Conservatory Plants by Wilf Simcox

Early conservatories were constructed with three different growing areas for varying plant types and the relevant growing conditions. This may not be practical on the same scale with modern smaller structures but separate areas can be set up. These could consist of spaces for bulb growing, small pot plants such as Hostas and larger pot plants such as Forsythia or various climbing plants.

Plants can be moved in and out of the conservatory as the seasons change with many plants happy to spend the summer outside. If moving plants inside always check for pests and spray outside if necessary. Always put pots in trays to protect the floor beneath the pots and use good potting compost for any plants being kept in pots long term. Repot plants in spring and start to feed with a weak feed in March followed by weekly watering and feeding. Try a variety of plants to see what looks best but remember that modern conservatories have glass which blocks much ultraviolet light. This means that shade loving plants will thrive in the conservatory but not in the greenhouse. It also means that some flowering plants cannot be kept at the best with pelargoniums getting leggy and fuchsias failing to repeat flowering.

Bougainvilleas do well in conservatories and can get very big. They should be allowed to dry out from October and can then be stored in a shed ready to start off again the following spring. Hibiscus do well but need plenty of feeding and do attract greenfly. Asplenium can be grown in hanging baskets to use up space. Veltheimia bulbs from South Africa can be grown and will flower in winter. They are part of the Hyacinth family but look like red hot pokers. Many other bulbs are suitable for growing indoors but when growing Amaryllis water very sparingly as that will keep the stem short and able to support the flowers independently. Orchids also do well with Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchids long flowering, Cymbidiums flower for a couple of months while Dendrobiums are long flowering. The Vanda Orchid has large flowers in a variety of colours including blue. Clivias also do well in conservatories but beware of Mealy Bug. Other plants that do well are Cyclamen, Begonias, Alliums, Streptocarpus, Polyanthus, African Violets and Gerberas. Cape Cowslips look good when grown 7 or 8 in a pot. Cacti and Succulents will put on a good display in winter and many will flower during spring and summer. Climbing plants that do well are the Blue or Butterfly Pea, Plumbago and Alamanda. Camellias and Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise plant will do well but can get really big. Datura or Angel’s Trumpets do well and can be grown from seed. Citrus plants, lemons and limes can go outside in summer and be brought inside for winter. They take 12 months to provide fruit after flowering.