ACACIA (wattle)

7 deg C/45°I-

The best known acacia is the mimosa of the florist’s shop. This can be grown from seed to form a pleasing foliage plant useful during its first year. To flower, it needs to be grown in a conservatory or roomy porch and eventually to be given a large pot or small tub. Give plenty of air and light – the plant is hardy outdoors in mild areas and may flower after a kind winter. Seed germinates easily if sown in spring in modest warmth. Mimosa. Acacia alcalbata, is also sometimes called silver wattle and can grow to 30m (100ft) in its native Australia. Lesser known, but a far more suitable pot plant, is A. armata – another Australian shrub, called the kangaroo

thorn. Again, it is almost hardy and likes the same bright, airy conditions. The shrub is prickly and the flowers are similar to mimosa. Established specimens will flower well in April in 20cm (8in) pots. All acacias should be ventilated freely, the year round, and in winter kept only slightly moist. The most likely pest in summer is red spider mite. No special compost is required, but it should be free-draining. Well known as a pot plant is the lovely A. podalyriifolia, the Queensland wattle. This is a valuable foliage plant, with a bonus of flowers. The leaves are covered with a silver-white down, and golden-yellow flowers are borne in winter. It is almost hardy and makes a splendid specimen for a cold conservatory or large porch, or possibly a well-lit entrance hall or a position by a patio door. A. verticulata, prickly Moses, is also worth trying as a pot plant because of its neat habit rarely exceeding about 90cm (3ft) in height when grown in pots. It has sharp, needle-like leaves and pale yellow catkins. When the foliage begins to die down in late autumn, reduce watering until the pots are dry. The containers can then be stored dry in a frost-free place during the winter months. Early the following year, turn out the containers and recover the rhizomes ready for replanting. They should have multiplied considerably. At this stage they should not be allowed to become dry, otherwise they will start to shrivel.

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