Weekend work: Time to tend to poinsettias


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The Independent Online

What to do

There are difficult decisions to make about plants that you may have been given at Christmas, such as poinsettias and Christmas cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum). Both go downhill fairly rapidly from spring onwards. Are you going to hang on to them and coax them back into stardom next Christmas? Or are you (brace yourself) going to chuck them?

Poinsettias need warmth and light to keep their brightly-coloured bracts. The roots need compost that is dampish but not waterlogged. Placing the pot on a tray of damp pebbles will help keep the air round the foliage at the right degree of humidity. In March, stop watering and prune the plant back to about 10-12cm. In May, when frosts are no longer a threat, put the plant outside and slowly increase the amount of water it gets. Next autumn bring it back inside. Be warned. It is unlikely to look half as good as it did this year.

What to buy

Potato growers had a hard time last summer as blight descended. Thompson & Morgan (thompson-morgan.com; 0844 573 1818) are offering seven different kinds of the Sarpo strain of spuds, which show good resistance to the disease. 'Sarpo Gwyn' is a second early, good for baking, 'Kifli' is an early maincrop, ideal for potato salads (both £4.49 for 10 tubers). 'Kifli' is slow to sprout or 'chit', so get your order in before the end of the month.