Care and Maintenance of Houseplants
A good, even temperature will suit most plants. This can be difficult to maintain, particularly in winter when heating fluctuates from day to night. Keep plants away from both draughts and heat sources such as radiators or fires. In winter, be particularly wary of leaving plants on windowsills where the curtains are drawn at night. This cuts out any heat from the room and can lead to plants being chilled.
How often to water? How often you water your plant depends on many factors. First, you need to know the plant’s particular needs. As a general rule of thumb, the thinner the leaf, the more water it needs. So succulents with their thick, fleshy leaves need less water than ferns with their paper-thin leaves.
The amount of water needed will also depend on the weather and the season. During hot spells in summer you may have to water some of your indoor plants every day. As growth slows in winter it is essential to give plants correspondingly less water. Too much water in autumn and winter will lead to the plant sitting in water, and this can make the roots rot.
To find out when your plant needs watering you need to get to know it. Get used to the weight of your plant when dry and when watered. This way you will be able to assess when it is drying out. You can also check how wet the compost is by putting your fingers just under the surface of the compost, With a combination of these two checks, you should be able to tell when your plant needs watering.
Watering Requirements for Different Houseplant Groups
Flowering plants usually need a medium amount of water. They should be kept fist moist but not allowed to become sodden. If they dry out, flower buds are likely to abort. For summer-flowering plants, reduce the watering as growth slows – autumn. Throughout winter, keep these plants just camp. When you notice growth starting up in spring, increase the watering.
Winter-flowering plants will need watering throughout their display time.
Orchids should never be allowed to dry out, but they should equally not be watered so much that the soil is constantly soggy. Watering should be frequent in summer but should slow to once every two or three weeks in winter. Orchids benefit from being watered with rainwater.
Mostare happy with an average watering, but they can usually be kept slightly dryer than flowering plants. Some, such as ferns, require slightly more water, but even for these, watering should be reduced overwinter.
Cacti and succulents can survive on very little water. However, if you want to see active growth and flowers, water cacti and succulents as much as other plants over a few months at the height of summer. In winter, watering should be slowed dramatically, and from late autumn onwards the soil should be kept almost completely dry and just given a small trickle every now and then.
Tips on How to Water Houseplants
Most indoor plants can be watered from above, on the top of their compost. The best way to do this is to use a houseplant watering can. These cans have long spouts that allow you to get past the leaves to water at the base of the plant. When watering, ensure that you wet the whole surface of the compost. You should always use a drip tray underneath the pot. Pour until you begin to see water emerging from the bottom of the pot. After the plant has been left to stand for an hour or so, empty out any excess water still in the tray. This gives the plant enough time to absorb the water it needs but stops it from sitting in water, which could lead to rotting.
Some plants should be watered from below. These are usually plants such as Saintpaulia, which have fleshy, hairy leaves that might rot if water is left sitting on them. Fill the plant’s tray with water and then leave the plant to take it up. After half an hour check to see if all the water has been absorbed. If it has, you may want to try filling the tray again. If there is water left in the tray after an hour, empty it.
Getting the Humidity Right for Houseplants in the Home
The air in most houses is pretty dry. Central heating dries rooms out and this can lead to leaves looking dried out and even the appearance of brown patches or edges. Low humidity will also encourage one of the most
If you have a shelf over a radiator in a room with indoor plants, place a saucer of water on the shelf. The water will evaporate and raise the humidity of the room. Remember to top it up regularly, especially when central heating is turned on.
Common pests of indoor plants are the red spider mite. Most indoor plants will reward any efforts to increase the humidity in the air around them by growing faster and having healthier foliage. Orchids and ferns need high levels of humidity to grow well.
There are several ways of increasing the humidity around plants. One of the simplest methods is to group plants together. Groups of plants will trap humidity within the canopy formed by their leaves. Regular misting with a fine spray is a good way of increasing humidity temporarily. A more long-term solution is to site the plants in a tray of expanded clay granules. These granules absorb water and release it slowly, so that the humidity around the plants remains constant.
Care and Cleaning of Your Indoor Plants
Cleaning is often overlooked when caring for indoor plants, but it can make a big difference to the health and appearance of your plants. Dust, deposits from household aerosols and lime scale deposits from misting all conspire to make plants look neglected. They also stop light and air from reaching the leaves, and so slow growth.
The plants that need cleaning most often are the foliage houseplants. Many of these have glossy leaves that show up dust. Wash the leaves carefully with a sponge and then wipe dry with a soft cloth. Small plants can be turned upside down and dunked into a bowl of tepid water.
Some leaves will also benefit from a polish with leaf shine or plant wipes, which can be bought from garden centres. Indoor plant leaves dull as they age, and leaf shine restores their natural glossiness. Only use polish on older leaves as young leaves have a natural shine.
Cacti can be dusted using a fine paintbrush.
Providing the Right Support for Your Houseplants
Some indoor plants will need training and supporting as they grow. For climbing plants such as jasmine, support is essential for them to display their foliage and flowers. Supports for climber plants can consist of a wire frame in the shape of a hoop or a circle, or even a tripod made of bamboo canes. Pieces of trellis that are small enough to push into the soil at the edge of the pot can also be used for this purpose.
A number of foliage plants, such as Monstera and Philodendron, use aerial roots that emerge from their stems as a method of climbing. However, you will need to provide a moss pole for these plants to attach themselves to, and for the purpose of climbing.
Some non-climbing, standard plants may benefit from the light support of a single cane which needs to be pushed into the compost at the centre of the pot. This will help to keep the plant growing straight and upright.