Country Gardener

Widely regarded as the authority on gardening in the south west

Indoor glory!

Many gardeners decline the joys of indoor flowering plants which almost seem a pleasure of a bygone era.

There was a time when houses large and small sported a succession of home-grown indoor plants all year round. From the smallest succulent to the mightiest tree fern, gardeners always made time and space for plants that did well in the house.

This is much less likely to be the case nowadays. Many of us appear to have dismissed the idea that it is possible to grow plants for the house easily and well.

There seems to be a belief that specimen houseplants are old hat and difficult to grow.

But if we are bold we can keep plants flowering well each year without too much effort.

Many worry what to do with plants in the off-season and holds many back. This, along with the belief that we need a greenhouse. But in many cases there is no need for this, merely a little space outside in the shade during the season when the plants are not flowering, where they can be kept until the following year. 

Bulbs are a good example. Why not grow a big tub of freesias or tuberoses that come back year after year? Freesias give excellent value because they come back strongly with very little needed in the way of attention. Corms planted in spring will flower in summer and afterwards can remain in their pots for several years before they begin to weaken. All they need are twigs to support the leaves and flowers, a cool frost-free place to spend the winter and a top-dressing of compost before they shoot again in the spring.

Hardy climbing Jasminum officinale is a plant that suits a cool, indoor room well and is possibly the finest of all scented indoor plants. The joy, apart from the magnificent scent, is that it can be pruned to any size.

The key to shaping a jasmine, and to keeping it for a long time, is to cut the flowering stems hard back after flowering. In alternate years, prune the roots back fearlessly by a third and repot with fresh compost.

Both species need a cool winter to set flower buds so, after they have flowered, remove them to a cold room or even outdoors. They are frost hardy but are vulnerable in pots.

Old-fashioned gloxinias (now known as sinningia) are easy to grow and cinerarias make excellent pot plants from a packet of seeds sown in spring. A shallow tub with an arrangement of four or five two-litre pots of these annual daisies makes an excellent display through to autumn.

Flowering houseplants for the new season

Clivias (Clivia miniata) see image above

Guaranteed to flower year-on-year. They tend to perform in autumn and must then be removed to a cool spot in order to set flower buds for the following year. Cut off stem at the base after flowering. Then ease off watering and lower the temperature for winter. Bring back into growth and feed from late spring through the summer.

african violetAfrican violet (Saintpaulia)

Related to gloxinias, too much heat and water will kill them. They flower all year but like a period of dormancy in winter. Give them a cool spot, ease back on the watering and repot plants before bringing back into growth. Avoid watering the leaves.

phalaenopsis orchid plantPhalaenopsis Moth Orchid

Don’t worry if you don’t have a green thumb, ’cause these plants are tough to kill. Low to medium light, warm temperatures and minimal watering will get you months of pretty petals

Aspidistra elatiorAspidistra elatior

If you hark back to the Victorian era when evergreens filled every corner then the aspidistras fit the bill on account of their tolerance of low light and dry conditions. 'Snow Peaks’ is a popular variety with white  dappled leaves.

Aeonium arboreum 'Schwarzkopf'Aeonium arboreum 'Schwarzkopf’

This succulent that you see growing everywhere on the Isles of Scilly functions brilliantly as a houseplant in a gritty compost. Impossible to kill but don’t overwater. Any temperature.

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