The Indoor Plant Phenomenon
If you are new to indoor plants, are a little unsure of their care, or just need a refresher on selecting the right plant for the right spot, then this blog is for you. While indoor plants have seen a resurgence in recent years, those of you who, like me, are in their 40s or 50s will well remember the luscious fronds of ferns and palms filling timber lined sitting rooms, spider plants hanging in macramé creations or enormous Aspidistra balanced precariously on bamboo plant stands. It’s fabulous then to see these beauties make their way back into homes around Australia.
Plants and their benefits are not new to home owners. Plants of course, have sustained generations of people through the years. They sustain us with food, provide shelter and timber, and they help to keep our planet cool. In the home plants are not only pleasant to look at, but they help to improve air quality, and at an emotional level they create feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
I’m of the view that as more of us live in apartments and units, and as our backyards continue to shrink, indoor plants will increasingly provide an essential, and in some cases only connection between people and nature. The tangibility of a plant, the joy in watching it grow and thrive, the softness they bring to a room and the ambiance they create are all so important to our lives.
Some plants grow better indoors than others. So, if you are new to plants, or just need a refresher, where do you start? Coming in and having a chat with our qualified garden staff is a great first option. If you know your home well, you will understand where the light falls and how much of it there is. You will understand which rooms are hotter or cooler than others, where there are breezes, and in which direction your heater projects it’s warmth … and these are the things we need to know in helping you select a plant that will not only look good, but will thrive for years to come.
- Plants do best in a pot with drainage. The current trend for ‘cover pots’ can make this difficult (cover pots are a pot without a drainage hole – they are fabulous for keeping your furniture and mantles free of water stains so don’t discard them completely as an option).
Unless you are exceptionally careful, we always recommend you keep your plant in it’s plastic pot, and then sitting the plastic pot and its plant inside the cover pot. Not only does this allow for good drainage, it also allows the roots of your plant to have better air circulation.
- Most plants fail because they are so very much loved…. that is to say, they are killed with kindness, particularly over the winter months. As a rule of thumb, only water your indoor plants when the top of the soil is dry. Don’t be afraid to poke your finger into the soil – you’ll be able to tell fairly easily if it is wet or dry. Take note too of your plant – it will often tell you if it needs water. The Peace Lilly is a good example of this - drooping leaves are a sure sign it needs a good drink. If you are still feeling uncertain about being able to test the soil by touch, we do have moisture meters for sale in store.
- Watering routines will very much depend on your plant, and the warmth and humidity of your home. You may well find yourself watering every 10-14 days in winter, whereas in summer you might water every 5-7 days …. Be sure to be guided by your plants and not by the calendar or the day of the week.
- Dusting you hear me say …. Yes, dusting the leaves of your plants regularly is good practice. Keeping the leaves clean and free of dust is part of maintaining a healthy plant. Of course, shiny clean leaves also look much nicer and more vibrant then those encrusted with months’ worth of household grime. Dusting is as easy as flicking a feather duster over the leaves, or wiping them over with a clean, damp cloth.
- Plants are like all living things in respect to the fact that they age and they don’t always look fabulously perfect. It is a normal growth pattern in most plants for old leaves to yellow as they age, and eventually fall off. Some plants will become ‘tatty’ if their leaves are constantly touched or passed by (for example by small children or by pets), some will have unsightly insect damage and others will brown along the edges because of over watering. Of course, there is no ‘botox’ or ‘plumping’ for plants, but that doesn’t mean you can’t intervene to keep your plants looking their best. Don’t be afraid to get the scissors out and trim off straggly growth or browning leaves. Always pick up and dispose of leaves which have dropped, and know that it’s quite normal for plants to look perfectly imperfect – of course, plants, like us, don’t look perfect all of the time.
