How to look after house plants
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Whether it’s a peace lily, a spider plant an African violet or an orchid, the addition of a houseplant will bring a little brightness to any home. Just like the plants in your garden, all houseplants need a little bit of care and attention to help them grow and thrive, but keeping them looking their best doesn’t need to be a chore – just follow these quick and easy steps to enjoy green-fingered success indoors.
Most houseplants come from countries with a much warmer climate than the UK. In their natural habitat, what we consider houseplants would actually be outdoor plants, so it’s important to give them as much of a natural feel as possible in your home.
Step 1: Keep it light
Most houseplants need a lot of natural light, but many actually don’t like being left in direct sunlight. Try placing them in a bright part of a room, but avoid south facing windowsills as these will receive direct sunlight during the brightest time of day. If you plan on keeping your plant in a darker room, choose one that is more suited to low light conditions such as a dragon tree or a mother in laws tongue.
Step 2: The perfect temperature
The temperature of most homes will be fine for the majority of houseplants, but make sure during winter that you don’t leave them too close to windows or the direct heat of radiators and open fires. Take a little extra care with tropical species by not leaving them in cold rooms.
Step 3: Watering your plants
Watering is key to keeping your houseplants healthy. As a rule, smaller plants should be watered from below to allow them to take up what they need, while larger plants can be watered from above to allow any excess to drain away. Make sure you don’t over water your plants, and don’t leave water to settle in the bottom of pots, especially in the case of orchids which should be kept moist but not waterlogged.
In addition to watering, tropical plants need an increased level of humidity. This is easy to accomplish – simply mist them gently with a spray bottle, place them on a damp gravel tray, or group them close together.
Step 4: Keeping your plants well fed
Like any other plant, houseplants will need feeding to get the nutrients they need to stay strong and healthy. This should be done from spring to autumn, using a liquid feed such as Baby Bio, slow release granules or drip feeders. Specific feeds are available for plants with special requirements like orchids and citrus plants.
Step 5: Repot when needed
As houseplants grow it may become necessary to repot them. Make sure you move the plant into a pot that is only slightly larger than the one you are moving it from, as there is no benefit from it having too much root space. Repotting should be done in early spring using a houseplant compost. In the case of an orchid, make sure that you repot immediately after it has flowered using a specialist compost.
Top tips for orchids
Once an orchid’s flowers have died the stem will start turning brown, when this happens, follow these steps and it should begin to flower again in a month or two:
- Cut it back to a healthy green part just above a notch on the stem.
- Put it in a cooler room reduce how much you water it.
- After a few weeks, put it back into the warmer room and increase the watering again.
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