flowers                                     

(Primula hybrids)

Purple Heart Plant                                    

(Tradescantia pallida)

Purple Passion Plant                                

(Gynura aurantiaca)

Purple Shamrock                                     

(Oxalis regnellii)

Pygmy Date Palm                                     

(Phoenix roebelenii)



Queen's Tears                                         

(Billbergia nutans)



Rabbit Foot Fern                                      

(Davallia fejeensis)

Rex Begonia                                            

(Begonia rex)

Rosary Vine                                            

(Ceropegia woodii)

Rubber Plant                                           

(Ficus elastica)



Sago Palm                                              

(Cycas revoluta)

Satin Pothos                                           

(Scindapsus pictus)

Scarlet Star                                             

(Guzmania lingulata)

Scented Geranium                                   

(Pelargonium species and hybrids)


(Schefflera actinophylla)

Sensitive Plant                                         

(Mimosa pudica)

Shamrock Plant                                       

(Oxalis species)

Shrimp Plant                                           

(Justicia brandegeana)

Siam Tulip                                               

(Curcuma alismatifolia)

Spider Lily                                               

(Hymenocallis littoralis)

Spider Plant

(Chlorophytum comosum)

Split-Leaf Philodendron                             

(Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

Staghorn Fern                                          

(Platycerium bifurcatum)

Strawberry Begonia                                  

(Saxifraga stolonifera)

String of Pearls                                        

(Senecio rowleyanus)

Swedish Ivy                                             

(Plectranthus species)

Sweet Potato Vine                                   

(Ipomea batatas)

Swiss Cheese Plant                                 

(Monstera deliciosa)


Thanksgiving Cactus                                

(Schlumbergera truncata)

Ti Plant                                                   

(Cordyline terminalis)

Tiger's Jaw                                              

(Faucaria tigrina)


(Tulipa hybrids)


U - V - W

Urn Plant                                                 

(Aechmea fasciata)

Venus Fly Trap                                        

(Dionaea muscipula)

Wandering Jew                                        

(Tradescantia albiflora)

Wax Begonia                                           

(Begonia x semperflorens-cultorum)

Wax Plant                                               

(Hoya carnosa)

Weeping Fig                                            

(Ficus benjamina)

Windmill Palm Tree                                  

(Trachycarpus fortunei)


X - Y - Z


(Yucca elephantipes)

Zebra Plant                                              

(Aphelandra squarrosa)

ZZ Plant                                                  

(Zamioculcas zamiifolia)

Sad News...


Stop Animal Cruelty

Instead of protecting the precious diversity of life on our planet, many countries, groups and individuals delight in performing acts of incredible cruelty to and on animals. To help stop this insanity going on, please go to The Petitions Site and add your voice to the thousands of individuals who are prepared to stand up and say: ' Enough is enough. Stop this now!' 

June 4 2013 3 04 /06 /June /2013 11:25

I usually prefer to write my own posts, but this time, I believe that simply showing readers the e-mail I just received may be of far more use than anything I could possibly say.

PLEASE NOTE: As the links provided below were personalised for me, readers should follow this link instead:


Here it is:

This message contains graphics. If you do not see the graphics, click here to view.
  IFAW logo  

Action Alert


June 2013


Follow Us  Facebook   twitter


Dear Paddy, 

If badgers could talk, they'd say, "Don't blame us!"

When some cattle became ill with a form of tuberculosis (bovine TB), they started to infect others, and then started to infect the wild animals around them, too.

In a desperate bid to tackle the issue of bovine TB, the Government has decided to undertake badger cull trials. That's despite the fact that scientific studies have shown that culling badgers would be of little help in reducing the disease, and could actually make things worse in some areas.

That means the culls will result in the needless slaughter of thousands of British badgers. You can help stop these cruel and unnecessary badger culls.

The Government continues to ignore the strong public opposition to the cull (as demonstrated by the e-petition now about to hit 240,000 signatures and the thousands who marched through London on Saturday). With the badger culls due to start any day, it is vital that our MPs understand the widespread opposition to turning badgers into scapegoats for a problem they didn't cause.

Badgers are native wild animals that need protection, not persecution. Tell your MP to vote 'No' to the badger cull trials in the Parliamentary debate on Wednesday. 

