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