CATHARANTHUS ROSEUS (syn. Vinca rosea)

window-sill conditions. A temperature of about 1 S deg C (65 deg F) is needed for germination. If the seedlings are potted into 13cm (5 in.) pots, neat and bushy plants giving a profusion of typical periwinkle flowers can be obtained by summer, and they will continue well into winter if the recommended minimum temperature is maintained. The foliage is glossy and dark green, and the flowers may be pink, carmine or white, usually with a contrasting eye.

Young plants are sold from late spring to early summer. Provided the minimum winter temperature is maintained, the plants are evergreen and can be saved. In spring, they can be pruned back to keep them neat.

A recently introduced new strain is ‘Little Gem’. This has a variety of flower colours and is exceptionally vigorous. It grows to 30cm (1ft) in height. This species likes moderate humidity, moist conditions, and slight shade in summer. It grows especially well in peat-based potting composts.

Plants with particularly good flower colours can be propagated from cuttings taken in spring. Chill, neglect in watering. and an excessively dry atmosphere. may cause leaves to turn brown at the edges or curl. Troubles from pests or diseases are very rare indeed, and the plant should present k\< problems.


CEPHALOCEREUS SENILIS (old man cactus) 7 deg C/45 deg F There is some difference of opinion about the ease with which this very unusual-looking cactus can be grown. In some homes it will flourish and in others it tends to deteriorate. It is certainly unlikely to flower well in room conditions. If at all. but the dense covering of long. whitish, silky hairs means that it is always attractive.

Specimens thai have reached a fair height are striking. In their native habitat of Mexico they can reach a very great height, but in the home they are slow-growing. This species does need rather more warmth than most house-plant cacti, and the minimum temperature that is recommended should be maintained.

It prefers a slightly alkaline compost. and some powdered chalk or limestone can be incorporated. Centrally-heated homes usually give good growing conditions. provided rooms are airy and a bright position is selected for the plants. In winter, water very sparingly and at no lime allow moisture to fall on the silky hairs. Repotting or potting-on should bedonein spring, when theplants are growing strongly. A problem with this plant is that the hairs may trap dust and this is extremely difficult to remove. It should not be positioned in rooms such as bedrooms where the air tends to become contaminated with fibres. Some people can successfully obtain excellent plants from window-sill sowings of the seed in spring. Plants started in the environment in which they are to remain often do better than bought specimens that have to undergo a drastic change.

CEROPEGIA WOODH 10 deg C/50 deg F

A number of descriptive common names have been inspired by the charming appearance of this delightful succulent. For example, string of hearts, heart vine. and rosary vine suggest the shape and the way the leaves are spaced on the stems. It is also called Chinese lantern plant because of the form of the small but quaint flowers.

The dainty leaves are heart-shaped and unusually well spaced on the thread-like stems. They are prettily marbled with silvery markings and purplish below, and the small pitcher-shaped flowers are reddish-brown. This species is nearly always grown as a trailer in hanging

pots or baskets, but it can also be grown trained up a plastic trellis of the type now sold for insertion into flower pots. The plant forms a large tuber, and the stems often form tiny tubers at their ends. These can be detached and planted for propagation if a segment of stem is removed with them. This species will be happy with less light than most succulents. but too much continuous gloom should be avoided.

The compost must be well drained and the pots need free drainage. In winter, watering must be cautious, as the tubers are liable to rot. In summer, water can be given freely, but constantly saturated compost must not be allowed. The plant is a native of Natal, and the recommended minimum temperature should be observed.

Troubles are rare. Yellowing of the leaves may indicate rotting of the tuber due to overwatering or low temperatures maintained for too long. In such cases, there is little hope of recovery.

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