Despite clear opposition from the public and most of the independent scientific community, the Government does not seem to be listening. MPs will be voting on the pilot culls in a Parliamentary debate this Wednesday, 5 June. If you're able to personally meet your MP in Parliament on Wednesday that will really help to keep the pressure up. If you're not able to lobby in person, then please email. Whatever you do, you will be making a real difference to the fate of our badgers.

Thank you for your interest in keeping animals safe from cruelty.


Robbie Marsland Robbie Marsland signature

Robbie Marsland
IFAW Regional Director, United Kingdom

P.S. There's no time to delay. Badgers need your help.Take a moment to tell your MP that badger culls must be stopped.


Speak up for badgers!

Tell your MP that you oppose badger culls, and they should too.

  act now button  

IFAW is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales (company number 2701278) and a registered charity (number 1024806).

This message was sent to paddyphillips@rocketmail.com

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International Fund for Animal Welfare • 89 Albert Embankment • London SE1 7UD • UK



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June 1 2013 7 01 /06 /June /2013 13:00

Plant Summary

Ivy GeraniumBotanical Name: Pelargonium peltatum

Type: Flowering

Origin: Pelargonium peltatum originates from Southern Africa.

Height: Some varieties will grow/ climb up to around 150 cm (5 ft) in height. Kept indoors, they are typically kept at a maximum of approximately 30 to 60 cm (1 to 2 ft).

Soil: This house plant requires a well draining potting mix, ideally containing soil-based compost, sharp sand, Perlite or grit and a little added peat.

Light: Ivy Geraniums just love the sun and should be given plenty of it throughout the year. During the hottest periods of summer, the plant may require a little more shade.

Ivy Geranium Care TipHumidity: Pelargonium peltatum generally requires just average levels of humidity.

Temperatures: Ivy Geraniums will thrive throughout the year in reasonable amounts of warmth and should be kept at temperatures of at least of 10 degrees C (50 degrees F) during the winter.

Water: During the summer months, the plant should be watered thoroughly at regular intervals, allowing the soil to dry a little in between. High humidity means watering can be reduced a little, and in winter, the house plant should be watered just enough to prevent it drying out completely.

Fertiliser: From the emergence of the first flower buds until blooming ends completely, the Ivy Geranium should be fed with a liquid high-potash fertiliser (like the one used to fertilise tomatoes) every two to three weeks.

Propagation: This house plant may be propagated from 15 cm (6 in) cuttings. All but the top leaves should be removed from these cuttings, which should then be dipped into rooting powder or gel before potting. Once potted, they should be kept slightly moistened until well established.

Description and Care Tips 

Ivy Geranium FactThe succulent-type, light green ivy-shaped leaves and abundant blooms through most of the year's warmer months make Ivy Geraniums a well-favoured house plant, although it is typically purchased as outdoor ground cover. 

Best positioned in a sunny location, this house plant will produce a wealth of gorgeous, five-petalled flowers in a wide range of colours. Often bi-coloured, Pelargonium peltatum flowers appear in clusters and may, depending on variety, be pale pink, pink or mauve/rose coloured; magenta, fuchsia or red; scarlet or white with streaks of deeper colours.

As this plant can grow quite tall if placed against a trellis or long  if placed in a hanging basket, it may become necessary to prune it in order to control its size or shape. Dead-heading spent flowers will encourage new blooms.

During extremely hot periods, it is likely that the plant will slow down or stop flowering completely for a time. This is fairly normal and should resolve itself once temperatures drop again.

Ivy Geranium Buying TipRepotting is best undertaken in spring, before buds appear. Providing containers with drainage holes is vital, as poorly draining, soggy soil easily results in stem and root rot. Over-watering may also result in a condition known as oedema, which can be identified by brownish water blisters appearing on the plant's leaves.

Aphids and white flies love to make a meal out of indoor Ivy Geraniums, so it is essential to look out for and deal with these pests as soon as infestations are spotted. Failure to deal with them may not only kill the plant, but will also present a risk of other plants being infested and subsequently damaged.

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May 24 2013 6 24 /05 /May /2013 15:44

Plant Summary

Iron Cross BegoniaBotanical Name: Begonia masoniana

Type: Foliage

Origin: Iron Cross Begonias originate from Southeast Asia.

