More plants for indoors, where it’s warmer

A flowering cabbage at a nearby nursery, in shades of lavender.

Before turning to the content of this column and despite itstitle, I need to remind you of one of October’s pleasures. Pick upa few flowering cabbages and plant them close to your front door.They’ll last well into November and unlike chrysanthemums, as thetemperature drops their colors intensify. They sport shades ofgreen, purple, lavender and white and are quite lovely.

I am a bloom enthusiast, it’s true, but I don’t want to slightthose plants without flowers that are so pleasant to see on a snowymorning and add so much to the decor of any room. Among the morecommonly used is ivy; there are several kinds of ivy, but I writehere about English ivy, the kind you see growing on the sides ofbuildings. Its proper name is hedera and it’s often referred to as”true” ivy.

It’s quite nice in hanging baskets and the smaller leafvarieties make a nice ground cover for large potted plants. Growingrequirements are simple; the plant prefers bright indirect lightingand lower temperatures. Here again though, dry heat is often aproblem. Regular misting or the proverbial tray of pebbles andwater are partial solutions. However, there is no way to keep theplant looking throughout the entire winter the way it did when youbrought it in. It will drop some leaves at first, then hang on fora while and when its unhappiness is really noticeable, it’s time tocut it back some, water only enough to keep the soil from dryingout and wait until spring. Then pinch back the growing tips.

If your variegated varieties turn all green, move them to aspace where they’ll receive more light. If mildew appears on thesurface of the soil or on the leaves, this is an indication ofover-watering. You can scrape the mildew off the soil surface andspray it with an anti-mildew solution, available in most hardwarestores. If, however, the mildew is on the leaves, you can trywashing it off and then spraying. The greater likelihood is,unfortunately, that the plant, to quote Monty Python, is “a formerplant.”

One significant advantage to ivy is that ivy cuttings, otherwiseknown as new plants for free, are easy to grow. Fill a small potthat has good drainage with well moistened, good quality pottingsoil. Don’t try to cut corners here; quality soil is the key tosuccess. Take a 3- to 6-inch cutting from an existing plant, yoursor a friend’s. (I actually know someone, not me, who does this innurseries!) When taking your cuttings, choose newer or greenerstems rather than “old wood.” Detach the leaves from the lowerportion of the stem. Make sure your stem has at least three nodeson its surface. The roots will come from these nodes.

Using a pencil with a sharp point, make holes for each cuttingand push each stem gently down into the hole until it reaches thebottom. Then use your fingers to firm the soil around it. The morecuttings you have room for, the bushier the plant will be. Watercarefully. For the first week or two, cover the plant with plasticfood wrap draped over twigs, out of direct sun but in a warm place.If condensation builds up on the plastic, remove it for a few hoursso the plant can dry out a little. Four to six weeks are requiredfor the roots to form fully.

Now! Isn’t that nice?

Tip of the week: In case of any sudden and significant drop inovernight temperature, and they’re not infrequent at this time ofyear, remember you can always cover any plant outside with a babyblanket, towel or whatever until the sun comes out. I’ve kept someannuals into December when fall has been relatively mild by payingattention to the weather forecasts and taking such action whenindicated.