Winter’s blooms


Amarjeet Singh Batth

Pots and hanging baskets are integral to the landscape of a garden. Potted plants extend the garden indoors, where it doesn’t just offer a green relief but also mentally elevates while purifying the air. When placed outdoors, these add colour to the surroundings and brighten up dull spots. Here are some plants that are ideal for pots and hanging baskets:

Cyclamen

These demand cool weather and bloom during winter. A rich potting mixture and moderate watering help the plant flourish. Sprinkling water on the stems and leaves can cause them to rot. As the climate gets warm, the plant enters dormancy, the leaves turn yellow, flowers fade and growth stops. If maintained well by reduced irrigation, removal of dead foliage and kept at a cool and dark place, it survives for years. Before winter, bring it out of storage, start watering and leaves will gradually appear, followed by bloom.

Ideal for pots, primula comes in varied colours.

Geranium

In colours of pink, blue, white, and purple, this plant is admired in pots and flowerbeds. It remains in bloom till late April. All it requires is a rich, moist, well-drained potted mixture and about five to six hours of good sunlight. A light, fortnightly, application of urea dissolved in the ratio of one tablespoon in 20 litres of water, is to be given throughout the blooming season. Flowering reduces as weather gets hot.

Primula

With varied colours of purple, yellow, red, pink, blue and white, it is ideal for pots. A low-growing plant with shallow roots, it is grown via seeds. Ready-to-plant seedlings can also be purchased; these bloom in spring. The plants need rich and well-drained soil and prefer a bit of shade. Good drainage makes it survive root rot and prevents from fungal infections. Pinching off spent flowers and pruning of dead leaves keep the plant in good and elegant form. Be careful of aphids or mites.

Cherry tomatoes in a basket

Chlorophytum comosum with pilea

The duo makes a beautiful combination with chlorophytum (spider plant) sprawling upwards and pilea drooping. A rich basket mixture — with high humidity and frequent misting, especially during summers — promotes growth. Harsh sun can burn the leaves so place it in a bright spot with filtered sunlight. Chlorophytum is a fast-growing plant and can be easily multiplied from its sprouts. The growth is retarded in winter. Protect from cold by moving it undercover.

Asparagus densiflorus

Asparagus fluffy foliage trailing downwards in a natural flow is pure elegance. Intense direct sunlight turns its leaves yellow and complete shade makes these light green. For optimum foliage richness, place at a point that receives morning-evening sunlight and indirect or filtered light in the day. Periodic trimming is desirable for good shape and form. In winter, repot and recharge with fresh potting mixture and prune the roots.

Fern Boston

These embellish a basket with their shape and colour. These can be planted in soil or pots, but bloom best in a basket. Indirect sunlight and a cool moist place with high humidity, but no water logging, is the right place to grow these. Maintain with frequent misting, removal of dried fronds and light fertiliser. Recharge and resize the basket once a year in winter.

Callisia repens

Callisia is an evergreen greyish green ornamental perennial creeper which when planted in a basket trails long, making its appearance conspicuous. It tolerates full sunlight and needs rich but well-drained soil. In winter, water sparingly, only when the top layer of the soil becomes dry. Pinching promotes dense foliage and it can be multiplied through root cuttings.

Also ideal for growing in winter are epipremnum aureum (golden pothos), hedera helix (ivy), portulacaria afra, tradescantia zebrina, ipomea blackiana and syngonium podo-phyllum (arrow head vines).


Readying the baskets

  • Line an open basket with sphagnum moss or coconut fibre cast with supporting wires or chains.
  • Fill it with a mixture of coco peat, well-rotten manure or vermi compost and sand in equal ratio. Slow-releasing fertilisers, with half a kg of DAP and ‘murate of potash’ at the rate of 250 gm per cubic metre of basket mixture, are to be added, along with water-retaining granules and wood or coconut shaving.
  • Do not hang the plants immediately; care in the nursery area till it is fully established. Regular irrigation and sprinkling water is beneficial. Pull down for maintenance and rotate the basket for uniform growth.
  • Baskets give continuity to the garden and add more plants without using ground space. They look fascinating when foliage and flowers engulf the basket frame.
  • Trailing varieties such as geranium, nasturtium, petunia, sweet alyssum, verbena hybrid and lantana sellowiana are ideal for baskets. You could also grow fruits like cherry tomatoes and strawberries.

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