5 deg C/41 deg F

Several species and forms of this genus. frequently wrongly described as ferns. are extremely popular houseplants prized for their dainty and graceful needle-like foliage. However, they are in no way related to true ferns. The trailing

kinds are very useful for hanging-baskets. where they can be mixed with flowers to create a beautiful effect The foliage is excellent for cutting and putting with flower arrangements and table decorations utilizing flowers like carnations and sweet peas. The plants like a position in good light. but not direct sunlight. They can be watered freely in summer, but should be kept only slightly moist in winter. A great favourite is A. densiflorus ‘Spren-geri’ (syn. A. sprengeri), reaching at least 90cm (3ft). It is especially employed in hanging containers. A dwarf cultivar. ‘Compactus’, is more erect and less trailing and better as a pot plant. Very erect and bushy, and only suited to pots, is A. densiflorus ‘Meyeri (syn. A. meyeri). The seeds have recently been introduced by most seed lirms and it is easy to grow from a spring sowing. It is slow growing and it takes about two years for plants to reach a useful size. Both these species may produce red berries after small whitish flowers.

This does, of course, encourage people to forget to give it the attention it requires. However, properly looked after the aspidistra is quite handsome and can rival the beauty of many more modern houseplant introductions, and certainly outlive them. Its bold, broad spear-shaped foliage also looks well in house-planl groups. ‘I’ll, leaves respond well to treatment with a proprietary leaf-shine preparation. They then acquire a brilliant gloss which is retained for a long time.

There is a particularly attractive cultivar. A.e. ‘Variegata’, which has cream to whitish banding or striping on the leaves, but unfortunately this plant is not so resistant to neglect. To develop line foliage, a good potting compost must be given and the plants well watered and fed in summer. A position of slight shade is best. In winter.

have no special decorative merit. A. setaceus (syn. A. plumosus) is rather different in appearance, having much smaller needles and a habit very like the growth shape of the cedar of Lebanon tree. This species also has a cultivar named ‘Compactus that is the best for pots. The original form may be neat and erect in the early stages, but shoots out to give long trailing stems when mature. It is then suitable for baskets and hanging containers. This species may have black berries.

In the dry air of the home, check that red spider mites are not present – they cause yellowing. Scale insects may cause a black, sticky fungus to appear on the stems and needles.

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