Height: These house plants grow up to 30 cm (1 ft) tall.

Soil: Begonia masoniana prefers the same type of potting mix as African Violets.

Light: This house plant likes bright, but indirect light and will thrive under fluorescent light.

Humidity: Iron Cross Begonias need moderate to high levels of humidity. Wet pebble trays and/ or room humidifiers will raise levels sufficiently. This house plant needs to be kept away from drafts.

Iron Cross Begonia Care TipTemperatures: Like most Begonias, Begonia masoniana does not tolerate temperatures below 13 degrees C (50 degrees F) at all. Ideally, it should be kept in temperatures ranging between 18 and 24 degrees C (65 to 75 degrees F).

Water: B. masoniana needs to be watered thoroughly, allowing the top of the potting mix (approximately 2.5 cm/ 1 in) to dry between watering sessions. As the leaves are prone to mildew and spot easily, it is essential to avoid splashing water onto them.

Fertiliser: Dilute a liquid 10-10-5 fertiliser by half and feed the plant once a month all year round. To prevent fertiliser burn, feed only after watering, ensuring the soil is already moistened. If the plant enters a dormant state, cease feeding until it starts growing again.

Propagation: Stem cuttings of around 8 cm (3 in) in length (with leaves) will root easily in sterile, moistened potting mix in early summer. To increase humidity until new leaves form, cover with a glass cloche or plastic. 

Description and Care Tips 

The reddish-brown centre pattern resembling an iron-cross make the puckered, bright green leaves of the Iron Cross Begonia easily recognisable. Stunning on its own due to its magnificent foliage, Begonia masoniana also makes a formidable addition to dish gardens and groups of tropical plants.

Iron Cross Begonia FactOn occasion, this house plant may produce sprays of insignificant flowers, which are typically pinkish-white in colour. As they really are hardly worth mentioning, it is best to pinch these flowers off while still in bud, as this will promote growth of healthier, bigger leaves.

The best leaf colour can be achieved by giving the plant plenty of indirect, but bright light. Even fluorescent light will have this house plant thriving.

It is important not to over-water this plant. Begonia masoniana has rhizomatous roots - which will store water - and unless the soil is allowed to dry a little between waterings, root rot may occur. If the plant shrivels, it is likely that it has entered a dormant state. This is not uncommon with begonias. 

What it needs now is high humidity. Stop watering it and cover it with plastic - or place it under a glass cloche - for around six to eight weeks, keeping the temperature at around 16 degrees C (60 degrees F) throughout this period. Once new leaves appear, bring it out from under its cover and resume the regular watering and feeding routine.

Iron Cross Begonia Shopping TipIn spring, move your Begonia masoniana into a pot just one size larger than the old container. Only lightly tamp down the fresh soil, as this house plant prefers to have a little bit of air circling its roots. Naturally, the pot should have drainage holes.

Unfortunately, the leaves and stems of Begonia masoniana are prone to powdery mildew - a white, dusty fungus encouraged by high humidity and poor air circulation. Providing adequate circulation (but keeping the plant away from drafts and drying air conditioning/ heat vents) and regularly checking for the fungus is therefore essential. If an infection is detected, affected leaves/ stems should be removed immediately. It may also become necessary to treat the plant with a suitable fungicide.

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May 17 2013 6 17 /05 /May /2013 18:46

Plant Summary

Impatiens HybridsBotanical Name: Impatiens hybrids

Type: Flowering

Origin: Impatiens hybrids originate from East Africa, New Guinea and South Asia.

Height: Cultivated Impatiens plants typically only grow to heights of approximately 38 cm (15 in).

Soil: Any non-acidic potting mixes are acceptable for Impatiens, although those based on peat moss are ideal.

Light: Impatiens plants like bright light, but should not be exposed to direct sunlight during the summer.

Humidity: The required moderate levels of humidity ca be achieved by placing the pot containing Impatiens onto a wet pebble tray. 

Impatiens Care TipTemperatures: This house plant does best when kept in temperatures ranging between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

Water: The potting mix for this plant should be kept evenly moist, without allowing it to become soggy.

Fertiliser: From early spring until late summer, Impatiens needs monthly feeds of diluted (50:50) liquid fertiliser with high potassium content. Over-fertilising this house plant results in excessive leafy growth with few blooms.

