Plant Care

No space to grow anything? Don’t know how or what to grow? No problem!



The Kew Gardener has everything you need to start you growing your own herbs and vegetables. You can easily and quickly get started even if you only have a window sill.

In the coming pages we will give examples of vegetables and herbs that you can grow yourself and explain what to do.

We will add a page where you can share your pictures and experiences too!



How to care for your Orchid….

….we are discussing Phalaenopsis (Moth Orchid) only here. Obviously there are many other types of orchid, but these are the ones you come across most often.


  • over watering is the most come cause of death with orchids. Water your orchid once every 2-3 weeks in winter and approx once a week to two weeks in the summer months.
  • NEVER let your orchid stand in water for a prolonged amount of time as the bark they are growing in as well as their roots will begin to rot away.
  • your orchid is likely growing in a clear plastic orchid pot. Hold the orchid over the sink or somewhere where the water can drain away. Pour tepid water through the pot, and try not to let any water land in the growing point where the leaves join together. In the summer you may get away with it but in the winter it can sit there and cause the growing point to rot away. It’s game over if that happens. Let the water drain out of the base of the pot. Sit on the draining board for an hour or two to allow excess water to drain away.
  • some say you should not use tap water and use fresh rain water instead. This isn’t always practical and we find watering with tap water is fine.
  • you will see grey green roots on your orchid. The grey green is called velamen and absorbs moisture from a humid atmosphere. Thus on warm days you may benefit your orchid by giving these roots a light spray with tepid water. Do NOT cut off these roots which often appear as wayward escapees. If the roots have gone brown/black they have died and should be cut out and if severe repot the plant.


  • We recommend feeding every second watering with a specialist liquid orchid feed. Add the prescribed number of drops to the water and water as above.


  • in nature these orchids are epihytes growing on the branch or trunk of a rainforest tree. Thus they do not require strong sunlight. In fact strong sunlight in summer will scorch the leaves to yellow brown from green. Sit the orchid where it can get some natural light but not strong sunlight.


  • we would suggest repotting your orchid approximately every three years. Use a specialist orchid compost whose many ingredient is bark chips. If the roots are turning more brown than green/grey then also look to repot, cutting out any dead brown roots, and removing claggy old compost. We will produce a video showing how to do this.


  • keep the temperature as steady as possible. Wild fluctuations are not good and can lead to buds falling off before they flower. The best temperature is room temperature (20-21 Centigrade) or a little higher.

Blue Orchids?

  • Orchids with bright blue flowers are really white. As the flower spike of a white orchid is developing blue die is injected into the spike.


If you have a question please email us at

Lamb’s Lettuce

Lamb’s Lettuce is found in some of the bags of salad you find at the supermarkets, but it is dead easy to grow so why not grow your own?!! You can pick it seconds before you need it and know it’s definitely not been sprayed with any nasty chemicals.

Easy Easy Easy I said….

Get a pot or seed tray. Fill nearly to the top with good multipurpose or seed compost. Sprinkle your Lamb’s Lettuce seeds (from The Kew Gardener!) across the surface. Not too thickly as otherwise when they germinate they’ll be choking eachother. When done sprinkle some more compost over the top so they are just hidden. Water with a watering can with a rose. Put somewhere your dog, cat or birds won’t disturb them!

If you have an area in your garden, you can sow them direct into the open ground. Dig the soil over a little, breaks up any big lumps and rake to a fine level or tilth. Run your finger in a straight line like a mini plough to make a seed drill. Put two markers such as two small canes at each end. Put a label in if you think you may forget what you put in! Sprinkle the seeds along the drill, again not too thickly. Back cover the drill with soil and water in.

Watering….if the pots or ground look like they may be getting dry then give them a water. Simple!

You can start sowing in late february and into summer. Perhaps do several sowings to give a constant supply if you have the space.

Within only a few weeks you’ll be able to pick the leaves and put them in your sandwiches! Fresh as you like!

Please let us know how you get on!

Cold Snaps, Snowdrops, Greenhouse?

After a very mild December, winter finally made an appearance in January with much colder weather, and frosty nights. Some of the plants that were getting ahead of themselves are having a reminder what season it is!

