GARDEN TIPS - 12/10/18

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The main thing to remember with indoor plants is that, of course, they didn’t originate indoors. They come from tropical or at least warmer climes than the UK - South America, South Africa and Australasia, for example. They have been cultivated to live indoors, but if you bear in mind their origins, you can see why most like a bit of humidity, light and a little water. The ground in many parts of the world isn’t usually heavy, unlike our own clay-based subsoil, so even with tropical monsoon rains, the water runs through and off that ground fairly quickly. The plants’ roots don’t stand constantly in sodden soil. As a result, having “wet feet” is something most of them hate.

Most indoor plants aren’t actually that difficult to look after, as long as you keep in mind where they come from. We asked our indoor plants specialist, Mark, a few questions. This is what he had to say:

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So Mark, what’s the thing you most often hear customers say, when they’re looking for plants?

“I can’t seem to look after house plants….I kill them!” I worked at New Covent Garden Flower Market for 32 years, starting as an office boy and ending up as Director and Senior Plant Buyer, so I’ve heard that a few times! After a few minutes chatting with them, they have a better understanding and knowledge of the plants they’re looking at, so they can buy with confidence. We choose our range very carefully, with ease of care very much in mind.

Which plants would you say are the most difficult to kill?

Aloe Vera and Aspidistra. They’re pretty much bulletproof!

Can you give us a bit of general care advice for house plants?

Always make sure there is either potting grit at the base of the pot - or put the plastic pot inside your chosen pot. That way, there is always at least some level of drainage available. That’s really important, otherwise the roots can rot.

One single Golden Rule bit of advice?

Always let the plant dry out before you water it again. There are a few exceptions, but 90% of plants prefer this. Stick to this and you won’t go far wrong.

What would your plant suggestions be for the different rooms in a home?

Bathroom: Any Fern, as humidity works well

Lounge/Dining Room: Pilea, Kentia Palm, hanging plants and Dracena

Kitchen: Aloe Vera, Devil’s Ivy and Spider Plants

Hallway: Calathea, Yukka, Monstera (Cheese Plant) and Peace Lily

Succulents and Cacti are really popular at the moment. Have you got any tips on looking after these?

Above all, do not fall into the trap of over-watering. These plants only require water every two weeks.

Finally, if you had to choose, what are your personal favourite indoor plants?

The Peace Lily and the big Whitestar Calathea.

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If you haven't already, this is the time to order or buy your spring bulbs. The general rule is to plant at two and a half times the depth of the height of the bulbs - so bigger bulbs go deeper into the soil, always with the pointed end aiming skywards. They can be planted at the same time, but the order of flowering is broadly:

February: Snowdrops/Crocuses

March: Daffodils

April: Tulips

May: Alliums

Bulbs planted in the lawn can look great, but you won't be able to mow until after the flowers are gone and the leaves yellowed. If you cut the leaves off too early, the bulb won't be able to make the food it needs to store for growing next year. You could leave a swathe of lawn for bulbs and keep the rest of the grass cut, or just choose early varieties like Snowdrops, Crocuses and Daffodils. That way they’ll be long gone before the grass growing season really gets going.


This is traditionally the month to cut back perennials, but we think that leaving the dead stems on until just before next Spring is the way to go. It’s good for wildlife - and might just give the roots that little bit of extra protection. Traditionalists will probably say that the old stems harbour pests and diseases, but as far as we are aware, horticulturally it makes little difference when they're cut back - as long as it's done before the new growth starts again next spring.

This is also still a great time to plant new perennials. They may not look their best in garden centres, having finished (or almost finished) flowering for the year; but that means you can usually get really good deals on them - and planting now, while the soil is still warm, will get them started and well established to really go for it in the new year.


Garlic bulbs and onion sets should be planted now. You can also still get some spinach in the ground, or some Lamb’s Lettuce.

Dig up summer crops like runner beans, root veg (carrots and beetroot) and pumpkins/squashes (you’ll be needing the pumpkins at the end of the month anyway, if you’re a Halloween fan).

Leave vegetables that can be harvested into autumn and winter, - Brussels Sprouts, Cabbages, Cauliflowers etc.

Pick the last of any summer crop fruits like raspberries (prune out spent canes), apples and pears.

Transplant any spring cabbages to their final position.


October is the perfect month for planting trees and shrubs. It gives their roots time to establish before winter sets in. Container grown fruit trees should go in around now for best results next year, although bare-rootstock trees and hedging (grown in the ground then lifted for sale without a pot or soil around the roots) are often not available until November, when they are at their most dormant - the safest time for suppliers to dig them up.

Have a lovely weekend!

The Lancasters Team