Gardening: Chrysanthemums, dahlias and hoyas

DAZZLING: Potted chrysanthemums in flower make a striking gift.
DAZZLING: Potted chrysanthemums in flower make a striking gift.

Potted chrysanthemums are one of the most popular gifts for Mother’s Day. The plants will last indoors for several weeks if they are only watered when the soil becomes dry. They should be placed into a well-lit position.

Once flowering has ceased, the plants can either be discarded, or planted into the garden. Stems should be cut back to about 15cm in height. A sunny, well-drained position should be selected. An application of a liquid fertiliser every four to six weeks will assist the plant in maintaining strong growth.

Plants that have been specially grown in pots will have been treated with chemicals to maintain a dwarf plant structure. However, once the plants have been placed into garden soil they will eventually return to a normal plant size.

During the summer, tip pruning of stems will help to produce a more compact plant.

Plants that have become overcrowded can be divided into smaller plants, each with its own separate root system.

In addition to potted chrysanthemum plants being given as Mother’s Day gifts, bunches of chrysanthemums are also very traditional gifts. These flowers will last for 2 -3 weeks if several actions have been taken.

Leaves that will be below the water level in the vase should be removed so that they do not decompose in the water.

When the stems are first planted into the vase, the bottom centimetre of each stem should be trimmed off under the water. This will prevent the formation of air bubbles that would prevent the plant tissue absorbingwater through the ends of the stem.

Some people like to add a small amount of bleach to the water in order to prevent the formation of moulds, while others add a chemical sometimes supplied with the cut flowers. Replacing the water in the vase every several days and rinsing the stems well at the same time will also help to prolong the life of the flowers.

HOYAS

Hoyas, or waxflowers, are often thought of as being rather exotic, and, therefore, difficult to grow sufficiently well to be able to produce their very attractive flowers.

Hoyas produce fleshy foliage on long stems that climb through their local environment, without becoming invasive.

The foliage is mainly produced in shades of green, although variegated forms, with pale or darker yellow patches, are available. Interesting foliage shapes add an extra dimension to many varieties and can range from traditional, blade-shaped leaves, through to very elongated forms. Some varieties form heart-shaped leaves.

Foliage can vary from quite miniature in size through to leaves several centimetres in length.

The flowers, which are slightly fragrant, come in shades of white, cream or pale and deeper pinks and often have a covering resembling sugar frosting. Most varieties flower in clusters of star-shaped blooms, with up to 40 individual blooms present.

Hoyas repeat flower from the original flower stem, so this should not be removed when the flower has died.

Plants generally prefer moderate warmth and some humidity, although plants can grow very successfully in colder climates, provided they are protected during winter.

In more temperate areas, hoyas prefer an area with indirect light or dappled shade. Because of their climbing nature, a support for their tendrils is an advantage.

They adapt very well to hanging basket culture, or their pot can simply be suspended from the branch of a tree, shrub or the frame of a shade construction.

Hoyas prefer to become somewhat root-bound, that is, they do not necessarily require repotting when the plant has filled its pot.

An occasional spray with water, with the excess being allowed to flow through the pot, is sufficient.

Ideally, hoyas should be purchased when in flower, as the buyer can then select the flower type and colour that appeals. Hoya australis is native to Australia.

Hoyas are quite easy to propagate, using two main methods. Sections of the plant can be layered, placing a stem across a pot of soil with the stem pressed into the soil.

When roots have formed, the stem can be cut from the main plant. The second method involves the taking of cuttings from a parent plant. The cuttings will generally grow quite well, if placed into a pot of loose, friable loam.

In general, hoyas are disease-free, although mealy-bug can sometimes be present in thicker, curled leaves. These will appear as small, sticky, white clusters. Spraying with white oil or dabbing the area with a cotton bud dipped in methylated spirits will control this problem. The stems produce a white, sticky sap, which may be an irritant to some people.

DAHLIAS

As dahlias finish their flowering season and begin to die down, the stems should be cut off near to the ground.

Dahlias grow from tubers, which look a little like a long variety of sweet potato. The tubers should be removed from the ground and most of the soil brushed away. They should then be placed in a dry place for storage until planting time next spring.

Placing the tubers in a cardboard box or suspending them in a mesh bag, such as those used for selling onions, is ideal. If different varieties are grown the tubers should be labelled with the name or flower colour as they will look identical when removed from the soil.

TIME TO ACT: Act now and you'll have lovely dahlias again next season.

TIME TO ACT: Act now and you'll have lovely dahlias again next season.

This story A pot of colour for Mum first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.