Plants for the Conservatory
I am interested in succulents; mainly because they tend to be unusual in the UK and you don't have to organise your life around them; you can go off and leave them for a few weeks and they should not come to too much harm.
Overseas visitors may not know what a conservatory is. Essentially it is a kind of greenhouse (glass house) usually attached to a house and often used as an extra room for living in. Some people call it a garden room, others a solarium.
There is plenty of natural light but the conservatory, because of its nature, can become very warm in summer, or any time the sun is shining, but rather cool and damp in winter, if unheated. The range of temperature in ours is from about 10°C in winter to about 30°C in summer. In a very cold winter the temperature can drop to below freezing but much of the year it is very pleasant indeed.
Over the last ten years or so I have been experimenting to try to find which plants work well in such an environment and below you will see his recommendations with photos. These plants are not for the window sill.
1. Hoya Carnosa. Definitely the best. It needs a large pot and can spread 5 metres across a sunny wall. Very easy to grow and propagate with no enemies apart from greenfly when the foliage is tender. If you want to kill it simply overwater it to rot the roots. It will not stand frost unless the roots are dry. The plant bears a mass of spectacular flowers in globular clusters of small, five-pointed pink flowers. They drip nectar and fill the house with a sweet odour on a warm evening.
2. Aloe Arborescens. If you strip off the side shoots as they appear the plant assumes a tree-like form growing to almost 3 metres in height and weighing a ton. In November, it bears huge flowers, each on its own spike, which produce thousands of viable little black seeds. If you leave the side shoots on a lower bush is formed which is not so interesting.
3. Epiphyllum Anguliger. A rain forest succulent with huge, though short-lived, creamy flowers formed in May. The flowers have an amazing, pervasive scent, to attract moths in the wild, which has to be experienced on a warm summer's night.
4. Palms. generally do not do that well especially date palms (Phoenix) probably because they require a much larger root run than can be given them. However the cycads do well.
5. Hippeastrum. Everyone knows this although it is still referred to as the Amyrillis. Bulbs, usually acquired at Christmas, will grow and flower from one year to the next. Some will also set seed and many produce bulblets. All you have to remember is to feed and water them sparingly when leaves are present and to cease when the leaves die back.
6. Crassula Ovata. If allowed to grow large it can become impressive indeed.
7. Strelitzia Regina. A gem of a plant which does very well. It grows to about shoulder height and when it flowers it is stunning.
8. Musa. Edible bananas do not do very well because of the cold and the damp of the winter. However, Musa Basjoo, which can stand a little frost, does rather well. It can grow tall however. More details, here.
9. Bougainvillea. Given a trellis this freely flowering, thorny climber is spectacular all through the summer. Beware, it is prone to greenfly.
10. Cassia Corymbosa. A plant which grows to about 2 metres. Hailing from Argentina, it has glorious, bright yellow flowers about 2 cm across. Able to withstand drought, it does not like being overwatered.