Collection of houseplants from Chanel de Koch (TheJoyOfPlants)

Add some greenery to your home with houseplants
Image: Thejoyofplants.co.uk

Have you always thought how nice it would be to liven up your home with a selection of stunning houseplants? If you don’t know which plants to choose or how to keep them alive, we’ve got just the information you need to turn your home into an indoor oasis. We asked some of our favourite houseplant bloggers to address some of your frequently asked questions. Here’s what they said…

Why grow houseplants?

Four large fern plants in an airy living room

Houseplants have many physical and mental health benefits
Image: Thejoyofplants.co.uk

Colourful flowers, lush foliage, beautiful shapes and textures – these are just a few of the characteristics that make houseplants so aesthetically pleasing – it’s no wonder we love them so much. But bringing plants indoors is about more than adding interest to your decor. Plants are good for your health too.

Over at The Joy of Plants, Chanel de Kock writes:

Bringing nature into your home has a major positive impact on your mental and physical health. Plants lower blood pressure, improve productivity, ensure a better mood and improve performance at school and work.

And the benefits don’t stop there. Houseplants like aloe vera increase the oxygen content of the air in your home, and spider plants are just one of a number of plants that filter poisonous chemicals like formaldehyde from the air. As Chanel goes on to say: “And when it comes to plants, the bigger they are, the greater the positive effect they have. Simply put, plants make us feel good.”

Which easy-care plants should I choose?

Pink orchids from Gardening at 58

Simon coaxed this orchid to produce the most flowers he’s ever seen on a single spike
Image: Gardening at 58

Jane Perrone is a journalist, blogger and the host of houseplant podcast On The Ledge. She says: “It’s tempting to impulse-buy, but do your research first – finding out where a plant’s native home is and how it lives will give you an idea of the conditions it will enjoy in your home. At the same time, go with your heart. You’ll take far better care of plants that you feel passionately about.”

Think about where in your home you’re going to be growing your plant. The environment changes from room to room, offering different light levels and humidity. Boris Dadvisard of Invincible Happy Houseplants says even your bathroom is suitable for growing plants provided you choose the right ones – he recommends ferns, bamboos from warm, moist tropical climates, ivy and pothos vines which he says are:

Perfect for creating a lush atmosphere in the bathroom, placed around the sink, around the bathtub or hanging from a shelf.

Looking for plants for the kitchen? Boris recommends orchids which love the warm environment and don’t need too much watering: “Once a week, fill your kitchen sink with a few inches of cold water and set your orchids in to have a drink for about 30 minutes. Voila!”

Are you notoriously forgetful when it comes to watering your houseplants? Simon at YouTube chanel Gardening at 58 has the perfect easy-care pot plant solution: “Opuntia cactus which originates from a desert climate will do best on a sunny windowsill and will happily tolerate both low and high temperatures.”

Best plants for low light conditions?

Green 'Aspidistra elatior' from Thompson & Morgan

The elegant Aspidistra copes well with low light and little water
Image: Aspidistra elatior from Thompson & Morgan

Perhaps you live in a traditional cottage, or your house faces the wrong direction to benefit from the available sunlight; here in the UK we have more than our fair share of grey days, but you can still grow plants to brighten up your home.

Chanel at The Joy of Plants says: “Most tropical plants do well in darker spaces – if you think of a forest floor, usually the plants that grow there have limited light due to the forest canopy blocking out sunlight, and usually the darker the leaves, the better they can cope with less light.” 

Simon at Gardening at 58 agrees. He says perfect houseplants for low light include:

His top picks for houseplants for cooler rooms like unheated porches and conservatories include “sub-tropical plants, cacti and most succulents such as: Crassula ovata, Opuntia, Clivia miniata, Cycas revoluta, Aloe vera, Agave and Hedera helix.”

Subtropical houseplants are often more versatile and forgiving than we give them credit for but you should still do your best to protect them from extremes of light and temperature. House plants can’t thrive in darkness unless you invest in plant lamps, and they don’t like to be scorched or frozen to death. As a rule of thumb, if you can live with the conditions, your houseplants probably can too.

How to care for houseplants

Person watering a houseplant

Keep an eye on your houseplants so you’ll notice if they start to show signs of stress
Image: zaleskyphoto

The native environment from which your houseplants originate is the main determining factor in how you should care for them, but as a rule of thumb, Simon says:

Most houseplants found in the shops have been chosen because they grow naturally in temperature and light levels found in our houses, which tend to be at the subtropical range of temperatures.

Weekly watering is generally enough to keep this range of plants happy – but plants which occupy extreme climates in the wild do require more specialised care. For example, overwatering can prove fatal to cacti and underwatering is devastating to damp-loving ferns. Always check the instructions before buying houseplants so that you know what you’re letting yourself in for.

As well as water, plants need food which comes from the soil. Alexandra at Flat With Plants recommends: “During spring and summer feed your [foliage] houseplants every two weeks with a high nitrogen or magnesium food plant. Most plant fertilisers will be safe to use and provide the extra nitrogen. In autumn reduce feeding to monthly and take a break in winter.”

Also remember to take good care of the soil your plants grow in. Simon says that repotting is probably the most overlooked aspect of houseplants: “When you buy your plant it will most likely already have outgrown its pot.” Simon recommends using soil additives like perlite and bark based orchid compost to help maintain the soil’s structure for longer, but every once in a while you’ll need to repot your plants to keep them thriving.

How to care for houseplants when you’re away from home

Houseplant irrigation system from Invincible House Plants

Find an irrigation system to look after your plants while you’re on holiday
Image: Invincible House Plants

While you’re away from home, Boris Dadvisard of Invincible House Plants suggests gathering all your plants in the centre of a room, close to a bucket of water, so they can share humidity. Here are more of Boris’ clever self-watering tips to keep indoor plants healthy while you travel:

  • Lay pebbles in a saucer underneath the pot and soak them with water to store some humidity. The plant can access this extra water while you’re away.
  • The garden twine technique (as illustrated above). Soak a portion of garden twine in water. Stick one end in the soil and place the other end in a bucket filled with water. That’s your water reservoir. Make sure to place the reservoir above the level of your plants, so that the water can run down easily by capillarity.
  • Get some self-watering pots that have a water reservoir built in.

We hope you now feel confident to choose and look after a wide range of houseplants. Remember, if you do have some disasters, don’t worry – as Alexandra at Flat With Plants says:

For any plants you lose, you get the chance to buy another one, and if you’ve succeeded so far why not buy more plants and build yourself an indoor jungle.

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