Plants to be considering for your garden this time of year include Hellebores, Camellia, Edgeworthia, Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’, ‘Deben’, and ‘Charles Lamont’, Hamamelis (witch hazels), Jasminum nudiflorum (winter jasmine), the brightly coloured stems of Cornus (dogwoods), as well as the must have snowdrops. One can never have enough snowdrops – they herald the start of a brand new gardening season. I think they look best when planted en masse. In my parent’s garden, as a kid, we had such a planting in the corner of the garden next to a giant Rhododendron and beneath a small Sambucus tree. They could be seen from the patio window and were simply a delight.

Although the garden isn’t used so much at this time of year it is the perfect time to get any hard landscaping work done, whether it be replacing that wonky fence post, or something grander like an attractive new patio area in preparation for those distant summer barbeques! Maybe put up a greenhouse so you can grow something a little more exotic or at the least some home grown tomatoes! Seems a long way away just now!

Indoors our most popular plants for this time of year are the highly scented Hyacinths and the ever so colourful Cyclamen which from white to pinks to red, many with glorious marbled foliage which would make them a fine choice even without any flowers! As the orchid festival at Kew Gardens gets underway soon, we’ll be having a good selection of orchids to choose from too! Something unusual? Try an air plant or Tillandsia. They don’t grow in a pot of soil like most plants and require a spray of warm water once in a while… they are not everyone’s cup of tea but they have proved very popular recently…

Time for a cup of tea now….til next time!

Tips on Growing a Giant Sunflower

Top Tips for a Giant Sunflower!

  • Sounds obvious, but choose a very sunny position for your sunflower to grow.
  • In winter or early spring dig over the area where your sunflower will grow and mix in lots of well rotted horse manure.
  • Choose a variety that is known for tall sunflowers, such as ‘Russian Giant’ or ‘Giraffe’.
  • Choose the largest seeds from the packet, although I often sow all of them, and select the strongest seedlings for growing in the prime position. Can give the other seedlings away or plant elsewhere in the garden.
  • Sow your seeds in a pot inside on a window sill or in a heated greenhouse. You can sow maybe 6-12 seeds in a 6 inch pot filled with good quality seed compost.
  • Don’t let the compost dry out while the seeds germinate but by the same token don’t drown the pot either or the seeds or seedlings will rot.
  • When the seedlings are at least 2 inches tall you can separate them or prick them out. If the weather is warm they can go straight to their permanent growing location or if it is cold still plant one on it’s own in a 6 inch pot. Again use a good quality compost.
  • Support. Your sunflower will fall over if you do not give it some support so you need to support it with a bamboo cane. When they are very small in a pot you can use a split cane. Use garden twine to very carefully tie your sunflower stem to the cane. Don’t pull the knot tight as you will break the stem, so make it secure but not so loose that the plant flops around. Tie the knot on the cane not on the stem of the plant. Obviously if you intend to grow a monster you may need to choose some very canes or even joing a couple securely together. You will be tying lots of new knots as the sunflower gets taller! World record attempts have even had scaffolding around them!
  • Slug and snails. When you plant your young sunflowers, slugs and snails will eat them overnight if you don’t protect them. I am not mad on using slug pellets but they are the best method of stopping them.
  • Weeding – weed away any competing weeds and make sure that every one else that does gardening in the garden knows not to weed up your sunflowers. It happened to me once! I talk from experience.
  • Watering and feeding. Obviously you want to grow a huge sunflower, so you need to make sure it never runs out of water, and is fed well with a good fertiliser such as Growmore or Tomorite. I’d suggest once a week, or at least once every two weeks.

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Fabulous plant for February. Related to Daphne, it has richly scented flowers that open creamy yellow. Leaves follow the flowers.  Ideal shrub for a winter garden. Grows slowly. Could take 10 years to double in size, so good if space is a restriction also. See one growing at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Take the path from the Palm House lake to wards the order beds and you will find it half way along on your right underplanted with Cyclamen coum and Helleborus. Go to the back of the same bed to see a stunning Lapageria rosea (Chilean Bell Flower).