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Sunday, November 3, 2002
Garden Life

Prepare your plants to face winter
Satish Narula

The fittonia is a warm weather plant that needs protection from the cold
The fittonia is a warm weather plant that needs protection from the cold

INDOOR plants are a pampered lot and temperamental too. One thing that most of them hate is the cold. Exposure to a cold draught of air immediately tells upon most of them. And any exposure to frost could be detrimental for most of them. It is thus best to take preventive measures as the cold weather is round the corner.

Such spaces and corners are few inside a house where one can get the benefit of the early morning sun and accommodate a large number of plants to protect them from the weather. The portico, the porch, the shaded verandah and the south-facing wall are other places where they can be kept in winter.

At times, not knowing about the conditions conducive to a plant we try to protect some unduly while those deserving more care are pushed outside into the cold. It is, therefore, necessary to first segregate those plants that are more prone to damage from old. First of all, keep on one side the temperate plants if you have any. They will not need much care. There is no need to provide them the luxury of indoor warmth. Plants that come in this category are fuchsia, hederas, geraniums, begonias, orchids, fern etc.

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Crotons are one of the most common indoor plants that cry for warmth and need the winter protection the most. Any exposure to chilly air would mean loss of the colourful foliage for which the plant is prized. Throughout winter the plant thus remains without foliage.

When planted in soil, the plants have less chances of injury from cold provided they have good supply of water. One of the best places to plant them, therefore, is under a tree. There they have good growth and colouring without getting damaged by the low temperatures.

It is a must for a gardener to get introduced to new species and fittonia is one such plant (see the accompanying picture). The plant is an excellent trailing type and hardly takes any height. It is essentially a warm weather plant and needs protection from winter. This plant thrives well in deep shade too and does not complete with other plants for sunshine. For innstannce, the aspidistra can be kept in deep shade even in winter.

The maranta, aglaonema, anthurium, etc, are the ones that need the maximum protection. Begonias need warmth but at the same time the tuberous begonias rather enjoy the cold spell. The asparagus, the needle beauty, needs partial rest and therefore need not be given much water.

The caladium has its own protective mechanism. its colourful foliage just disappears in winter and nothing remains above ground level. That is the time when the tubers are extracted from the soil and kept at some warm place. Some gardeners do not even do that and let them remain underground for winter. When spring comes, such tubers resprout to give spectacular display of colour.

The chlorophytum is one of the hardiest species that does not worry the gardener during winter. Coleus, on the other hand, is unable to withstand even a brief cold spell. Dieffenbachias also donít like cold conditions and should be protected. Cordilines can live in the cold and so do the dracaenas. Some of the alocasia species also go dormant in winter and disappear to reappear during spring. Pilea or the aluminum plant is another hardy plant that can even root in winter. The young schefflera plants need protection though the old ones can be kept out in the open.

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