Propagation: Impatiens can be grown from seeds or from stem tip cuttings, which should be approximately 10 cm (4 in) long and will root fairly easy in moistened soil or water. Both methods should be used in spring or - at the latest - early summer.

Description and Care Tips

Impatiens FactImpatiens hybrids provide a profusion of brightly coloured, gorgeous blooms fit to brighten up any window sill, patio or sun room. With oval, soft leaves on succulent stems, these house plants typically have fairly flat flowers with five petals. In the centre, there is usually a very prominent 'eye'. 

Ranging in colour from white salmon or pink to lavender, red or deep purples, some hybrids have double flowers. This gives them an appearance not dissimilar to miniature roses. Some varieties also feature bicoloured blooms.

If an Impatiens refuses to bloom or produces comparatively few flowers, it is highly likely that it is not getting enough light. It can be a little challenging to get this right, as it is often difficult to find a spot where the plant gets the four hours of bright, but indirect sun light it needs. 

Impatiens can be moved outside for the summer, but needs to be shaded away from direct exposure to summer sun. When returning the plant indoors, it is necessary to check for spider mites, a pest that has a taste for Impatiens and may spread onto other plants if inadvertently introduced into the home. 

Impatiens Shopping TipThis house plant needs to be watered regularly to prevent it drying out and wilting. It is, however, important not to let the soil get soggy. Deadheading spent flowers will not only keep the plant looking tidy, it will also encourage more flowers. 

As Impatiens blooms most abundantly when slightly pot-bound, it should only be repotted when the roots completely fill the pot. Repotting is best done in spring and using a container with drainage holes to prevent root rot caused by soggy soil. The new pot usually needs to be only one size larger than the old container.

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April 21 2013 1 21 /04 /April /2013 08:38

Plant Summary

HydrangeaBotanical Name: Hydrangea macrophylla

Type: Flowering

Origin: Hydrangea macrophylla originates from Japan.

Height: Hydrangeas kept indoors grow to heights of around 60 cm (2 ft).

Soil: In particular blue varieties of this house plant require lime-free, peat-based potting mixes.

Light: These plants should be provided with a minimum of four hours worth of bright, but indirect light per day.

Humidity: Hydrangea macrophylla is quite comfortable in environments with average levels of humidity.

Temperatures: Cool to average temperatures ranging between 7 and 18 degrees C (45 to 65 degrees F) are best for this house plant.

Hydrangea-gtWater: The potting mix for Hydrangeas must be kept evenly moistened throughout their growing and flowering seasons. Soggy soil should, however, be prevented by providing adequate drainage. To prevent the potting mix from becoming alkaline, lime-free water should be used. During the winter months, the potting mix should be kept just barely moist.

Fertiliser: A balanced (10-10-10) liquid fertiliser should be diluted (50:50) and fed fortnightly to the plant throughout spring and summer. Alternatively, a slow-release fertiliser can be used (once in spring, then again in summer).

Propagation: Hydrangea macrophylla can be propagated via stem tip cuttings. The best time to take these cuttings - which should measure approximately 10 cm (4 in) - is spring or, at the latest, in early summer. The cuttings should root well in moistened potting mix.

Description and Care Tips 

While there are dozens of Hydrangea species, Hydrangea macrophylla is the best choice for indoor growing. Available in hundreds of different varieties, this species - also known as the 'Mophead' Hydrangea - certainly knows how to really show off in style.

The woody stems of this perennial shrub are densely covered by deep green, large oval leaves. In summer, huge round clusters of red, pink or white; violet-blue or blue small flowers all but completely cover this house plant. 

Hydrangea-woOne of the main factors to remember when caring for Hydrangea macrophylla is that this plant needs moist soil - allowing it to dry out is likely to kill it. First signs of the soil getting too dry are yellowing leaves that eventually fall off. Provision of adequate indirect light (see above) is also vital for the health of this house plant.

The choice of potting mix is also important, as varying pH factors can change the colour of a plant's flowers. It should, however, be noted that not all varieties will change colour, so it is important to get the desired colour and then attempt to maintain it, rather than hoping to achieve a specific colour by varying the soil's pH factor.

