House Plant Care

Strong, healthy plants, suited to an indoor environment are vital for success. Since pot plants grow in a limited amount of soil, it is important to use appropriate composts and to maintain the level of nutrients in the compost with correct feeding.

Choosing Plants
Most indoor plants are container grown. If possible check their date of delivery at the point of sale and buy those that have recently arrived. Each plant should be labelled with its full name and cultivation details.

Look for sturdy plants with strong stems, healthy foliage, and vigorous growing points. Reject any that have weak growth, dieback, or discoloured, wilting or brown edged leaves. Choose younger plants which should adapt more easily than larger specimens to new conditions.

Do not buy pot-bound plants or those with dry, weedy, or moss covered compost-they have been starved of nutrients and seldom recover fully. Make sure the growing tips and leaves are free from pests and diseases.

Flowering plants should have plenty of buds that are just starting to colour. Climbing plants should be correctly pruned and trained. Do not buy tropical plants in winter, since sudden fluctuations in temperature may have damaged them. If transporting plants in cold weather, wrap them in plastic for insulation.

Positioning a plant
Place each plant in a room that provides the levels of temperature, humidity, and light that it requires. Flowering house plants that are of subtropical or tropical origin flower poorly or not at all if kept too cool or in poor light, whereas many foliage plants tolerate cool and shady areas.

Cacti and other dry atmosphere plants need light, airy and dry conditions. Plants such as Begonia rex require more humidity. If conditions in your home are not ideal for a particular plant, a different cultivar of the same genus may be more suitable.

Potting Mixtures
Always use good quality prepared potting composts for indoor plants. Loam based composts are generally most suitable because they contain and retain more nutrients, dry out less quickly and are easier to re-wet than peat substitute or peat-based mixes.

They are also heavier, providing stability for big pot plants.

Composts based on peat substitute or peat are often used for short lived plants. They have little inherent fertility compared to loam based mixes, and plants grown in them require careful regular feeding. These composts tend to lose their structure in time, causing poor aeration and watering difficulties.

Plunging pot plants
Plants arranged in large containers may be plunged in their individual pots into water retentive material, such as clay pellets, to reduce water loss and improve local humidity. Clay can absorb up to 40% of its own weight in water so be sure to use a watertight outer container. Coconut fibre, bark and peat are used as plunge materials, but plants may root into the medium, making them difficult to remove. Overwatering peat may result in waterlogging which can rot the roots. Moisture indicators are useful in gauging when the plants need water.

Plant Supports
Various supports are available for house plants. Choose one that is suitable for the growth habit of the plant, taking into account its speed of growth and eventual size.

Plants with aerial roots grow well up a moss pillar; tie in the shoots until the roots penetrate it; keep the pillar damp by misting.

Trailing or climbing plants with several stems may be trained onto wire hoops. Use a single hoop or several, depending on the plants vigour. A balloon shape of up to eight wires is attractive, allowing good air circulation and access to light for plants with many stems.

Many climbers support themselves by means of twining stems, leaf stalks or tendrils, and grow readily up bamboo tripods; they may need tying in at first.

Single stemmed plants need only a bamboo cane for support; insert the cane before planting to avoid damaging the roots.

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