Colourful, festive house plants to brighten up the home

One of the many festive poinsettias (S)
One of the many festive poinsettias (S)

Tips on getting the best from your poinsettia this Christmas and how to store begonia tubers for a colourful display next summer this week with Martin Fish - Show director, Harrogate Flower Shows.

With just a couple of weeks to go before Christmas, colourful houseplants are popping up all over the place. Of all the plants offered for sale at Christmas time I think the red poinsettia is the most festive looking of them all.

Grown for its attractive coloured bracts, the poinsettia originates from Mexico where it grows as a shrub reaching a height of 3m (10ft)or more.

owever, the varieties we grow in our houses are much more compact and nowadays are available in a range of different colours.

As well as red you can get them with cream or pink bracts and some varieties also have an attractive marbling effect.

Poinsettia can be a little temperamental and to succeed they need warm conditions, away from cold draughts.

What they do not like at all is cold and fluctuations in temperature and unfortunately this is where things often start to go wrong.

When buying your plant, never buy one from a market stall, garage forecourt or in the draughty doorway of a shop.

The plants might be a little cheaper, but the exposure to the cold will usually result in the plant dropping all its leaves a couple of days after you get it home.

A garden centre, nursery or somewhere where the plants are in a warm, bright environment is best.

Always make sure the plant is wrapped up to protect it on its journey home and from then on keep the plant in a light, warm place out of the cold.

Keep the compost moist at all times and all should be fine. Once settled in the house the plant will grow without too many problems.

I know of several people that manage to keep the plant growing and looking good for several months after Christmas.

Readers’ Questions

Tom has emailed to say that when emptying his summer hanging baskets, the begonias had formed tubers and he would like to know if they can be kept for next year?

The simple answer is yes, you can keep the begonia tubers and start them into growth again next spring.

There are various types of begonias, some produce a fibrous root system and others produce tubers.

As these will be young plants the tubers may be fairly small, but after a few years they will increase in size and produce really large plants.

To store the tubers remove any dead stems and foliage and keep them in paper bags in a dry, frost-free place such as a garage or cellar.

In early March the tubers can be potted in to small pots of multipurpose compost and started into growth on a window sill or frost-free greenhouse and when they have made strong new growth they can be planted into containers or hanging baskets ready to go outside after the danger of frost has passed in late spring.

Jobs for the week

Cyclamen make ideal pot plants for growing in cool rooms and conservatories over the winter months.

Protect winter greens by covering them over with netting if pigeons are a problem in your garden or allotment.

Check apples being stored.