In essence, blue Hydrangeas require acidic soil with pH factors of 5.5 or below. Adding sulphur while the plant is in bloom will also help to maintain the lovely blue colour.

Neutral pH factors ranging between 5.5 and 7 can result in purple flowers or a mix of blue and pink flowers, while alkaline soil with a pH of 7 or higher is best to maintain the colour of pink varieties.

Unless size control is necessary, Mophead Hydrangeas do not require pruning, although cutting back approximately one third of the plant's older stems will result in a fuller, bushier appearance. If pruning is required, it should be done after the last of the flowers have faded away, avoiding damage to stems - and subsequently endangering the health of the plant - by tearing. Using sharp and clean pruners, stems should be cut - just over 1/2 cm (1/4 in) above leaf axles - at an angle of 45 degrees.

Hydrangea-stTo over-winter an indoor Hydrangea, the plant should be repotted once flowering has finished, followed by cutting back stems by half. Kept cool throughout most of the winter months, the plant should then be moved into a slightly warmer environment near the end of winter in order to encourage blooming.

Dried Mophead Hydrangea flowers make exceptionally beautiful additions to dried flower arrangements. To preserve the colours of the flowers, flower stems should be allowed to dry while still on the plant. Once blooms have a papery feel to them, the stems can be cut off. All leaves should then be stripped off, followed by hanging the stems upside down (this will prevent bending) in a dry, dark room to finish drying. 

It is, by the way, best to keep stems separate during this final drying period, as bunching them together will not only prolong drying, but may also cause some of the flowers to get squashed. Dried in this fashion, the flowers will turn to beautifully soft shades of rose, violet, blue and green.

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April 14 2013 1 14 /04 /April /2013 19:39

Plant Summary

hyacinth-flowerBotanical Name: Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids

Type: Flowering

Origin: Hyacinth Flowers originate from Turkey.

Height: Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids can grow to heights of approximately 20 to 20 cm (8 to 12 in). As the flower heads tend to get quite heavy, they may require staking.

Soil: These house plants are quite content with any quality potting mix and can also be grown in water.

Light: During the cold treatment (see below), bulbs need to be kept in the dark. Once shoots appear, they need to be gradually moved into bright positions.

Humidity: Hyacinthus orientalis hybrids are happy in areas with average levels of humidity. 

hyacinth-flower-gtTemperatures: Hyacinth Flowers are best kept comparatively cool at temperatures ranging between 7 and 18 degrees C (45 to 65 degrees F).  

Water: The potting mix for these house plants should be kept evenly moistened.

Fertiliser: Fertilising is not required for these plants.

Propagation: Hyacinth bulbs that have been forced to bloom inside will not bloom again. They do, however, produce offsets that can be stored in a cool, dry location (after foliage that has been allowed to naturally die back has been cut off) until being planted in the garden in autumn. 

Description and Care Tips

Although Hyacinth Flowers can be purchased in full bloom from florists during the winter months, it is far more fun - and quite easy - to purchase bulbs, force them and watch them grow from scratch (see how below).

Each individual bulb will produce a thick stem - surrounded by upright, narrow leaves -  carrying dozens of waxy, small flowers. Highly fragrant, these flowers may - depending on variety - be anything from white through a host of pastel colours to deep, vibrant reds, blues and purples.

Forcing Hyacinth Flowers

hyacinth-flower-woThe process of getting the naturally spring-flowering Hyacinth Flower to bloom in the middle of winter is known as forcing. This essentially involves tricking the bulb into acting as though it has gone through the cold winter months before coming into the sunshine and warmth of spring - subsequently forcing it to bloom at a time when it would not normally do so.

For this reason, it is first of all necessary to give bulbs the cold treatment (this is not necessary if pre-chilled bulbs were purchased). Best started in October (if blooms are desired during mid-winter), this is done as follows:

  • Fill a shallow (minimum 7 cm/ 3 in deep) container with drainage holes loosely with a good potting mix
  • Set bulbs closely (though not touching) with their pointed end up into the mix
  • Keep the tips of the bulbs level with the rim of the container and do not press them into the mix (mix should remain loose to allow roots to easily grow through it)
  • Loosely cover with more potting mix (leave tips exposed)
  • Water thoroughly
  • Discard drainage
  • Move container into a cool (not below 4 degrees C/ 40 degrees F) and dark location (if necessary, cover with a box/ upturned flower pot)
  • Do not store pot/s near ripening vegetables/ fruit, as the ethylene gas they give off may damage bulbs
  • Keeping the potting mix barely moist, leave pot/s in cold storage for around 12 weeks

