CA­LATHEA

It’s easy to kill house­plants with kind­ness, so here are tips on how to look after some of the pop­u­lar choices

Hayes & Harlington Gazette - - Your Garden -

House­plants are soar­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, but many peo­ple can be un­sure about how to look after them. There are few ba­sic rules, but, in gen­eral, the same prin­ci­ples ap­ply as to out­door plants in pots. They are re­liant on you for food and wa­ter, and if they get too big for their pots, they will need pot­ting on to a big­ger size.

Wa­ter­ing is the most com­mon query – how much is nec­es­sary? Over­wa­ter­ing or “killing with kind­ness” is the most fre­quent cause for in­door house­plant fail­ure. Many will rest in win­ter so their wa­ter­ing and feed­ing re­quire­ments are much re­duced and, as a lot come from the trop­ics, they won’t en­joy sit­ting in cold, soggy soil.

A gen­eral rule of thumb for sum­mer is to give a good wa­ter­ing about once a week or fort­night, let­ting the soil dry out in-be­tween. This al­lows the roots to breathe and pre­vents root rot.

How­ever, the ex­act amounts will de­pend on the species, how warm or dry your house is and the size of the pot. Some species, such as ca­lathea and many ferns,pre­fer to be a bit damp all the time. If the leaves are yel­low, you could be over­wa­ter­ing. If they are brown, the plant is usu­ally too dry.

An even tem­per­a­ture is best as draughty halls or sit­ting next to ra­di­a­tors with con­stant tem­per­a­ture fluc­tu­a­tions can be a night­mare for some plants.

Try to pro­vide the light re­quire­ments your plants need. If you’re not sure, there are apps for smart­phones which will mea­sure how bright your room is and sug­gest ap­pro­pri­ate species for the sit­u­a­tion.

PHILODENDRON

A great plant for cop­ing with low light sit­u­a­tions – its dark green leaves are rich in chloro­phyll so can pho­to­syn­the­sise more ef­fec­tively. The clas­sic form has beau­ti­ful heart-shaped leaves but there are some new cul­ti­vars, such as xanadu, which have won­der­ful scal­loped leaves giv­ing a re­ally trop­i­cal, funky ap­pear­ance.

Wa­ter once a week in sum­mer and an oc­ca­sional dust­ing will op­ti­mise avail­able light. Keep warm (not less than 16°C at night) and misted.

The Pea­cock plant is grown for its beau­ti­ful fo­liage, so per­fect it can al­most look fake! Keep this plant happy by be­ing true to its trop­i­cal rain­for­est floor ori­gins – moist, shady and warm (about 16°C min­i­mum). Hu­mid­ity can be helped by sit­ting it in bath­rooms, group­ing plants on a tray of moist­ened peb­bles or giv­ing a reg­u­lar mist­ing.

MON­STERA DE­LI­CIOSA

The Swiss cheese plant is a 1970s favourite un­der­go­ing a re­vival in pop­u­lar­ity at the mo­ment, mir­ror­ing the trends for bold leaf fo­liage in in­te­rior de­sign. They’re easy to grow in mod­er­ate bright­ness.

No Swiss cheese holes in the leaves? That doesn’t mat­ter when ju­ve­nile but in­di­cates ei­ther a lack of warmth, food or wa­ter when ma­ture. Feed once a month in spring and sum­mer, and pro­vide sup­port such as a moss cane pole for them to climb.

ECHINOCACTUS

The golden bar­rel cac­tus is pop­u­larly known as mother-in­law’s cush­ion! Its spher­i­cal shape, deep ribs and colour­ful spines make this one of the most pop­u­lar cacti to­day and, like most, it is low main­te­nance. Keep in a sunny po­si­tion – a south-fac­ing win­dowsill is ideal. Don’t over­wa­ter. In sum­mer, al­low soil to dry out be­fore wa­ter­ing again. In win­ter, wa­ter very lit­tle – sit­ting in cold, wet wa­ter will rot this plant. Liq­uid-feed once a month in sum­mer. If re­pot­ting, use cacti com­post or add grit/gravel to or­di­nary com­post.

VRIESEA FLAM­ING SWORD

This bromeliad fea­tures won­der­ful mot­tled leaves and a dra­matic red sword-like flower. Like most bromeli­ads, you wa­ter the cup formed by the rosette of leaves, and not the soil. About an inch of wa­ter is right but empty out com­pletely ev­ery month or so and re­fresh with wa­ter. As with all house­plants, rain wa­ter is best. Keep in bright but not di­rect sun­light. The flower will last for months and then the plant dies, how­ever the mother plant should have pro­duced some “pups” – baby rosettes – which you can pot up and these will even­tu­ally flower as well.

HOWEA FORSTERIANA PALM

These add an in­stant el­e­gance to a room, per­haps hark­ing back to the glam­orous palm courts in ho­tels in the Vic­to­rian era. One of the most easy­go­ing is this one,

Mon­stera thriv­ing in a liv­ing room

Like most house­plants, Vriesea flam­ing sword likes rain wa­ter

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