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ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q I was given a beautiful cyclamen at Thanksgiving time, which had a few blooms and loads of buds. We kept it in a bright window and it did well until I forgot to water it. I found that the blooms and leaves had drooped down almost completely. Remembering one of your columns about cyclamen, which ran some time ago, I set the plant in a pan of very warm water, ``tingly to the fingers,'' as you described it. I then set it in a cool spot and within an hour it had spruced up completely.

We went away for three days and, thinking to avoid having it wilt, I set it in a couple of inches of water. Upon returning, we found that its leaves had yellowed and the buds had rotted off. Only a few tiny leaves remain. Can I save the tuber and have it bloom again?

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St. Cloud, Minn.

Cyclamen, as you have proved, cannot dry out completely, but neither can it be left sitting in water for longer than about an hour. The water fills up air spaces in the soil, shutting out oxygen, a necessary element for healthy growth.

The tuber is still good if it remains solid. Carefully repot it in new soil. You can use a prepared peat-lite mix from a garden store, to which you have added an equal amount of garden loam. Keep the soil ``just moist,'' not soggy. Since you have a few leaves remaining, it will probably continue growth, putting out new leaves and buds.

Some folks let tubers dry off for a couple of months, then start watering very sparingly to bring them back to bloom. Others keep theirs growing all year long, with intermittent bloom periods. Even during periods without bloom, the handsome leaves give reason to keep the plant in a prominent spot.

Q A friend gave me a small plant with striped, thick, heart-shaped leaves which she called watermelon begonia. Another friend, however, says it is a peperomia, not a begonia. Please tell me which is right and how it should be cared for.


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Beaumont, Texas

Watermelon peperomias (Peperomia argyreia, formerly P. sandersii) are sometimes mistakenly called watermelon begonias. Their leaf shape is similar to some begonias and their markings may remind us of striped watermelons. Most peperomia leaves are thicker and more succulent than those of begonias.

They are not difficult to care for if not overwatered. They should be kept in bright light but not direct sun. They can stand high temperature but do not do well below 50 degrees F. Their thick stems hold reserve moisture, so the soil should be well drained, with water added only after it starts to dry out. About every four months they can be fed a half-strength solution of liquid fertilizer.

Another handsome and commonly grown peperomia is Emerald Ripple, a wrinkle-leaved type (P. caperata). Anyone interested in knowing more about peperomias can join the Peperomia Society International. Write to Sandra E. Schaider, Editor, PSI, 249 Lexington Rd., Concord, MA 01742.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.

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