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Mother’s Day is coming up

Sometimes a mother who is, or has been a gardener, appreciates receiving a less traditional potted plant for Mother’s Day. A plant that is a bit on the unusual side will show that the gift giver has put some extra thought into choosing it, and one possibility is the cineraria.

The cineraria’s cousin, dusty miller, is present in many outdoor gardens and the plant is a member of the daisy family — evident from its daisy-shaped flowers. So although a bit unusual, it does have some very familiar connections in the plant world.

The large, stiff, bright-green, slightly bristly leaves contrast well with the cluster of colourful flowers that emerge from the centre of the plant. The leaves are usually abundant enough to completely cover the pot’s edge and the plant should bloom for several weeks, especially if it had few flowers and lots of buds when purchased.

Cineraria are grown from seed. They are annuals and should be discarded after they have finished blooming, and can’t be used to propagate new plants by taking cuttings or slips from it. Spent flowers should be snipped off as low to the base of the plant as possible to keep the plant attractive.

The plant likes bright, indirect light but should not be exposed to direct sunlight. It also prefers cool temperatures — below 20 C is best. A cineraria will be happy with the humidity in an ordinary household and should not be misted or placed on a pebble tray as is done with some other humidity-loving plants. The soil must be kept constantly moist and the plant will wilt if it dries out — a cineraria may also wilt if the temperature is too high. Soak the root ball thoroughly when the plant is watered, and no fertilizer is needed since the plant will be discarded after its blooms fade. As with most gift plants that come from greenhouse environments, careful vigilance is recommended to catch any insect infestation that might occur.

This native of the Canary Islands will produce bright blooms — many of the colours are referred to as “electric” because they are so brilliant. Red, purple, blue, white and salmon are common colours and the blooms are single, daisy shaped and most have a contrasting eye.

Placed in an attractive container, given a cool environment and provided with plenty of water and good light, a cineraria will provide any mother with a beautiful, colourful plant well into June.

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