Before placing newly-bought houseplants in the living room, give them a transitional period in a moderately warm environment; this helps them to adjust more successfully to their place in your home. When frost is about, it is wise to protect your plants at night by placing some newspapers between them and the icy window. If the room is heated with an open fire or stove, they can, of course, be removed from the windowsill. This is not necessary with central heating, if the radiator is situated under the windowsill.
The Azalea that has been brought into a warm living room from an unheated location in order to bring it into flower now needs to be sprayed regularly over the crown to prevent the developing buds from drying out. Spraying should be stopped once the buds turn color. The plant should be immersed in a tepid bath once a week to ensure soil moisture.
The winter-flowering, small-flowered Begonia requires a light, sunlit location close to a window. Water freely and feed weekly, preferably with a lime-free liquid fertilizer. The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) likes a daily spray with tepid water, a warm room and plenty of light and moist air. This way it will flourish at its best.
When the flower-like bracts have fallen, cut back the stem 6-7 cm above soil level, and staunch the wound with a little white sand, cigarette ash or powdered charcoal, then place the plants in a quiet spot in the room. The newest, more compact strains frequently retain their ‘star’ bracts and leaves for several months, so cutting back can be happily postponed. Water freely during the growing season to prevent the soil-ball drying out.
The Camellia should never be sprayed once the buds have opened, since this makes the flowers sensitive to infection and rot. This plant flourishes best in front of north-or northeast-facing window. Do not move or turn the pot, otherwise the buds will drop off. To bring the Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) into growth and flower, the tuber should be planted, if this has not already been done in December, up to a third of its depth in lightly pressed compost.
Place in a warm position above the radiator or on top of the mantelpiece, and only water the soil around the rim of the pot very sparingly for the first two weeks. With crocuses, first check whether the color of the buds is visible through the thin membrane. They are then ready to be moved to a warmer location, water freely but make sure that the pot drains well, as to much water may cause root-rot.
Berry-bearing shrubs prefer a cool room with plenty of light and moist atmosphere. Water generously and give the entire plant a good spraying one a week. Foliage plants should be sponged with tepid water every week; ferns and other fine-leafed plants are sprayed.
This care not only prevents dust settling but also guards against pest attack. The Christmas Cactus can bloom beautifully at this period, but on no account should it be moved about or turned. Once flowering has ceased, the old blooms can be removed; the plants should not be fed, and only watered very sparingly during this rest period.
Winter-flowering succulents, including Crassula portulacea, Crassula lactea, Echeveria carnicolor, should receive more water and warmth during the budding and flowering period than at other times. Geraniums, Fuchsias, and the Bell-flower (Campanula isophylla) prefer to spend the winter in a virtually unheated room. It is best no to water them during freezing weather.
Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans