Flowering plants for summer

Pelargonium There is often confusion about which plants are Geraniums and which are Pelargoniums. The basic differences are that most Geraniums are garden perennials (not pot-plants) and they produce a seed pod which looks like a crane’s bill (hence their common name). Pelargoniums are pot-plants which differ in form, leaf and flower. Generally the latter grow 2-3 feet high but some can be trained quite well up. A trellis. The leaves may be green and oval-shaped or ivylike with serrated edges, but frequently they are more rounded and plain green or variegated with yellow, white, brown or orange margins or circles.

The flowers are borne in trusses and may simply consist of five petals opening out horizontally or in a double layer, while others are almost trumpet-shaped or consist of a mass of petals with serrated edges or quill shapes. Basically Pelargoniums are divided into three groups: the Species, which have small flowers and green scented leaves: the Regals with larger flowers and mainly green leaves; and the Zonals which have variagated leaves and the largest range of flower forms. Pelargoniums flower freely throughout the summer in shades of white, pink, orange, red, purple or mixed colours. They like plenty of sun, water and fertiliser when in flower, a moderate temperature, and almost dry conditions in winter. Dead flower heads should be removed. To encourage flowering the following year, cut back the stems in winter. These are ideal plants for pots, tubs, and hanging baskets (some varieties trail), but the selection of plant type is a matter of personal choice, with such a large range of varieties and species from which to choose.

Beloperone. The most commonly grown is B.guttata, the Shrimp Plant, which grows 2-3 feet high and produces reddish, leaflike bracts which enclose the white flowers and remain for a long period, looking like decorative shrimps. This bushy plant with arching flower stems likes plenty of light (out of direct sunlight), water in summer and warm conditions in winter. Aphelandra. Evergreen plant, 2-3 feet tall, which requires warmth, light but not draughts, ample water and a moist atmosphere in summer, and feeding when the flower buds form in late spring. The best known is A. squarrosa louisae, which produces yellow spikes of blooms and has large leaves marked strikingly along the midrib and veins an ivory-white colour. The red flowered varieties are rarely seen and more difficult to grow. Always remove dead flowers and cut the stems back to 2 inches at the end of winter to encourage new growth.

Fuchsia. Sometimes called Lady’s Ear-drops because of their complex, colourful hanging flowers borne from late spring through the summer months. The flowers are sometimes of one colour but usually of two or more – generally in shades of white, pink, yellow, red, purple and violet and often brilliant in their intensity. The pot plants can be purchased in various forms – small bush trained, trailing (cascade varieties), standards (a single stem grows 3 feet high before the side shoots are allowed to form a bushy head), and fan-trained up strings or canes. The foliage is usually a lovely green with the veins and leaf stems coloured red. There are a mass of varieties and species to choose from, and selection is essentially a personal matter. Fuchias are easy to grow, requiring warmth, light, and plenty of food and water when in flower and a cool airy room and virtually dry soil in the winter. Remove dead heads and keep the plant to the required shape by pruning and pinching out shoots in spring.

Celosia (Cockscomb). The common name is derived from the feathery plumes of vibrant yellow, red, orange or pink flowers which rise above the leaves of green or russet-brown. These annuals (throw away after flowering) grow 1-3 feet high and are very decorative room plants. Strains usually grown are C. argentea, C. plumosa, C. cristata. Campanula. This genus consists mainly of outdoor plants but the charming C. pyramidalis (Bellflower) growing 4-5 feet with lovely tubular white or lavender flowers, and C. isophylla and its varieties, with its trailing cascades of open white or pale blue blooms, are two delightful plants for the home, especially if the latter is in a hanging basket. Cool conditions, good light, regular summer watering, removal of dead flower heads and cutting back after blooming should keep this plant happy and floriferous.

Spathiphyllum. An unusual plant re-sembling an Anthurium or Arum Lily. Its green, leaflike flower has a green-white seedy ‘tail’ projection rising from among glossy green leaves. S. wallisii (6-12 inches) is the variety grown most often but it is not an easy plant and needs shade, frequent feeding, regular re-potting and a minimum temperature of 65 °F (18 °C) in winter. In the right conditions it should flower twice a year.

Bougainvillea. Not often seen as a house plant, but if space allows for it to ramble up supports in a large room with a light airy position, it is a superb feature. Its flowers are insignificant but the brilliantly coloured pink bracts last all through the summer on B. glabra (5-8 feet) and B. sanderiana. It requires a minimum temperature of 55 °F (13°C), plenty of water arid feeding from spring to late autumn. Do not feed it after that until you cut back the previous year’s growth to within 1 inch of its base in early spring.

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