Learning how to get best from houseplants
THE garden can be a confusing place. The indoor garden can be even more perplexing; a world of mystery where the normal rules of horticulture do not apply.
Which is one of the reasons so many people have disasters growing on their windowsills – they confuse houseplants with their outdoor relatives. But if indoor and outdoor plants are related at all, it’s a distant relationship. A house plant has a list of conditions to which it must adapt: dry air, low light, low humidity and artificial heat in winter. And then there’s always the soil – a plant in a pot relies on someone to provide it with good compost and a container which is big enough to accommodate its expanding root structure.
So, consideration of a plant’s needs is key to success and a long life of lush, healthy foliage and an abundance of flowers.
Firstly, get the right plant for the right place. Most plants usually grow well where they can enjoy the light. But a word of caution – when the temperature drops below freezing, either leave the curtains undrawn or remove plants to a spot where they aren’t likely to suffer a shock from plunging temperatures.
If a plant needs more humidity than a window sill can offer, put it in the bathroom, near the shower. But don’t overdo the kindness because watering can be tricky. Too much will rot roots and kill the plant; too little will produce plants with poor foliage and few, if any flowers.
Any plants which need a lot of water should be placed (in their pots) in a saucer that contains gravel. Water the gravel, making sure the water-level stays just below the base of the pot.
Light needs vary. Check the tag that comes with the plant when it’s bought. A particular plant may not need a sunny window – more is not always better. The leaves of some plants may be sensitive to the sun and burn easily.
If a plant needs light, but sunlight isn’t available, you can use artificial light. In most cases, low light will result in spindly, weak growth. Right now, the days are short, so you might have to move plants to areas of the room which receive more light. South, west or east-facing windows are all worth considering.
And keep the plants out of cold drafts or their leaves will yellow and drop.
TAKE CARE: Look after houseplants in winter and they will repay the care.