Pot look winners

Many people are proud of their houseplants '“ particularly ones that have stood the test of time or have been handed down through the generations.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS: Schlumbergera brings a splash of colour to winter.

Many should have been on the compost years ago, but others have matured well and deserve to be pride of place on the windowsill.

Forty or 50 may not seem old in human years, but when it applies to a Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) then it merits a special note – because of its longevity and because it has an owner willing to take time to keep it happy, healthy plant.

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That means allowing the specimen to spend the summer in a shaded part of the patio where it can recoup after months of growing and flowering. Stand the cactus, in its container, out of direct sunshine, and feed it sparingly with an occasional dose of liquid plant fertiliser.

Take it back inside the house early in October when it should be looking lush, green and plump, ready to provide a mid-winter firework display just in time to celebrate Christmas.

It’s worth remembering that once positioned indoors, it pays to not move the plant or twist it round because this can encourage the buds to drop before flowering. And while we are talking about pot plants, it’s a good time to pot up hippeastrum (Amaryllis) bulbs in a pot just slightly larger than the bulb itself, ready for early spring blooming.

It’s always best to use a good potting compost such as Miracle-Gro Moisture Control that will feed steadily for up to six months. Although the bulb already contains a miniature flower stem for this winter’s display, this long-term feeding will help the bulb regenerate that flower during the summer months.

And while we’re on about winter colour, many garden centres are now displaying hyacinth bulbs grown in individual plastic plant.

To make three of these into a beautiful Christmas gift, select a decorative bowl and repot them together using any compost you have left over. Store them in a cool, but well-lit spot until present-giving time.

And when the bulbs have finished blooming, you can either pop them into the compost bin or plant them out in the garden; they may flower again, but if not, you haven’t really lost anything.