Many customers ask us what is good for growing in a conservatory. Since most conservatories are more akin to living conditions rather than a tropical stove house the choice is fairly limited. Assuming that your area has good light, not burning full sun and left closed up on hot sunny days and assuming not much heat if any in the winter particularly at night then these would be my choice.
Callistemon or Bottle Brush hails from Australia so tolerant of hot dry conditions but also able to withstand cold down to frost level and happy to be grown in a pot maybe to 5ft tall after 5 years. Hedychium gingers have thick shiny leaves tolerant of dryish atmospheres and light frost tolerant. My choice would be the stunning Hedychium gardenerium with 12” flower spikes in yellow/orange and highly scented. Tecoma stans and Tecoma Mayan Gold can be trained into a bushy shrub with bright yellow flowers in spring and summer - typical of the family, but may become deciduous below 5c and not frost tolerant.
For foliage Philodendron bipinatafidium and Monstera deliciosa are excellent choices with glossy dark green leaves. If you can find the variegated Monstera in a garden centre it is stunning if kept away from direct sunlight. Both plants tolerant down to frost level but not below. For a climber the Passion flowers are a good choice but choose a cold tolerant variety if you have no winter heat like P. alata – stunning highly scented flowers and large glossy leaves.
In my view no conservatory should be without a Strelitzia plant. They come from the Canary Islands tolerant of both hot dry conditions and cold with stiff banana like leaves that can be kept looking good by occasionally wiping over with a damp cloth. Flowering takes about three years from seed but well worth the wait. The picture illustrates the magnificent orange/blue reginae form and the yellow/blue Mandella’s Gold variety.
My other choices would be Nerium oleander that flowers all summer in shades of pink, white and dark red. A tough plant with dry tolerant leaves, loves the sun and shrugs of the cold. and makes an excellent shrub that can be kept pruned to size. Finally I would choose Brunfelsia floribunda or B. latifolia. These plants are often called "The Today, Yesterday and Tomorrows Flower", as they emerge from deep lilac to pale then white over a three or four day period. Latifolia needs a bit more warmth with scented flowers but floribunda is a tougher plant and more floriferous.
Growing annual climbers can be very rewarding and very useful for covering an old tree stump, bare fencing or up a building wall given some trellis or wired support. The following would be my choice out of so many interesting choices, for ease of growing from seed, quick growth, followed by a colourful display.
Cobaea scandens called the “Cup and Saucer Vine” is a rampant scrambling climber flowering from July given an early start in a heated glass house and planted out in mid May to avoid frosts. Clings by tendrils and will easily reach 7ft or 8ft with a prolific number of side shoots. Flowering will be non-stop until killed off by the first autumn frosts.
Ipomoea or “Morning Glory” are also very useful reaching 5ft to 6ft depending on how early the seed was sown under glass. My choice would be Ipomoea Grandpa Ott for masses of deep purple flowers, Ipomoea. Heavenly blue with huge sky blue flowers, Ipomoea Scarlet O’hara for a crimson red flowers or Ipomoea Pearly Gates for white flowers. Although the flowers on Ipomoea only last a day they have plenty of flowers to make up for it. These are twining vines just like our own bindweed but don’t worry these are tender annuals taken out with the first frost!
Mina lobata the “Fire Cracker Flower” tends to be lower growing with a beautiful display of yellow/red flowers in sprays. For a good yellow rampant vine try the Tropaeolum peregrinum or “Canary Creeper”, although a tender perennial it is best grown as an annual in the UK and it will need a sheltered warm wall.
Another favourite of mine is Thunbergia alata or “Black Eyed Susan”. An easy annual and you have a choice of orange shades or pure white. Very popular with our customers!
If you are lucky enough to live in a warm almost frost free location and have a warm wall for growing a climber that is slightly tender but can be left outside as a perennial then try the flowing. These may take a bit longer to get established and flowering may not start until the 2nd or third year. My choice here would be:-
Eccremocarpus scabra and in particular the Tresco Mix with shades from red/orange, orange and yellow. This is a woody climber, attaching itself by tendrils but will need support and tied in to stop it being blown about by strong winds that can break the stems. Campsis radicans is a spectacular climber that attached itself to walls with aerial roots like ivy. This climber displays huge 4” to 6” trumpet flowers in orange/red or yellow. It can be grown from seed but if you can obtain the cultivar "Madame Galen" from a garden centre it is an excellent clone. Beware that although it is deciduous it becomes quite rampant with growth to 20ft even after cutting back to keep it under control each year.
Another favourite is the Mandevilla, a stunning semi twining woody climber that again will need support and a warm sunny wall. It produces 4” pure white semi trumpet blooms with a stunning scent! Of course the white/blue flowers of the hardy passion flower Passiflora caerulea is always a good choice staying evergreen in warm locations followed by golden inedible but decorative fruits.