The very rough basics are pretty much as follows.
These are plants that die back in the winter – sometimes there will be a crown of leaves still visible to show where it is, sometimes not. They will start to produce shoots of new growth in the spring. You can remove all the dead stems and leaves in late autumn or you can leave some to act as a protection for the new growth in late winter and early spring, removing it once the growth is established.
Most plants will flower longer if finished blooms are removed (which stops them putting energy into setting seed). Just snip the dead flowerhead off or, if it’s on a long stem, take it back to the bottom of the stem where it meets the leaves. If the flowers are on a spike, eg lupins, cut the spike back as far as you can – often new spikes will be produced later.
These retain their leaves right through the winter, though they can be damaged by frost etc. But new leaves will be produced in the spring when any tired or dead foliage can be removed. Same rules as above apply for flowers.
Grasses don’t require much care and can largely be left to their own devices. If they get a bit ragged or overgrown they can be chopped back (they are grasses, after all!) to about half. Festuca should definitely be treated like this in early spring.
They lose their leaves in winter and produce fresh ones in spring. All you have to do is prune them once a year, cutting back the stems to keep the shrub to a size you prefer. Make the cut just above a bud. The basic rule is: if the shrub flowers in spring/early summer do the pruning once the shrub has finished flowering (Deutzia Strawberry Fields is an example of this); if it flowers in midsummer to autumn, do the pruning in early spring.
These keep their leaves all year round but – as with the evergreen perennials – produce at least some fresh ones each year. You can do light pruning at most times of year, but it’s best to do the real cutting back (if required) in early spring. They generally don’t require major surgery – just keep them trimmed to a suitable height.
WATERING & FEEDING
Newly-planted plants need to be kept well watered for a few weeks to make sure they establish well. Once they are established just make sure the soil doesn’t dry out and stays moist but not waterlogged. Watering is best done in the evening or early morning. Most plants don’t really need a lot of feeding but a little food will keep them happy. The best is a granular fertiliser like Vitax Q4 sprinkled on the soil in spring and lightly raked in. You can also feed with one of the many types you dissolve in the watering can. But don’t overdo it – you’ll get lots of leaves and not so many flowers!
The specific needs of indoor plants can very quite considerably, so it’s best to check them out individually. However, for many houseplants, particularly species of cactus and succulents, the rough guidelines would be a position with plenty of light but not too much direct sunlight and moderate watering once the compost becomes dry (usually once a week spring to autumn and little or never from November to March). But, as we say, it’s a good idea to look up how to care for a particular houseplant in its own right.
Hope this helps. For any more specific advice just e-mail us.
Rob & Joanna