By the end of this period, the emerging shoots should have reached a height of around 5 cm (2 in). The pot can now be moved into a slightly warmer (10 degrees C/ 50 degrees F) location with fairly low light intensity. Watering should now be increased sufficiently to keep the potting mix evenly moistened.

hyacinth-flower-stThe plant can then be moved gradually - over a period of a few days - towards a sunny window. In order to ensure even growth, the pot should be turned daily. Once in full bloom, the plant should be kept in bright, but indirect sunlight to prolong blooming.

Alternatively, bulbs can be given the cold treatment in a paper bag. Once sprouting, they can then be placed into the top section of hour-glass-shaped Hyacinth vases, the bottom of which should be kept filled with water. To prevent the bulb from rotting, it is vital to ensure it does not actually sit in the water. 

Staggering the start of cold treatments/ planting bulbs - perhaps at weekly intervals - will provide a succession of flowering Hyacinths throughout winter and early spring.

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April 13 2013 7 13 /04 /April /2013 15:30

Plant Summary

hibiscusBotanical Name: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

Type: Flowering

Origin: The beautiful Hibiscus originates from China.

Height: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis hybrids that are not pruned back can grow to heights reaching up to 1.8 m (6 ft).

Soil: Hibiscus house plants require potting mixes that drain fast. One option is to add a small quantity of perlite to an all-purpose mix.

Light: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis needs plenty of bright light and should be provided with some direct sunlight, too. If insufficient light is offered, Hibiscus plants tend to become leggy and produce few flowers.

hibiscus-gtHumidity: This house plant requires moderate levels of humidity. Levels below 50 per cent need to be raised with the help of wet pebble trays and misting.

Temperatures: During its growing season, the Hibiscus likes to be kept fairly warm at temperatures ranging between 18 and 29 degrees C (65 to 85 degrees F). In winter, temperatures should be dropped to around 16 degrees C (60 degrees F).

Water: To prevent issues caused by soggy soil, Hibiscus plants need to be planted in pots with drainage holes, and while watering should be thorough and regular, the top 2.5 cm (1 in) of the potting medium should be allowed to dry out from one watering to the next. 

Fertiliser: Dilute a liquid low-phosphorous (7-2-7, for instance) fertiliser by half and feed to the plant on a fortnightly basis during its growing and blooming periods.

Propagation: Spring/ early summer is the ideal time to take Hibiscus stem tip cuttings of approximately 8 cm (3 in) in length. Patience is required, as growing new plants from these cuttings may take several weeks.

Description and Care Tips

hibiscus-woHibiscus rosa-sinensis is an evergreen shrub with ovate, glossy dark green leaves that densely cover the plant's upright branches. From spring onwards, this house plant will produce a succession of blooms - each lasting for around 2 to 3 days - right through into autumn. 

These trumpet-shaped, ruffled blooms may be double, semi-double or single - depending on variety - and can grow as large as 15 to 20 cm (6 to 8 in) across. Colours may vary from white or pink to yellow, peach or orange; red or purple.

Bearing a few simple points in mind, Hibiscus plants are comparatively easy to care for. One of the most important things is to provide plenty of light. Hibiscus rosa-sinensis should be kept in a position where it will receive several hours worth of direct sunlight every day. It should also be noted that once placed into a spot, it should preferably not be moved again, as sudden light changes may result in the plant dropping its buds.

These plants also need warmth, which is usually fairly easy to achieve in a home, especially if the plant sits in a sunny window. During the winter, however, this house plant needs a cool rest - with temperatures being lowered to around 16 degrees C (60 degrees F) and watering reduced enough to allow the soil to almost completely dry out between watering sessions.

hibiscus-stTo prevent this gorgeous shrub from becoming too large to keep indoors, it needs to be pruned back - if necessary, by as much as half its size - early in spring. Pinching out growing tips will not only encourage branching - and subsequently a much fuller, bushier appearance - but will also encourage more abundant blooming. 

