Houseplants: Taking it indoors

Helen_Allsebrook
Published on July 15th 2018
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What makes the ideal houseplant and how should you care for it?
It should have attractive foliage, be easy to cultivate, evergreen, able to grow in a limited space for a long period of time, and able to tolerate under or over-watering, low light intensity, changing temperatures, different soils and frequent handling by humans; Not much to ask!
If you’re looking to freshen up your home, houseplants are not only beautiful to the eye but also add structure and interest to an interior. Furthermore, they please the soul, have air purifying capabilities and bring a natural element into any space.
However, care should be taken when selecting the right houseplant for your space.

Tips for caring for Indoor Plants

  • Choose the right pot: Proper drainage is very important with indoor plants in order to prevent over-water and root rot. Ensure that your pot has a drainage hole.
  • Potting soil: Ensure that you use a potting soil mix specifically formulated for houseplants with enough organic matter and nutrients. Mulch and water-retaining granules can also be added to help with water retention.
  • Water: Most indoor plants die from over-watering. It is advised to only water your plants when the potting mix feels dry to the touch and remember to water more regularly in summer. Consider watering from the bottom as this will ensure roots get water and that spillages don't happen. Fill the drainage dish with water.
  • Fertiliser: Indoor plants need fertiliser every two weeks or so and liquid fertiliser is the fastest and simplest solution. Due to low light levels, plants in the UK really benefit from a foliage feed to keep them healthy.
  • Moisture: A number of indoor plants prefer a bit more moisture and misting them every now and then will be beneficial. Ensure that the water is room temperature and to this more regularly for plants exposed to more heat or air-conditioned environments.
  • Light: Light is very important but more important to that is the amount and type of light required by specific plants. Areas close to windows are usually more ideal as they provide lots of natural light as well as air flow.

Types of Indoor Plants

  • Mother in Laws Tongue (Sansevieria): This trendy evergreen plant is also commonly known as the Snake Plant or Viper’s Bowstring Hemp. Another easy houseplant to take care of with low water requirements and the ability to survive in low light.
A green and yellow Sansevieria plant in a pot

Mother-In-Law's Tongue

Sansevieria spp.

  • Banana Species: If you want the jungle look these are the plants for you! The banana family grow slowly but can reach heights of 2 metres or more, which can make for an impressive display.

Wild Banana

Ensete ventricosum

Bird of Paradise

Strelitzia reginae

  • String of Beads (Senecio rowleyanus): Also known as string of pearls, this succulent is native to South West Africa and grows well as an indoor plant. Ideal for the ‘hanging plant look’ and for creating a nice indoor feature. It is a succulent and thus survives with very little water.

String of Pearls

Curio rowleyanus

Read more about succulents here:
  • African violet (Saintpaulia ionantha): The perennial flowering plant is native to tropical Africa and will bring a pop of colour to your indoor space.

African Violet

Saintpaulia spp.

  • Orchids: Cymbidium and Phalaenopsis are the most common orchid varieties. Sufficient light will ensure orchids produce an abundance of beautiful blooms, while insufficient light may result in a non-flowering plant. Water your orchids when they are dry to the touch and make sure the water runs through!

Moth Orchid

Phalaenopsis spp.

Cattleya Orchid

Cattleya spp.

Pansy Orchid

Miltoniopsis 'Newton Falls'

  • Fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata): Large, flat leaves, the fiddle-leaf fig has a striking appearance, which can completely transform the look and feel of a room. They prefer bright, indirect light, not too much water and check the leaves regularly for pests.
fiddle leaf fig

Fiddle-Leaf Fig

Ficus lyrata

  • Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) : This is a perfect hanging or potted plant for your home. It thrives under low light conditions and does not require frequent watering. Only outright neglect will kill a well-loved houseplant.

White Stripe Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum 'Vittatum'

A close up of a green and white variegated Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum' plant

Variegated Spider Plant

Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum'

If you prefer to experiment a little bit, a number of cuttings take easily in a glass of water. Try African Violet leaves, Pelargoniums or the Chinese money plant. The kitchen windowsill makes a good spot. Add a drop of bleach or lemon juice to the water to sterilise, and half a teaspoon of sugar for energy. Replace the water as soon as it turns murky. The slips will be ready to transplant when the roots start to grow but can also be kept in the water.

Heart-Leaved Pelargonium

Pelargonium cordifolium

money plant

Chinese Money Plant

Pilea peperomioides

Originally written by Shani Krige and edited by Helen Allsebrook for the UK Candide Community

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