As the weather finally warms up it’s easy to get carried away and think about sunny days and all the tender exotic plants we grow. So how about creating your own mini jungle indoors or in the greenhouse to give you that exotic feel?
Bromeliads – a family of tender plants including the pineapple from, among other places, South and Central America, are actually really easy to grow. They often have showy leaves and even showier coloured bracts or flowers and appreciate bright light and temperatures above 10C (50F) in winter. Temperatures of around 20C (68F) or so encourage flowers to be produced once rosettes become mature. After flowering the individual rosettes of many species die, but new suckers are produced to create new plants. The bare-root offshoots you can plant up are charmingly called pups.
Gesneriads are a different family of largely tropical plants, from South East Asia among others. In this family are some popular houseplants, including African violets and streptocarpus, as well as primulinas and gloxinia. See below for some superb types of both these families to try now.
You may find some as part of the houseplant section of garden centres, or find plantlets or bare-root plants online to try growing. Amazon and eBay are two handy websites for the rarer specimens, but be sure of what – and where – you’re buying. Dibleys Nurseries (www.dibleys.com) has a superb selection of all sorts of gesneriads to browse.
It's time to create your own little unusual collection!
Ones to try...
Tropical beauties to try indoors
Flaming swords (Vriesia)
Plant in free-draining, fibrous compost. Keep humid by standing in a tray of rainwater. Water into the leaf rosette. Liquid feed ideally with rainwater.
Keep humid and mist twice a week. No compost needed – just attach to a surface with silicone gel or place in a pot and it'll take nutrients from the air.
Hot water plants (Achimenes)
Plant five small tubers in a pot of light, fibrous compost 2.5cm (1in) deep. Water and feed during summer and keep plants warm and moist.
Plant plantlets in a light, fibrous compost for good drainage, and when watering, feed with liquid feed. Keep in 15C (59C) in bright light, but keep shaded from strong light.