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plants of the week: two beads, a zebra and a shrimp.

FOUR house plants share the spotlight in this week's plant profile -all curiosities that appeal to children.

nThe bead plant,Nertera granadensis ,is a few centimetres tall and spreads,hugging the compost surface like a carpet of moss -its name comes from the Greek nerteros meaning low.

In spring the plant boasts only bright green foliage among which greenish, star shaped flowers appear, the nit is transformed as the flowers develop their numerous ``beads'' -vivid orange-red berries from late summer. With any luck, theselonglasting berries remain on display well into the winter.

The trailing bead plant or string-of-beads,Senecio row-leyanus (pictured),from south-west Africa, is an unusual hanging plant,hard to find in garden centres but easy to propagate -I acquired mine as a cutting from an aunt.

The plant grows quickly, producing long stems covered with green, succulent leaves like beads. These will trail to 90 cm (3ft)or more over time but can be pruned back. In ideal conditions it will produce curious flowers in winter or spring -little white ``shaving brushes'' with chocolate tips to the ``bristles'', on slender, upturned stems.

Both kinds of bead plant like a gritty compost,not too rich, bright light and a steady temperature all year with a minimum 10 C (50 F) in winter. Let the compost almost dry out in winter before watering. Feed fortnightly with a half-strength general fertiliser in spring and summer.

Aphelandra squarrosa is known as the zebra plant because of the bold ivory white veins on the bright green leaves. It comes from Brazil, grows 30 cm (1ft) tall in a pot, and produces prominent spikes of yellow bracts in summer.

Keep it in bright light at room temperature but allow a few weeks in a cooler place (13 C--55 F) after flowering. It is essential to keep the compost wet and give a liquid fertiliser weekly during spring andsummer. If necessary,maintain humidity by misting and keeping the plant on a tray of moist gravel. Water very little in winter.

Every spring,prune severely,leaving only a few leaves, then repot in a rich,gritty compost.

nThe shrimp plant,Beloper-one guttata ,is a small,ever-green shrub from Mexico. Its nickname comes from the pretty but odd-looking bracts, russet and greenish-yellow,borne from March to December.

The plant will grow to 90 cm (3ft) tall if transplanted into progressively larger pots but can be kept around 30 cm (1ft) by pinching out the growing tips regularly. Longer branches sometimes need F) with a winter mini-mum of 8support. When repotting, use a soil-based compost.

Keep the plant at around 18C (64 C (45F).Water copiously from March to November but little in winter. Feed from May to September. Pot on in spring.
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Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 17, 2004
Previous Article:gardening diary.
Next Article:Botanical ying and yang; Getting to know the contrasts within the plant world The common nasturtium provides food as well as cover.

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