Sunday, August 30, 2009

House Plant Migration For September

By Thomas Fryd

The month of September we begin to bring plants back indoors. There may be a long and sultry Indian summer later, but nature generally reminds us to get busy by providing a cold snap in the early days of the month after which she may relent and give us a reprieve of warm weather for a few more weeks. There is really no excuse for unreadiness when winter arrives.

House plants must be taken indoors before greenhouse plants, contrary to a popular notion. The danger is that long before frost damage even threatens, the cool moist weather will cause the plants to grow rapidly and produce soft succulent growth. Brought indoors, with dry heat instead of cold night dews, they soon collapse. They should be brought indoors before windows are closed, if not promptly on Labor Day, not too long thereafter. Thus the hazardous transition is minimized. This is an important secret of old-fashioned green thumb technique.

The usual grooming can be given plants at this time. Surface soil is removed from about the top of the plant without disturbing the roots and replaced with good potting soil. In general repotting or any root disturbance at this time should be avoided since this is an added shock. Spraying and removal of poor or unshapely growth complete the preparation.

Last year's dish gardens may be improved by adding small plants and re-moving those that have grown out of proportion to the container. New pebbles or freshly crushed brick may pep up the appearance of paths. Water once with a soluble fertilizer and select a location receiving the maximum sun indoors. (A sunny location is also needed by most flowering plants and bulbs including geraniums and potted annuals.)

Many garden perennials and choice wild-flower clumps potted now and well cared for in a coldframe may be forced indoors early next year - the familiar flower-show technique.

Foliage plants may show sunburn after a summer outdoors (light yellowing or faded colors) - but new foliage grown in cooler weather should be large and well colored but expect some leaf drop as the acclimation process gets underway.

Cuttings of geraniums and other sun-loving succulents have already been taken by diligent gardeners, but it is not too late to do so. (Yes, garden pelargonium is a "succulent subshrub.")

Potting of freesia, nerine, Lycoris radiata and L. aurea, ornithogalum, lachenalia, veltheimia and chinese hibiscus for early bloom may still be done. These should be placed in a dry sunny coldframe together with last year's pottings. The South African bulbs, ripened and dormant after the summer sunshine and drought, will feel the cooling days and cooler nights by making roots and starting top growth. With a little fresh soil and fertilizer chinese hibiscus will quickly respond to watering and begin to grow.

Show chrysanthemums are head high in the greenhouses of some fanciers. Some are in bud, this depending largely on the balance of light and darkness as well as on the variety grown. Potted chrysanthemums which have spent the summer outdoors may be brought in now for later bloom.

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