With a little loving care, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis will provide a magnificent display of stunning, large flowers in glorious vibrant colours for many years to come.

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April 12 2013 6 12 /04 /April /2013 16:39

Plant Summary

helleboreBotanical Name: Helleborus niger

Type: Flowering

Origin: Helleborus niger originates from the mountainous regions of Austria, southern Germany, northern Italy and Switzerland.

Height: White Hellebore plants can grow to heights of around 30 cm (1 ft).

Soil: Hellebores prefer neutral to alkaline pH potting mixes.

Light: Potted hellebores are best kept in positions where they will receive filtered sunlight. A little indirect morning sun and some afternoon shade will suit these plants perfectly.

Humidity: Helleborus niger is happy with average levels of humidity.

hellebore-gtTemperatures: Hellebores prefer to be kept fairly cool, with temperatures not exceeding 7 to 18 degrees C (45 to 65 degrees F).

Water: While this plant is growing and flowering, its soil should be kept evenly moist. Watering can be reduced once the blooming period has ended. Yellowing leaves are often a sign of over-watering.

Fertiliser: A diluted liquid fertiliser (balanced; dilution ratio of 1:1) should be provided monthly throughout the year.

Propagation: Once flowering is over - early spring - Hellebore house plants can be divided for propagation. This should be done with great care, as the plant's roots are very fragile.

Description and Care Tips

The evergreen perennial Helleborus niger is a winter-flowering house plant also known as the Christmas Rose. Other common names of this lovely plant - which is usually sold in full bloom just before Christmas - are Black Hellebore or White Hellebore. 

hellebore-woThe beautiful white flowers of this plant may feature rounded or slightly pointed petals (giving them a star-like appearance), depending on the particular hybrid purchased. Held on thick, upright stems, the flowers open out flat and form a lovely contrast to the plant's shiny, thick leaves. 

In its second and consecutive seasons, the White Hellebore - which is attractive throughout the year due to lovely evergreen leaves - is likely to bloom much later, typically some time between January and April. 

Because the roots of Helleborus niger are very brittle, it is best not to move it around too much. Repotting should only be done when absolutely necessary - roots coming out through the pot's drainage hole or appearing on the surface of the potting mix are a sign that this is the case - and never during the blooming period.

As aphids have a taste for this house plant, it is recommended to look out for these little pests and deal with infestations as quickly as possible. Another common problem is black spot, a disease that manifests itself - as the name suggests - in dark spots that gradually get larger and can eventually completely strip all the leaves of the plant. Removing dead leaves, flowers and other debris immediately will help to prevent black spot. If an infection does occur, the first step is to remove all affected plant parts, after which a suitable fungicide should be applied.

hellebore-stWith a little care, a cool shaded spot and regular watering - though over-watering should be avoided to prevent root rot and yellow leaves - this enchanting plant will brighten the late winter/ early spring months with its shiny leaves and gorgeous flowers for many years to come. 

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April 11 2013 5 11 /04 /April /2013 12:54

Plant Summary

heartleaf-PhilodendronBotanical Name: Philodendron scandens

Type: Foliage

Origin: Heartleaf Philodendron originates from South America; Brazil, Mexico and the West Indies.

Height: Philodendron scandens can climb/ trail up to 1.2 m (4 ft) or more.

Soil: This house plant is best kept in potting mixes based on peat moss.

Light: P. scandens will tolerate low light, but prefers moderate to bright conditions. It should, however, never be placed into direct sunlight.

heartleaf-philodendron-gtHumidity: Though it tolerates dry air, this plant prefers some humidity. Misting the foliage from time to time will keep it quite happy.

Temperatures: Heartleaf Philodendrons like temperatures that range between 16 and 24 degrees C (60 to 75 degrees F).

Water: The potting mix should be kept lightly moist throughout spring, summer and autumn. In winter, it should be allowed to dry a little between watering sessions. Over-watering should be avoided, as it will cause the foliage of this house plant to yellow.

Fertiliser: A diluted balanced fertiliser (50:50) should be fed monthly from early spring onwards into the late autumn months.

Propagation: Stem tip cuttings used for propagation in spring/ early on in summer will root fairly easy in water or moist potting mix.

