February can often be the coldest month and so planting of trees and shrubs may be held up until mid-March.
There are an increasing number of flowering plants to see, along with Acacia dealbata there is Prunus cerasifera – the first of the ornamental cherry trees to bloom; plus seasonal bulbs – crocus, dwarf narcissi and snowdrops slowly emerging into flower (delayed by recent low temperatures).
As little work can be done in the garden this is a good time to focus on indoor plants. There are so many different types to choose from, mainly foliage ones (which do sometimes produce flowers) but there are a few specific flowering houseplants.
The Phalaenopsis (moth orchid) is a very popular indoor plant and fairly easy to grow. It doesn’t mind central heating and stays in flower for months. The flowers come in an array of colours – shades of pink, mottled shades of yellow and also pure white. This orchid needs good light levels in winter but requires shading from direct summer sun. It does not like draughts or fluctuating temperatures. Re-pot in specialist (orchid) compost each year, water sparingly in winter and increase to once a week in the summer months.
The Umbrella tree (Schefflera arboricola) is an easy to grow houseplant often reaching six to eight feet. It needs moderate watering from spring to autumn and every six weeks in winter (depending on the temperature it is kept in). The umbrella tree likes bright light but will also tolerate some shade. It is a lovely plant with glossy leaflets radiating from a central stem like the spokes of an umbrella, hence its common name.
Chlorophytum comosum or the Spider Plant can seem to be a bit ordinary but has hidden talents! With its narrow variegated leaves, arched stems which produce little plantlets and tiny star shaped flowers, this plant helps counteract the effects of indoor pollution. Although it requires lots of Spider Plants to control pollution they quickly produce many plantlets (which root easily).
Remember, houseplants rely on us to provide all their needs – water, food, light and temperature levels. Too little water and they will not thrive; too much water and the stems and roots are likely to rot, and this is the main reason most indoor plants die. During the winter months houseplants do not require feeding, watering should be very sparing. Check regularly for pests and diseases – tell tale signs are sticky, nibbled or curled leaves. One of the most serious pests is vine weevil, their larvae live in and feed on the root system and then hatch out as beetles about 6 mm long. They ‘stroll’ around walls or ceilings waiving their antennae – this is the first sign that these weevils are present. If houseplants look sickly with poor growth and have pale leaves, or if the plants suddenly collapses – vine weevils could be the culprit!