Tips for dealing with problems with balcony flowers

There is hardly any house that is not made more beautiful with flowers and no place that does not seem friendlier with appropriate planting. However, there will always be situations where the joy is blighted.

For fungal and bacterial diseases, it is recommended to clean the planters before the flowering season, washing them out and disinfecting them with a dilute disinfectant solution. For eternit planters (planters made of fibre cement) and wood, treatment with hot water is usually sufficient.

Choosing the soil substrate
Choosing the right soil substrate is important as a basis for success. Gone are the days of flower lovers mixing their own soils. Specialist retailers now offer a range of good soil substrates. These are free of diseases and weed seeds, and also have the correct ratio of fertiliser. However, quality substrates are not cheap. Most of the potting soils found in shops consist of peat. The addition of this peat obtained from raised bogs has been a point of contention among environmentalists for years. Raised bogs are a finite resource, and peat extraction could result in flower lovers and gardeners no longer having any peat in the foreseeable future. This will also destroy the basis of existence for many endangered plants and animals. Peat-free potting soils are already available now. Wood fibres are an ecological and preferable alternative to peat. The peat-free soils performed very well in tests of potting soils.

When purchasing potting soil you should research the composition, use and type of fertiliser. Trace elements like iron, manganese, copper and boron should be shown on the packaging. The name of the producer, the country of origin and the base materials as well as information on storage and handling should also be listed.

Use healthy plant material
Only healthy plants free from pests should be used. You will be in good hands in a gardening centre with appropriate specialist staff.

Quality instead of quantity
Optimum seeding of the plants with the necessary light conditions, specific nutrients and watering is important. If these criteria are satisfied during cultivation, the seeds will produce vigorous plants that have established reserve substances, sturdy material and very hardy regulatory mechanisms.

Tips and criteria when purchasing plants
Compact structure: optimally cultivated plants will grow lushly, without being limp. The plant must look compact and sturdy.

Strong shoots: individual shoots should be inherently stable and should not look limp or tired. The spacing between the individual leaves (spacings of the shoot internodes) is a good indication of this. The circumference of the shoots is another indicator of quality.

Good branching: a nicely developed balcony flower should not be tall and thin. Instead it should have lots of side shoots. The first branch point should not be more than approx. 6-8 cm above the rim of the pot. Otherwise there is a risk that the plant will break off in strong winds.

Pot size: you should also pay attention to the size of the flowerpot here. The amount of substrate available to the plant when growing gives an indication of the culturing conditions. For example, if a large plant is in a pot that is too small, there is a good probability that it will have frequently gone without food and water.

Leaf colour: the colour of the leaves should be atypical. Bleached leaves can be caused by a lack of nutrients, wet soil, the plant spending long periods of time in dark trucks during transport and the plant being kept in too dark a spot when on sale. A well nourished and cared-for plant should have green leaves from the top of the plant to the rim of the pot.

Price: strong and healthy plants with lots of branches can and should be on the expensive side. The price has to reflect the quality. Above all, when buying plants you should make sure that they are healthy and well nourished with enough branches.

Mature specimens
You can see what you are planting. Rapid continued growth is usually guaranteed here. The plant no longer needs special cultivation. The only disadvantage is that the plant is slightly more expensive.

Whatever you choose, I wish you every success with your flowers!

Manfred Putz
VIKING garden expert

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