Description and Care Tips

heartleaf-philodendron-woAlso often referred to as the Sweetheart Plant, the popular Heartleaf Philodendron is an easy to grow house plant. 

The typically 5 to 10 cm (2 to 4 in) long, heart-shaped glossy leaves (which may reach lengths of up to 30 cm (12 in) on well established, mature plants) covering the stems of P. scandens are bronze-coloured when they first emerge, turning to lush dark green very shortly afterwards. Keeping the leaves clean by wiping them with a damp cloth will enhance their glossy beauty. Occasionally, mature plants may produce greenish-white flowers.

To achieve a full and bushy, but fairly compact appearance, Heartleaf Philodendrons should be pinched back - always pinching just above leaf nodes - regularly, as pinching will encourage branching and prevent the plant becoming lanky through growing singular, long stems. 

It is necessary to pinch stems as close to nodes as possible, as an remaining bare stem will simply die off and prevent a new stem growing from the node. If it is not possible to achieve a clean cut with fingernails, a sharp pair of scissors or pruners should be used to prevent tearing, which may attract diseases.

Alternatively, the stems can be allowed to grow and trail over a shelf/ pedestal or out of a hanging basket. They can also be quite easily trained to grow up and around a moss pole. 

heartleaf-philodendron-stIn spite of its tropical native habitat, P. scandens will tolerate fairly dry air, but does appreciate the occasional misting. Happily thriving in fairly small pots for years, these house plants should be repotted - during spring/ early summer - every two to three years. To prevent root rot, adequate drainage must be provided.

While Philodendron scandens rarely develops serious disease or pest problems, it pays to watch out for aphids, mealy bugs, scale and spider mites, as well as leaf spots.

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April 3 2013 4 03 /04 /April /2013 19:28

Plant Summary

haworthiaBotanical Name: Haworthia species

Type: Succulent/ Cactus

Origin: Plants of the Haworthia genus originate from South Africa.

Height: How tall these house plants grow depends on the species, but in general, most will only grow to heights of around 7.5 to 15 sm (3 to 6 in).

Soil: Succulent/ Cactus potting mixes are ideal, but a mixture of one part of sharp sand with two parts of a peat-moss potting mix works equally well.

Light: Haworthia species like bright light, but need to be kept out of direct sunlight to prevent shrivelling of the leaves.

Humidity: These plants are quite happy with average humidity levels.

haworthia-gtTemperatures: From spring through into autumn, Haworthias are content with average room temperatures between 18 and 24 degrees C (65 - 75 degrees F). If possible, these plants should be kept cooler - at temperatures around 16 degrees C (60 degrees F) - during the winter months.

Water: The soil for these plants should be allowed to dry out almost completely between watering sessions.

Fertiliser: Monthly feeds with a succulent fertiliser should be given during spring and summer. When growth slows down - late autumn and winter - feeding should be stopped. 

Propagation: Haworthias produce offsets that can be removed and used for propagation by planting them into their own pots in spring.

Description and Care Tips 

haworthia-woThe vast majority of Haworthia species remain comparatively small, although some species feature inflorescences that can reach heights of around 40 cm (16 in) or more. Forming either clumps or remaining solitary, these succulents come in a variety of colours, and some may be spotted; some are striped and some are just plain green. 

The consistency of leaves may also vary - some of these gorgeous little house plants have tough, firm leaves, while others are altogether much softer, and others still have translucent panels allowing sunlight to reach their internal photosynthetic tissue.

What most of them do have in common are small, very similar looking white flowers - and a tolerance for being neglected once in a while. As long as they get plenty of indirect light and the occasional watering, they are typically quite happy for years. 

It is necessary to be careful when watering these plants, as getting the leaves wet can quickly lead to rot. Because Haworthias tend to shed old roots in spring, repotting them during this period is a good way of ensuring that fresh, debris free potting mix keeps them fit and well.

haworthia-stThis is also a good time to remove and pot any offsets for propagation. As the roots of this plant are fairly small, they can be planted into fairly shallow containers, and - if a container without drainage holes is used - a thin (2.5 cm / 1 in) layer of pebbles placed into the bottom will provide all the drainage needed.

Whether on their own or set besides other succulents and/ or cacti in pretty little dish gardens, Haworthias certainly make a great, easy-to-care-for addition to any collection of house plants.

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