7 June 2018 – Care of House Plants – Andrew Harper Scott

Our June speaker was Andrew Harper Scott, a very experienced horticulturist who had worked with plants since the 1970s and was now based at Scotsdale, Horningsea.

Andrew brought with him a lovely display of house plants.  He proceeded to give us so many useful tips  – too many to mention here, but here are a few……  Many house plants do not survive because of over watering.  One good piece of advice is to lift up your pot and if it very light then give it some water.  If it is heavy – well, you know what I am going to say – leave well alone!  Look out for plant pots with  “feet”, a sure sign that these plants will not like standing in water.

However, some plants prefer to stand in a saucer of moist gravel – like the ficus benjamina, the popular weeping fig – a troublesome plant according to Andrew but it will tell you when not happy by shedding its leaves.  Try not to move it and avoid placing it in draughts.  Another good tip concerned the lovely moth orchid.  After it has flowered, just cut back the flowering stem  to the ‘scar’ which is recognisable.  There is every chance that it will flower again – and again if you repeat this after the next flower.  Feeding is important – most will benefit from regular doses of high potash liquid though plants like the African violet and orchids will benefit from fertiliser specific to their needs.

Early on in the talk I quickly realised that plants, like people are idiosyncratic, each one has its own demands, so no more generalisations!

A reliable house plant is the dragon tree plant, one of the dracaena family.  Grow it in good but not direct light, allow the surface of the compost time to dry out between watering, especially during winter.  But, take care – this plant is poisonous to pets.

The castor oil plant (fatsia japonica) is a lovely architectural plant, easy-going and happy indoors or outdoors as long as it is not in direct sunlight.

Grow the Christmas cactus (schlumbergera) in good light, turning frequently and feed from March until the flower buds have formed

Here’s a challenge for you –  try growing the Venus fly trap on your window sill or better still in the porch or cool greenhouse. Stand in a tray of shallow water, keep it topped up in the summer but allow to dry up before refilling in the winter.  Feeding is not necessary as long as flies can get to the plant!  Don’t be tempted to play with the ‘trap’ as it takes 24 hours to re-open and don’t let anyone feed it with mince, cat food, dog food…….

So many more good plants to mention – gloxinia, gardenia, the peace lily, poinsettia, etc – each one has its own individual needs.  Why not purchase a specialist book on house plants so that you can ensure that you are caring for your plant in the right way.  Andrew showed us that with just a little more care our house plants will respond positively and provide us with year-long pleasure.

Mary Duff, Chair Fowlmere & Thriplow Gardening Club

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