BRIAN KIDD: The amazing life of plants and how to make them thrive
How are the flowering plants in your home? With a bit of luck they are OK and willÂ flourish for weeks because plants bought these days are carefully raised by some of the best growers in the world.
Several factors are essential to plant life. The first is light. Plants take energy from light and sunshine. Combine thisÂ with carbon dioxide from air and simple sugars are produced. TheseÂ pass through the plant as they are soluble.
Plants convertÂ this into starch which is stored at the baseÂ of stems and sometimes in the roots.Â When darkness fallsÂ the starch is turned back into sugar andÂ passesÂ to the leaf tipsÂ where it is consumed by the plantÂ so itÂ can grow.Â From this we learnÂ plants grow at night.
If they're somewhereÂ there'sÂ insufficient lightÂ they become too tall and the flowers are poor. So a good light place is essential in our homes. To keep theÂ foliage well-balancedÂ give theÂ pot a quarter-turnÂ every day.
Water is alsoÂ essential. Plants absorb this through theirÂ roots and to a lesser extent throughÂ foliage.Â Water is passed, together with tiny traces of minerals from the compost, through the plant and escapes as a vapour from the pores on the leaves. ThisÂ keeps the plant cells fresh, just like kidneys do in mammals.
The correct temperature varies from plant to plantÂ but as a general rule, protection from frost is essential. Most indoor plants begin to feel comfortable atÂ 7.2C (45F), but at 12.7C (55F), they are much happier.
We need to get all these conditions coordinated to be successful but itÂ isn't always easy because at night rooms get cold because the heating is off. ThisÂ on its own is not too bad. The trouble comesÂ when plants are over-watered so theyÂ are thenÂ standing in the coldÂ with wet feet. Would you like that? Over-watering is the best way to kill indoor plants.
Now, what about thatÂ cyclamen?Â Â Avoid fluctuating temperatures. It's better to grow it in a cool room with good light,Â not sunshine, and be mean withÂ watering. Feel the top of the compost. IfÂ dryÂ give it a drink for 30 minutes by placing the pot in a saucer containing rain water. In that time the compost will take up all it needs. AllowÂ to drain before puttingÂ back inÂ the living room.
AÂ great favourite is the African violet which canÂ bloomÂ for nineÂ months. IfÂ you'reÂ successfulÂ growing these lovely plants, you'veÂ already got the knack of watering correctly and have foundÂ they enjoy lots of light and thrive withÂ extra light by being underneath a reading light during the evening.
Poinsettias thrive on dry compost. If the leaves begin to go yellow at the base, take them off and reduce watering, giving rain water only. If all the leavesÂ fall, you will still have the lovely bract, but to make it look a little less nude, push some conifer spraysÂ into the compostÂ soÂ the bare stems are covered; it looks wonderful andÂ with a bit of luck no one will noticeÂ you haveÂ over-watered.
THIS WEEK'S TOP TIP
Tar oil winter wash for fruit trees was withdrawn some time ago to be in line with the nanny state. But there are alternatives.
Look out for winter wash for fruit tress in an organic form, Growing Success is a name you may be familiar with. Keydell Nurseries at Horndean has some.