- Get to know your plants. Careful observation will mean you pick up any pest and disease issues sooner which should make them easier to control. Look for scale insects (along stems and in crevices or on the rear of leaves), thrip damage (silvering to the leaf), Mealy Bug (white fluffy insects), Gnats (those pesky tiny flies which lay eggs in damp soil) and of course any fungal disease which may cause leaf damage or rotting at the crown or base of the plant. Most pest issues can be easily controlled organically. You are always welcome to bring in damaged leaves – we are happy to help identify the damage and recommend a control measure (just pop them in a snap lock bag before you come into the garden centre to prevent the spread of pests and disease)
- Like people, plants also require nutrients. The good thing with indoor plants, is that nutrients are easy to apply and not nearly as cumbersome as preparing a meal every day of the week. My preferred way to get nutrients to indoor plants is a liquid feed with Yates Thrive (in the green box), every month during the growing season. Not everyone however likes to apply a liquid fertiliser, or indeed remembers to do it regularly. If you fall into this category then a slow release fertiliser like Osmocote for Pots, Planters and Indoor Plants might be just the thing you are after.
OUR INDOOR FAVOURITES
There are so many amazing plants to choose from. Here are a few of our favourites which we’ve selected for both their hardiness and for their availability. If you’ve not grown indoor plants before, these are fabulous plants to get you on the road to becoming a plant addict:
- Zanzibar Gem: Amazingly hardy, requiring very little water. Zanzibar Gem is also very tolerant of low light
- Mother In Laws Tongue (Sanseveria): An oldie but a goodie, the Mother in Law’s Tongue, like the Zanzibar Gem is also tolerant of low light and requires very little water. A lovely plant for tight spaces, or where you are looking to get some height.
- Devils Ivy (Pothos): Not everyone is a fan of variegation, but this makes a lovely plant to cascade over a mantle, a book case, or place in a hanger. Super hardy, it’s well worth including in your home. Keep out of reach of small children and animals who are likely to chew the leaves as they are toxic. Devils Ivy will tolerate a range of light conditions. Water when dry.
- Philodendron: There are many varieties of Philodendron, with a big variation in leaf and plant size. Philodendron are hardy plants. Those with a larger leaf surface do seem to attract dust, so be sure to keep them clean.
- Spider Plant: Another oldie which will also do well outside in the garden. The Spider Plant multiply rapidly be sending down ‘babies’ which if planted will become a new plant. Water when dry.
- Chinese Money Plant (Pilea Peperomioides): these are the latest must have plant, though they are certainly becoming easier to source then was once the case (you will generally find some in stock in store at B&B). I grow these at home and have found them to be quite hardy. Water when dry, and be sure to keep turning the plant each week so that you get good even growth (left unturned, the plant will send growth towards the light only). Pilea do like good light. If you like quirk you will love the pancake shaped leaves of the Pilea.
- Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata): This ficus has been in high demand for several years now. Its large leaves give a lovely, lush effect in the home, and I understand why they are so sought after. Like the Pilea above, they are actually quite easy to look after. Only water when dry, keep the leaves free of dust, and turn the plant regularly. Many Fiddle Leaf Figs succumb to over watering so do watch that you are not heavy handed in this area. While we are on their fussy ways, they prefer to be kept away from both hot and cold draughts (keep well away from your air conditioning vent), and while they like good light, they prefer not to have direct sunlight – particularly the baking late afternoon summer sun. I often think that if a Fiddle Leaf can see the sky but not feel the sun on its leaves it will be happy. Like the Philodendron above, do keep their leaves clean.
- Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis): Moth Orchids are a fabulous way to bring colour to your home. While a Moth Orchid is a little pricier then some plants, you certainly get value for money from these little guys with their long flowering period (up to 4-6 months). I look on a moth orchid as better then buying fresh flowers for the house! Water when dry and never leave sitting in water.
- Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum): This very common houseplant is not to be overlooked for its versatility. It’s an all round good guy to have in the home, tolerating both low light and bright light, and requiring little care beside watering when dry, trimming tatty leaves and a regular feed. Look out for the striking Spathiphyllum Blue Moon with it’s beautiful and superbly large leaves – it makes a divine house plant.
Here at B&B we have one or two ‘crazy plant ladies’ on staff, along with a whole lot of amazing plants and fabulous pots, baskets and hangers to put them in. Be sure to pop in and have a chat with us -we’d love to help you with your plant addiction.