Question: I am looking for a large plant that would be able to survive life in a front porch and wondered if you could suggest anything? The house is south facing. The porch has glass windows and a tiled roof. I did have a large palm in this location for a while, however, despite thriving, its leaves were constantly discoloured, which I was told by a florist was due to sun damage.
Answer: You need a tolerant plant for this position. This is a harsh environment for any plant because the light coming in is uneven, unlike in a greenhouse or conservatory. Porches tend not to be big on ventilation, so this presents its own problems with the lack of ability to control widely fluctuating temperatures.
Just like conservatories and greenhouses, shading from summer sunshine is recommended. This will increase the range of plants that can be grown. As long as the temperature in winter does not drop below 5°C in winter, the most tolerant plants will include pelargoniums, cacti and succulents, Nerium oleander, citrus plants and the bird of paradise plant - Strelitzia reginae.
With the shading, the Canary Island date palm – Phoenix canariensis - should also work well in the porch.
Send your questions for the RHS to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Only a few questions per month can be answered. For further advice on handling problems in your garden, visit www.rhs.org.uk/advice/index.asp.