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Gardening: Shower power

February 23, 2014


Q. I want to grow plants in my shower room where the only source of light is through glass bricks and ventilation is via the exhaust fan and the opening beside it. Will Peace Lily and ‘Tradescantia’ be okay here? I don’t want the plants to suffer.

A. ‘Spathiphylum wallisii’ as the Peace Lily is botanically known, is a very attractive, spathe forming member of the ‘Araceae’ family of plants, flowering on and off throughout the year. It’s flowers or ‘spathes’ as they are called, are white in colour with a fine green line down the centre and are perfumed as well, but as the entire plant can cause skin irritation, a shower room is definitely not the best place to grow it! Additionally, while this plant thrives in partial shade it does require more direct light than it would obtain in a shower room. Purple leaves ‘Tradescantia’, its velvety silver foliaged relative, and ‘Tradescantia zebrina’ which is purple, green and silver striped should do reasonably well. But, if possible, stand them in some place where they can enjoy a few hours of natural light at least twice a week or simply keep them in rotation.

Q. I like plants but unfortunately have no garden and so I rely on indoor plants. I was searching for plants that purify the air and came across Peace Lily which is very beautiful. One local nursery gave me something which sounds right but it is not as shiny and green as I saw on the internet. Should I go with it or not?

A. Please refer to the question at the top of the column and also remember that, on the internet, colours are often exaggerated to make plants look more attractive than they are in reality.

Q. Can you please suggest a creeper which will grow on the rough tiled wall of my shower room? Perhaps a money plant will do but the light is very low.

A. A money plant, ‘Pothos aurea’, may be okay but will need support. It may be better to forget about creepers as these will, over time, root into and damage the tile cement, plus, they are also the perfect habitat for cockroaches and centipedes. Putting in strong, weight bearing hooks and growing a selection of ferns and ‘Chlorophytum’ — better known as ‘Spider plants’ — could be a more sensible option in this climate where nasty creepy-crawlies abound.

Q. I bought a dozen large dahlia plants and need to know how to save the bulbs, after they finish flowering, for next season.

A. If there is one question I get fed up of answering it is how to save Dahlia tubers and seasonal bulbs: It is not natural for them to be taken out of the ground and put into storage of any kind. When they have finished flowering, simply let them die back naturally and leave them. You can, of course, withhold water while they go into natural hibernation but otherwise please leave them undisturbed and they will come up again if they want to but, do keep in mind, that the tubers will rot if drainage is inadequate.

Q. I sowed seeds of ‘Dioscorea batatas’ in October in Islamabad, some in a pot and some in the ground. I water them twice a week but nothing has come up. What am I doing wrong?

A. You are doing nothing wrong at all — providing they have plenty of natural light. The germination of Chinese yams tends to be sporadic and they should pop up when they feel that temperatures and general climatic conditions are agreeable.

Q. We have a wild rose vine, several feet long, along one wall of our house in Karachi. It looks very healthy but is in its third season and has not flowered yet. It is watered regularly, gets plenty of sunshine and I feed it with a chemical rose food. Please advise on what to do so that it blooms.

A. When you say ‘wild rose’ one presumes that you mean the indigenous wild rose of the northern regions of the country. This is not climatically suitable for Karachi and while yours is growing well, its natural flowering time is May/June which, in Karachi, is far too hot. It will not, even though temperatures may be suitable, switch over to winter flowering in order to please you. Sorry!

If you are referring to a different species then please write to me again, providing full details and I will do my level best to help.

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