In their natural habitat, most indoor plants are used to a warmer, more humid or much dryer environment than UK gardens can provide, therefore growing them indoors is the only solution to help them thrive.
Before choosing your house plant, make sure you know how to care for it. Check whether you can provide the conditions it needs in order to mimic its natural conditions.
Not all indoor plants require the same type of care, but there are general rules that are necessary for indoor gardening:
- Recognise when plants need water. Most only need to be watered once or twice a week (with the exception of succulents which can go longer), and less during the winter months. Generally, they are better off slightly dry rather than soaking wet as over-watering can do more harm than under-watering. Aim to provide your plants with enough water to keep the soil moist but not saturated. To avoid over-watering, only water when the top 1-2 cm of compost is dry.
- Keep an eye on the room temperature, humidity, and ventilation. As a rule, most indoor plants thrive in temperatures between 18-23 ̊ C during the day and slightly cooler at night. They require a level of humidity similar to their natural growing conditions, so some will also require regular misting. For others, condensation that stays on the leaves for too long can be damaging, therefore, placing a fan near your plants will help keep them healthy by evaporating excess moisture and creating a proper flow of air.
- Check that your house plant gets the right amount of light. Most indoor plants need indirect rather than direct light. However, there are some plants that require artificial light during the winter when there are fewer hours of light. A fluorescent or LED grow light that has full-spectrum bulbs will provide a balance of cool and warm light.
- Make sure the pot fits your plant. Choose a pot that is proportional to the plant’s current size. Ensure that the pot has a drainage hole at the bottom. If the pot is too big, the plant’s roots won’t be able to absorb water fast enough as it drains through the soil.
- Consider the type of soil. Where possible choose a potting soil specific to your house plant. This will provide a balance of nutrition and water absorption to help the roots grow.
- Make sure you supply nutrients. Regularly adding fertiliser to the soil will sustain a healthy plant. As a general rule, fertilise your plants once a month during the growing or flowering stage. It may not be necessary to fertilise as much, or at all, during the winter when plants are in a stagnant stage.
The Best Indoor Plants
- Spider Plants are easy to grow. They should be out of direct sunlight, and fed and watered regularly while actively growing.
- Philodendron likes a shady location. It enjoys a humid environmnet so requires regular misting.
- Snake Plants are great for a bright location out of direct sunlight. Must be left to dry out between watering.
- Chrysalidocarpus should be grown in bright light out of direct sunlight. Water and mist well when in active growth.
- Monstera Minima needs indirect sunlight to thrive. water about once a week when the top inch of soil becomes dry.
- Fiddle Leaf Fig needs a lot of bright, indirect light and regular watering. Avoid over-watering to avoid dropped leaves.
- Aloe Vera flourishes in a sunny atmosphere. It can go about two weeks without being watered. Over-watering can damage its roots.
- Succulents and cacti are low maintenance and most will thrive on a sunny windowsill. Water during the summer and let the compost dry out between.
Choosing A Plant: How To Tell If A Plant Is Healthy
When choosing an indoor plant, look closely at all parts of the plant starting with the leaves.
A healthy plant should have plenty of new foliage growth, which is green and bright in colour, with the exception of bi-coloured or variegated leaves. Avoid plants with pale, yellowing or brown leaves, this is an indication of an unhealthy plant.
Look for signs of healthy roots. When the plant is in a pot, pick it up and look at the drainage hole. The roots shouldn’t be growing through the hole, this indicates that the plant has been in the pot too long. The roots should not be growing on top of the potting mix either, this is also a good indication that the plant will want repotting soon.
Look closely for signs of pests and disease. Common pests such as Aphids, Scale, Spider Mites, and Mealy Bugs are often found on the underside of leaves and the joints where the stem attaches to the leaves.
What To Do When You Bring A New Plant Home
When you get your new plant home it might be tempting to immediately move it into a new pot, but don’t repot too quickly. Moving it too soon could damage the roots, and placing stress on the roots may inhibit growth.
Be careful placing your new plant in direct sunlight. It won’t appreciate the sudden, drastic environmental change. Unless you are certain that the plant had been living in direct sunlight prior to your purchase, you should allow for a gradual introduction to direct light by first placing the plant in indirect, bright sunshine to help it acclimatise to its new home.
Avoid immediately watering your plant, first check the soil and roots. If it lacks moisture, wait until the top of the soil is dry before watering.
If you have other plants, it’s a good idea to isolate a new plant for a few days, check the folliage and soil during this time to make sure it’s free from pests and disease. Once you are happy that your plant is pest free, you can safely introduce it to the rest of your collection. If you come across any insects, spray yout plant all over with bug killer.
If your plant doesn’t look like it’s doing so well when it first arrives, don’t panic! Rather than reaching for the fertiliser, look into other possible causes such as proper lighting, watering, and the temperature or humidity of the room. Ideally, wait a month before you start fertilising your new plant.
If your plant is doing well, don’t be tempted to move it. It’s doing well for a reason, and the new spot may not have comparable levels, this could cause your plant to react negatively.
House plants not only look good in any room, they provide many health benefits too, so follow these steps to help your plant thrive in it’s new home.