Houseplants have never been so popular, filling our houses with their luscious green foliage. Bringing the outside indoors has taken the world by storm but as we find ourselves with an ever increasing houseplant collection what can we do to keep our exotic botanicals thriving?
One of the most important factors for houseplant success is natural light. Many houseplants favour bright, indirect sunlight but there are shade loving exceptions too such as the cast iron plant Aspidistra elatior. Intense light can scorch some houseplant leaves so give plants the best chance to flourish by positioning them in their preferred lighting conditions.
Many plants, like cactus and succulents, prefer water applied to their roots; this prevents stems rotting. Other houseplants love humid conditions; place on a water-filled pebble tray and mist them to increase humidity.
Mist air plants (Tillandsia) and submerge in a bowl of rainwater for an hour once a week. Orchid roots rot if sat in water so place your planted pot in a sink and let the water drain through the bark mix. Some plants like streptocarpus and African violets are prone to scorching so avoid getting water splashes on their leaves.
Also keep plants away from hot radiators and cold drafts. Radiators quickly evaporate water whereas windows cause fluctuating temperatures.
Most importantly, do not overwater, you are far more likely to kill houseplants with kindness, particularly cactus and succulents. Wilted yellow leaves can be a sign of over zealous watering. Pop your finger in the soil and only water if dry. Most houseplants thrive in short-term drought.
Most houseplants, except cactus and succulents, benefit from water misted over their leaves twice a week. Don’t forget the underside of the leaves too! This ‘misting’ is characteristic of the humid tropical environments many houseplants originate from and quenches leaves from the dry air associated with centrally heated houses. You can also spray with Plantsmith’s Care Mist to aid plant growth and protect against pests.
Houseplants need feeding too! Like us they perform better when they are sufficiently nourished so feed your plants once a week from March to September and you will be surprised at the results. Dilute Plantsmith’s Houseplant Feed & Tonic in water. This is packed with 13 essential minerals including iron, potassium and magnesium which boosts growth, and kelp which stimulates cell division, improving root and shoot growth.
Household dust collects on leaves and can hinder the plant’s ability to photosynthesise so clean leaves with a damp cloth to remove the dirt layer. Hold each leaf and gently wipe off the dust from stem to tip.
An efficient way to clean leaves is to place houseplants in a sink or bath and gently spray with tepid water from the shower. Not only does this clean the leaves of dust but gives your plants a moisture hit and can also remove lurking pests. Don’t flush out your pot’s soil, allow the pot to sit and drain.
Dried water spots are unsightly, particularly on plants with large leaves like Monstera deliciosa so polish leaves with a cloth and water or make your own solution by mixing water with a mild soap, lemon, vinegar or Plantsmith’s Leaf Shine Spray for a nutritional boost. Plant’s are covered in thousands of tiny ’stomata,’ essentially the plant’s lungs, where they breath in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, so only polish occasionally to avoid clogging pores.
From time to time leaves will wilt, dry or die, so remove any dead or diseased material. This will help concentrate the plant’s energy into new growth, help avoid fungal diseases like grey mould, botrytis and also tidy up your plant for an aesthetic display.
Houseplants are susceptible to a number of pests; Mealybugs, fungus gnats, aphids, thrips, scale and red spider mites are all too common.
Always check plants are bug-free before you buy them. Use clean pots and compost. Stop pests spreading by ensuring plants do not touch each other. Feed and water your plants to keep them strong and healthy. Try companion planting with strong scented mint or basil; handy in the kitchen as well as repelling pests or spray with Plantsmith’s ready-to-use, natural surfactant Protecting Bug Control Spray.
Eventually houseplants will outgrow their pots. Spring is the ideal time for repotting, refresh old soil, check for pests and generally observe plant’s overall health. Remove the plant from its pot and gently shake off old soil; recycle this soil on a border or compost heap. Mix fresh peat-free compost and horticultural grit or vermiculite to aerate soil. Choose a larger clean pot with drainage holes, fill with the new soil mix, transplant houseplant into soil, firm down and water in.