Some like it hot!

Hot chilli peppers
Hot chilli peppers

An acquaintance was commenting on the need for a seasonal article on potted plants for those without a garden. I agreed!

Apart from the established indoor plant collection, our greenhouse and other outdoor hard-standing areas are swamped with various containers when the growing season arrives.

On the patios, there are several with an array of summer bedding plants.

At present, their maintenance amounts to daily dead-heading and watering, with a feed at weekly intervals to keep the show on the road.

There are several large pots containing fragrant liliums, some stand near the house, others in borders to fill colour gaps.

Add to this, several standard ‘lollipop’ conifers and two tall bay trees in containers, all of which need regular food and water.

Under glass, you will find a vigorous tomato crop, the main feeding roots growing in large bottomless pots filled with compost, water-absorbing roots penetrating the substrate.

This is the equivalent of a belt and braces approach to overcome root diseases.

But the most exciting crop this year is a group comprised of six chilli peppers in large pots. Padron, Chivalry, Tabasco, Habanero Jamaica Yellow and Bhut Jolokia are all coming into production.

The only downside is that the lady of the house has insisted in recent years that the grower must taste them.

After a steady build-up, this time I’ve included one of the world’s hottest, Bhut Jolokia, which scores over one million on the Scoville Scale. The ice cubes are on standby!

With so much happening in the garden at present, we can easily overlook plants much closer to home – those on the window sills and in the conservatory.

Their needs are arguably greater than anything growing in a border because the roots are held within the confines of a pot. A lack of water, food or growing space can quickly lead to a downhill spiral.

Buying a potted plant in springtime brings instant cheer to a room. It will be in a pot relative to the root size, growing in compost enriched with fertiliser.

All you need do initially is keep it watered and enjoy the steady development, but after a few weeks the roots will have filled the pot and the growth process eaten into available nutrients.

That’s the time to either move the plant into a bigger container with fresh compost or accept the consequences of leaving it in the original pot. These are; regular supplementary feeding in liquid or powder form, and the increase in watering pot-bound plants demand.

We’ve built up a good collection of cache pots of varying size over the years and they’re great for display.

There’s a layer of small pebbles in the base and the pot, completely hidden from view, stands on that. When a particular plant shows signs of being pot-bound and we wish to keep it in the same cache pot, that’s quite acceptable.

Bear in mind that many of the plants we grow indoors are far from their native habitat and forced to survive in a dry environment.

Compensate by giving them the treat of an hour or two outdoors on a calm summer day, better still under light rainfall.

Our potted plant collection holds some permanent members mainly for ornamental display, some that are seasonal and others grown for edible crops. All need differing amounts of food, water and light.

The traditional ornamental plants grown for their foliage effect include ficus benjamin, grevillea (silk oak), aspidistra, begonia rex and nephrolepis fern. They thrive on being wheeled outside when it’s raining.

Several of the indoor flowering plants are seasonal and short lived, eg winter primula and cineraria, but cyclamen, poinsettia and azalea are ‘hospitalised’ throughout summer and return to flowering mode when needed most.

One or two special plants have been with us for some time and any brief outdoor breaks for them involve the sack barrow.

The lemon tree is rejuvenating in an outdoor border over summer. The pot was plunged below soil level to prevent drying out and it will be so grateful about being brought inside come late September that it will initiate flower buds almost immediately.

Two coffee trees in very large pots have been around several years now. Their white blooms are also fragrant, but more importantly, are followed by fruits. We’ve just harvested some of these and sown the beans to raise more plants. Later, when the others are picked, roasted and ground, it will be coffee time.