The Kind of Plants to Succeed - Ferns for Sitting-rooms - Watering and Cleansing - How to

Get Rid of Insect Pests and Worms

The successful culture of foliage plants in rooms is a subject worthy of every woman's attention. House-plants, it will be remembered, are always grown under more or less unnatural conditions, and require more than usual care if they are to be a source of pleasure in the home. When the conditions of culture present any special difficulty - as, for instance, the case of a sitting-room where there is gas, or a hall which is apt to be draughty - it is certainly better to grow only such plants as will behave kindly, rather than to attempt more choice and delicate subjects. The homely aspidistra is conspicuously good in this way - in fact, it will resist in a wonderful manner an amount of smoke, gas, dust, and draught which would mean death to any less-enduring subject. To preserve the variegation of its foliage, it should be kept in a fairly Light place, potted in soil which has not been made unduly rich. Other hardy foliage plants suitable for rooms are the indiarubber and eucalyptus, and the aralia, or fig-leaf palm. Several of the true palms withstand gas fairly well, notably kentias. Hardy cacti are interesting plants to cultivate; they require a poor soil only, mixed with mortar, and, as regards watering, are often kept with almost no moisture for weeks together.

The Norfolk Island pine

The Norfolk Island pine. Araucaria excelsa, is the best coniferous plant for a room Copyright, F.veitch & Sons

Among subjects which should not be grown where gas is burnt constantly, but which are otherwise delightful, are the umbrellaplant

(Cyperus alterni-folius), the blue gum, and some varieties of dra-coena, or cordy-line If coniferous subjects are wished for, the Norfolk Island pine is the best to grow. Anthericum variegatum and ophiopogon variegatumare are decorativeplantswith narrow leaves. Grevillea robusta is a fern-like plant with fine-cut foliage, and the artillery, or pistol plant resembles a fern also. . This last is an interesting subject to grow near a sunny window in a warm room. It belongs to the nettle family, and when its little flower-buds come in contact with moisture the pollen is discharged in the form of a cloud, hence the name of pistol plant.

Eulalia japonica and another pretty little grass called Isolepis gracilis can also be grown, while in Warm situations asparagus sprengeri will make a beautiful hanging basket.

Ferns For Rooms

Among ferns which are suitable for growing in sitting-rooms, the common hart's tongue should be mentioned, also aspidium, falcatum and the ladder fern. The carrot-top fern is one of the best and prettiest for indoor decoration. If a greenhouse is available, the tiny bulbils which appear on its fronds can be taken off, potted, and used for multiplying the species.

Ribbon ferns (varieties of pteris) are also easily managed. Small specimens of these are pretty for decorating the luncheon -table and save some expense in floral decoration.

To succeed really in the care of room-plants the essential condition lies, of course, in studying their needs, pre-emi-nently in the matter of giving or withholding water. People often inquire thoughtlessly about some plant, "How often shall

I water it?" forgetting that no cut-and-dried answer can possibly be given, as the nature of the plant, the conditions of its growth, effect of season and atmosphere, and many other things must be taken into account, and all but the first of these are constantly changing. when to water

A veteran gardener, being questioned as to how often a plant ought to be watered, responded somewhat darkly, "When it wants it." Yet the answer, though not seemingly helpful at first sight, certainly "gives to think" about the subject in an intelligent fashion.

To ascertain whether a plant is dry, rap the pot sharply with the knuckles, and if it emits a hollow sound water is required. If, however, the sound is heavy and dull, this means that the soil is sufficiently saturated with moisture.

Never water a plant too frequently, but give a good soaking when water is needed, and drain away the superfluous moisture from the saucer or fancy vase in which the earthenware pot stands, as sourness will otherwise result. Foliage plants will benefit greatly by being placed out of doors in gentle rain. Ferns may also be syringed, and large-leaved plants should be sponged with soft-soap and water, rinsing them with clear. In doing this sponge carefully and gently from the base of the leaf outwards. Ungentle handling often results in the splitting of leaves. Cleansing Plants

If leaves are noticed to be brown at the tips, this is probably the result of too little water being given, which robs the cells of moisture, and causes shrivelling of the tissues in consequence. Brown spots on leaves are caused by a disease called the shot-hole fungus. This fungus attacks the tissue of the leaves, which die in consequence, hence the brown spots. The dead tissue falls out in time, leaving holes in the leaves.

Phoenix Roebelinii, a graceful palm that will do well in a room, if not exposed to much gas heat Copyright, Veitch

Phoenix Roebelinii, a graceful palm that will do well in a room, if not exposed to much gas heat Copyright, Veitch

Properly grown and nourished plants should not often be troubled with the disease.

If leaves are seen to turn yellow altogether and fall, either the soil is sour or the roots diseased, or both, and the plant should be turned out and examined. Should a plant be attacked by green-fly or other insect pests, soft-soap and water should be em-ployed or a patent insecticide used.

Worms

Sometimes a worm enters the pot and disturbs the roots of a plant. If the worm cannot be seen by turning the plant out gently - without upsetting the soil - a tea-spoonful of carbonate of ammonia should be mixed in tepid water and the plant be watered with it. The worm will then come up to the surface and can be removed.

A very weak application of some reliable fertiliser may be given once weekly during seasons of active growth. Soot-water is an excellent stimulant for room-plants.

Always loosen the soil, if it is pressed down, before watering or feeding. Plant-pots need cleaning from time to time, to remove deposits of moss and lime and other hindrances to a porous state.

Re-potting

The re-potting of room plants should be done in early spring, because at that season new growth is just about to commence. Of course, if a plant appears sickly, it may be necessary to re-pot it a1 other times, hut winter should be avoided, if possible. Palms and other plants which dislike being shitted. should have the surface -soil occasionally replaced with fresh compost, and also "fed" at regular intervals.

In re-potting, turn the pot carefully over, and tap the rim on the ledge of the improvised potting bench, so as to loosen the plant from its old pot. Shake as much of the old soil away from the roots as is possible without injuring them. If there is a firm ball of soil, it is generally - best not to disturb this.

Have ready some clean pots; place one broken potsherd over the drainage bole, and cover it with smaller pieces, finishing off with fine fragments. When new pots are used, they must be previously soaked and dried.

Now cover the drainage with a wad of fibrous loam or peat. Mix two parts of good loam with one part of leaf-mould and one-twentieth of silver sand. Put some of the compost into the pot, and then place the plant upright inside, spreading the root possible, and Ailing up all round with new soil. Make this fairly,firm with a wooden rammer, and leave a good « leaf run at the top. The soil in any pot under five inches in width will need to be firmed with the fingers only. Some judgment will be required when re-potting as to the size of pot needed for the shift. Plants and ferns may be easily increased by division at the time of re-potting, and will often be benefited byi by doing so. They should either be pulled apart or the ball cut through with a sharp knife.

An important point in starting a collection of pot-plants in rooms lies in remembering that even palms and hardy ferns are liable to be forced for the market, and such subjects will readily take a chill and die when taken into an ordinary temperature. Room-plants should, therefore, be bought at a reliable nursery, and have been properly hardened off before sale.