As the dark days are still with us… it is an ideal time to take look at the house plants. In my case when I finally get around to them I arm myself with a small sprayer to mist the house plants, this creates a humid atmosphere , that most of them yearn for, and a small old teapot filled with surplus black tea.
Tea is rich in Nitrogen which is a booster for house plants so every watering is done with tea. The leaves can also be used around rose bushes and other plants outside in the garden. Interestingly tap water has some additives and the light acidity of the tea is said to reduce this and so benefits the plants.
Believe it or not Milk can also be used and while I have not resorted to milk but I am told that plants enjoy it if it is diluted with water and works as a great fertiliser and anti-fungal agent as it contains vitamin B and sugars. Interestingly it is used on fruit plants to improve crop-yield and overall health but don’t use too often as it could produce bacteria that will result in a disagreeable fragrance and wilting leaves. ….
Many of my house plants are in serious need of re-potting, some have spent years in the same pot, serving a sentence with apparently no hope of a reprieve. When plants become too big for their pots they dry out too quickly and become unhappy so re-pot in Summer, when growth is strong and generally put into a pot about 20% bigger. There are plants for almost every location of the house but trying to mange flowering plants indoors can be hazardous experience as the flower petals can easily discolour a carpet so it tends to be green foliage plants as far as I am concerned.
There are many reasons to grow plants indoors as I have outlined many times plants will purify and clean the air of any toxins, soften the indoor decor and can reduce the amount of stress we feel .As a general rule green leafed plants should not have constant light all day while flowering plants need a high degree of light.
My inventory of plants includes 3 Asparagus Ferns which amazingly is not a true fern, but a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) it has long stems covered with short, needle-like leafs which gives it a lovely delicate appearance that makes it ideal for a indoor hanging basket it is resilient and should be kept out of direct light to get the best out of it. I have had them for more than 10 years and re-potted them rarely.
The Calathea is my star plant it has Tri- Coloured striking coloured leaves of red green and white which react to sound and light with leaves closing up when dark and unfurling as the light improves. They also seem to direct there leaves towards sound which seems to slightly concern my 6 year old son. An important part of understanding them is knowing they don’t like to move. They do not enjoy being relocated and moving house was a tricky experience for my very loyal Calathea which is a member of the Maranta family. So putting it in a similar spot eventually persuaded it to settle in.
An Aloe Vera a couple of Succulents (leafing cacti) live in the hall. Succulents don’t like over watering but are other wise very resilient. The balance is made up of Classic Pelargonium’s which sit on south facing window and some Kitchen herbs.
The most unusual of the bunch is Asparagus Falcatus or Sicklethorn a seriously resilient plant. I first came across it abandoned in a room belonging to an Aunt of mine. It had survived 6 months plus, forgotten, but unscathed. Since then it has only been re-potted once in 15 years. It has Sickle shaped leave on prickly metre long stems and not surprisingly was popular in Victorian times. It wont win any beauty awards but would acquit it itself well in an Ironman plant competition.
Other house plants include the large “Norfolk Island Pine” a handsome conifer from the southern hemisphere island of the same name. Unlike most conifers it is unique, coming from a tropical part of the world, and so cannot tolerate cold temperatures. It is sometimes regrettably used as a miniature indoor Christmas tree.
The bathroom can be surprisingly be a good room in the house for growing an indoor plant The fact that is likely to be warm and humid will really help and if it has some real light it could be ideal for tropical plants such as Anthurium or the Peace Lily. If in doubt try a fern they will thrive in the bathroom environment, for the slightly more ambitious, try the African Violet which has small blue flowers and is a somewhat exotic looking plant. Avoid letting spray from aerosols or talcum powder on to the leaves of any bathroom plants as they will become coated and make them less able to photosynthesise which creates there energy.
The conservatory can be Killing Fields for plants as many conservatories in this part of the world are designed to maximise light and consequently so when one departs for summer holidays the plants are locked in to desert like conditions so the conservatory that some shading from direct summer sunlight will help the plants South or West facing conservatories need some form of shading like blinds to filter the strong sunlight. North or East facing conservatories may not need shading.
The excessive heat that can build up in the height of the summer can put great stress on plants and there is a real need for increased need for watering
Conservatories are equally likely to be too cold in the winter many are able to manage 4-8°C a good rule of thumb of keeping plants above 6°C will keep them safe in Winter. Cut back drastically on the watering for the Winter…. plants that grow well in the conservatory include:
Pelargonium, Streptocarpus, Bird of Paradise, Yuccas, Citrus and Succulents. If one has a heated conservatory then the opportunities are far greater but it is important to note that the likes of whitefly and red spider mites will also be keen to visit during the winter so keep an eye open as infestation of the said Bugs can happen quickly when things warm up in the Summer months
Kitchens are an area that plant can easily compliment ,But they do not provide ideal conditions for house plants, as temperatures often vary with extreme heat when a lot of cooking is being done. Sponging the leaves with soapy water at room temperature will help remove dirty that gathers on the leaves. Think of the leaves as solar panels gathering all the energy to fuel the plant if they are blocked things grind to a standstill. Herbs that could be grown in the kitchen easily are Oregano, Chives, Mint and thyme.
I have seen many distressed Basil indoors they need 4-5 hours of direct sunshine each day. The fatal sin is to overwater Basil it hates the compost to get soggy. If your Basils are getting spindly they are not getting enough light and they need to be moved outside for a few hours each day but only in the Summer and keep Basils at the right humidity. Place pebbles in the saucer and keep filled with water but the bottoms of the pot should not be actually immersed in water .This is just, to create humidity they crave, the roots cant be wet they hate wet soils and remember they require brighter light than most house plants.
Finally ….Aloe Vera is must as it is a living pharmacy it works wonders on sunburn, burns, cuts and insect bites. When needed cut off a leaf and put the gel on to the required area. They don’t want too much water and let them really dry out between watering. Place it a sunny spot and feed it once a year. Unlike many houseplants, it releases oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide at night, so it’s a good one to put by the bed
Top Tips House Plants Plants
.1…Flowering plants should be within three feet of a sunny window.
..2…House plants require 12 to 16 hours of light per day.
..3…More houseplants die from overwatering than from anything else.
..4…Water plants with room-temperature water.