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Simon & Schuster's Guide to House Plants is the definitive guide to selecting the right plants for your indoor environment and making them flourish. The introductory chapter explains how plants grow; how and when to feed, repot, and prune them; how to protect them from pests and diseases; the best ways to arrange and support house plants; and how to engage in hydroculture. Each of the 243 entries, illustrated in lush full color, gives the plant's family, place of origin, description, propagation requirements, and complete instructions on temperature, lighting, and watering.

Whether you are a novice or an expert indoor gardener, this indispensable guide is the most authoritative and useful handbook on house plants you can own.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1

HOUSE PLANTS

1 ABUTILON MEGAPOTAMICUM 'Variegatum'

Family Malvaceae.

Origin Brazil.

Description An evergreen shrub of drooping habit with slender stems bearing ovate, pointed, toothed and sometimes lobed leaves 6-10 cm (2-4 in) long. The leaf blade has yellow blotches. The pendulous flowers are bell-shaped and grow singly or in pairs from the leaf axils. Each flower has a red calyx which partially enfolds the yellow corolla, from which dark anthers project; length of flower is 4-5 cm (2 in). The flowering season is from May to October.

Care The species can be grown outside in warm regions. Indoors it needs plenty of bright light, even direct sun for several hours daily, and can be kept at medium temperatures of 18-22°C (64-71°F). Water regularly while growing, letting the surface of the soil dry out before repeating. Reduce amount of water during rest period. Feed with standard liquid fertilizer fortnightly from April to October. Soil made of organic matter, peat and sand in equal proportions. Replace the plants every 2-3 years with new specimens, preferably obtained from cuttings. Prune vigorously in March-April, reducing length of branches by one third.

Propagation The species itself can be propagated from seed or from cuttings; the cultivar 'Variegatum' only from cuttings. Take 10 cm (4 in) tip cuttings from April to June, planting them in mixture of equal parts peat and sand. Wrap in plastic bag and put in cold greenhouse.

Pests and diseases Frequently attacked by scale insects.

2 ACACIA RETINODES

Wirilda

Family Leguminosae.

Origin Australia.

Description Also known as A. floribunda. Shrub or small tree, tree, up to 9 m (30 ft) tall; in natural environment has light green or bluish evergreen leaves, 8-10 cm (3-4 in) long. May grow to height of 120 cm (4 ft) in pot. Small, round, scented yellow flowers, in loose clusters. Flowering continues from spring to October. The fruits are flat pods.

Care Grows well in all soils, even lime soil. Soil must be well drained. Can be used as stock for compound-leaved acacias which are calcifuges. Cultivated outdoors in temperate climates; grown indoors in colder areas. The plant needs plenty of light. Water abundantly in spring-summer, moderately in winter. Feed with liquid fertilizer every two weeks from May to August. The best growing medium is a mixture of 2 parts organic soil, 1 part peat, 1 part coarse sand. Repot annually, in March, using gradually larger pots up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter. Pruning unnecessary, but to keep the plant small, cut back branches after flowering.

Propagation From seed. Sow in April at 16°C (61°F). As soon as seedlings are a few centimeters in height prick out in 8 cm (3 in) pots; repot in 5-10 cm (2-4 in) pots. Can also be propagated from cuttings, taking 5-10 cm (2-4 in) twigs from part of an old branch. Plant in mixtures of peat and sand, in equal parts, in hot-bed at temperature of 16-18°C (61-64°F). Rooting takes several months.

Pests and diseases A fairly resistant plant, not subject to any particular diseases.

3 ACALYPHA HISPIDA

Red-hot cat's tail, chenille plant

Family Euphorbiaceae.

Origin India, Java.

Description Shrub growing to height of 75 cm (30 in), with large, ovate, bright green leaves, hairy underneath, up to 25 cm (10 in) long. The inflorescences are long, drooping spikes, 20-50 cm (8-20 in), bright red, growing from July to October in the leaf axils.

Varieties A. hispida 'Alba' has pinky-white flowers.

Care The plant needs bright light, otherwise it will fail to flower and will grow too tall, but it dislikes direct sun. It does well at high temperatures, never below 16°C (61°F). It cannot stand dry air; place the pot in holder filled with damp gravel and spray the foliage daily in spring-summer until flower buds appear. Water plentifully. Reduce amount of water during winter dormancy. Cultivate in mixture of 1 part organic soil, 1 part peat and 1 part coarse sand. Give liquid fertilizer fortnightly during growth. Very decorative in first year; prune and repot or replace annually in early spring if too big.

Propagation In March-April prune the branches, taking 810 cm (3-4 in) tip cuttings, or detach young lateral shoots with a piece of bark and woody stem, planting them in small pots containing moist soil. Wrap in plastic bags and place in indirect sunlight at a minimum temperature of 21°C (70°F). When cuttings resume growth, roots have developed.

Pests and diseases Scale insects and red spider attack.

4 ADIANTUM CAPILLUS-VENERIS

Southern maidenhair fern, Venus's-hair

Family Polypodiaceae.

Origin Subtropical and temperate zones.

Description Rhizomatous fern of modest size, maximum 30 cm (12 in) tall. Delicate, pale green triangular leaves, with fan-like pinnules on black leaf stalks. Species suitable for growing under glass or indoors.

Varieties Adiantum capillus-veneris 'Mairisii.' There are no other varieties of this species. There are, however, varieties of related species (A. raddianum, A. hispidulum, A. tenerum) which are also commonly known as maidenhair fern.

Care Grows well in warm, humid sheltered spots, even in the open provided the temperature does not fall below 12°C (53°F). Needs bright but filtered light and a very humid atmosphere. Not always easy to grow indoors because of the difficulty of maintaining the right measure of humidity. The roots should always be slightly moist, and must not be allowed to dry out nor be drenched. Water frequently but in moderate amounts, letting the surface of the compost dry between successive waterings. Spray the foliage daily, especially in warm, dry surroundings. Grow in a mixture of 1 part organic soil and 1 part coarse peat. Feed monthly or more often during the growing period with liquid fertilizer.

Propagation In spring divide the clumps, leaving a piece of rhizome attached to each, and pot. Place in the shade and water carefully.

Pests and diseases Subject to animal parasites: root scale insects, leaf miners which cause black spots on the leaves, and soil lice which feed on the roots.

Copyright © 1986 by Arnoldo Mondadori Editore S.p.A.Milan

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