Remember not to go past the Gloxinias

Dahlias - one of the boldest plants you can grow .

GARDENING: Brian Kidd is planning for summer with dahlias

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One of the finest pot plants for a windowsill or greenhouse is the Gloxinia. Tubers have arrived in the garden centres and you should be able to see them in pretty cellophane packs, hanging up with a variety of other summer-flowering bulbs, corms and tubers.

A lot of gardeners are so attracted to the packs of dahlias and begonias that they don’t notice Gloxinias.

Consequently they are not sold and it’s such a pity to see them all dried up, still in the packs in August. What a shame!

It’s not often that I write about the history of plants, but sometimes it’s interesting to recall where they were first discovered.

In the case of Gloxinia they originated in South America, where they still grow as upright half-hardy herbaceous plants.

But they are not in the least bit like our modern Gloxinias because they were interbred with other species during the middle of the 1800s. Surely that makes them worth growing?

Look at the front of the packet and you will see the colourful picture. Simply choose the ones you like best. I adore the reds.

The tubers need to be planted in any Universal potting compost or John Innes number 2 compost.

Add 10 per cent extra potting sand to ensure good drainage.

The tubers have a sunken area in the centre of the top and you may see parts of last year’s stems which will be brown and shrivelled.

Plant the tuber in the centre of the pot and the compost needs to be half way up the tuber.

Water well and keep it in the light in a window or in the greenhouse.

In about three weeks the tiny grey hairy shoots will arise. They appear to be curly at first, but quickly develop into large, leathery, deep-veined green leaves.

It’s not long before the top of the pot is completely hidden.

During late June the flower buds appear. These look like tiny white lollipops at first, but within a fortnight the beautiful trumpets explode into flowers with the colour you chose on the outside and a delightful lighter-coloured frill on the inside gradually travelling down to crystalline white on the inner base.

Flowers continue right through to the autumn. All we need to do is feed once a week as soon as the flower buds look like little lollipops with a weak feed of Maxicrop liquid fertiliser designed for tomatoes.

The foliage is dense and brittle. So when watering or feeding, use a little watering can and, with one hand, hold up the edge of a leaf before watering.

This prevents leaves scorching if conditions are very hot.

Fancy a trip to South America? No need, your Gloxinias will be far superior to the originals growing there.