Choosing and Caring for your House Plants

A Selection of Succulents on Plantation Shutters Ltd

Choosing and Caring for your House Plants

With so many benefits including improved mental health, productivity, air quality and interior style, opting for indoor plants is becoming an ever-increasing trend. Whether you’re new to hortology and not sure where to start, or a rookie botanist seeking advice on keeping your new additions thriving, we have some tips for you.

Initially you will need to consider which type of plant you would like to opt for, and the benefits it can offer. Easily distinguishable by their thick leaves or body formed in unusual floral shapes, the succulent family are by far the most popular choice for house plants. Succulents are the easiest plant species to care for as they require very little attention and are relatively hardwearing - in other words, if you periodically show them some love they’re unlikely to die. Another common find in the home is potted herbs or vegetables, often located on the kitchen sill. The benefits of these fresh ingredients in your cooking can be enjoyed by the whole family and save you some pennies in your weekly shop. There are also many other great options available such as Orchids and Japanese Peace Lilies and although a little trickier to care for, with the right love these can make stunning additions to your home interiors. Below is a quick guide on each of these plant styles and advice on their care.

 

Succulents

There are over 100 species of succulent, and although many of these are suitable to be kept indoors, there are 7 varieties that are especially popular for homeowners due to their low maintenance:

  • Jade Plant (Crassula ovata)

  • Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis miller) – Quick tip: pull the leaves off for health benefits including burn relief, skin moisturing and antibacterial properties.

  • Snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciatta) – Also referred to as ‘Mother in laws tongue’ and ‘St George’s Sword’.

  • African Milk Tree (Euphorbia trigona)

  • Cacti (Cactaceae)

  • Air Plant (Tillandsia)

  • Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides)

 Water

Your succulents are at greater risk of overwatering than under. Allow the top top soil to dry between watering, wetting the soil directly and never the leaves. Do not water already moist soil. Your succulent will need watering according to the season - succulents grow most in spring and summer months so during this time monitor your succulent closely and water as required.

 Light

Make sure your succulents get enough light by keeping them somewhere close to a window or glass door, rotating regularly.

 Temperature

Succulents can endure both hot and cold temperatures so if it’s a comfortable heat for your home (17 – 21 degrees), your succulent will be happy too. Avoid keeping your succulent in intense direct sunlight during hot summer months as root systems are more vunerable to damage in pots.

 Soil

You can buy suitable succulent soil and fertiliser in most applicable shops. This will be especially important in spring during the growth period. Avoid soils with high percentage of peat moss as this holds too much moisture and if necessary break up your soil with sand, sticks and gravel to allow for best water drainage. The best time to re-pot your succulent is spring/ early summer to encourage growth.  

 Potting

There is an abundance of succulent pots available in different materials and designs, the trick is to get the size and drainage right and understand what slight changes of care are required based on your pot choice. Most succulents have a shallow root system so having an overly large pot can cause excess moisture to get trapped and the roots to rot. Choose a pot only slightly larger than the succulent and repot every couple of years as it grows. If you have repurposed a beautiful container as a succulent pot, ensure that you create a couple of drainage holes to allow excess water to escape, most shop-bought pots will already have these but if not, you carefully add one yourself. Mzgardens.com has useful tips on drilling this drainage hole as well as the differences between pot materials. Keep your succulents clean of dust and bugs to encourage growth.

Herbs and Vegetables

Many people like to have some potted herbs or easy-grow vegetables in their kitchen window to brighten up the room and for use in cooking. Some examples you can get hold of include:

  • Rosemary

  • Thyme

  • Bay leaves

  • Coriander

  • Basil

  • Peppers and chillies

  • Cress

  • Tomatoes

  • Green Onions

  • Loose leaf lettuce

  • Radishes

Herbs

 Water

Water infrequently to encourage strong root growth to the bottom of the pot. Watering your herbs slowly will allow the soil to absorb water before running out of the drainage holes.

 Light

The more light the better, so keep your herbs next to a large window avoiding letting them touch the glass to stop them burning or getting too cold. A good tip is to add some insultation to your windows to control the light and temperature directed at your plants. Our kitchen shutters would be the perfect solution to this. Check out our gallery to get inspired.

 Temperature

Herbs do not like cold temperatures and allowing them to get too cold can hinder growth. The most successful growth will come if herbs are kept at 18 degrees or higher.

 Soil

Standard potting soil will work great for your herbs. If you have your heart set on a particularly large pot that is slightly too big, add some sticks and gravel to improve drainage and prevent too much moisture gathering in your soil. Once your herbs have grown exponentially, you can divide up between outdoor pots using multipurpose soil to allow continual growth. Fertilise with an organic or seaweed and liquid fish fertiliser.

 Potting

Ensure your pot has a drainage hole and sits on a saucer to catch any water leakage. Consider the size of your pot based on your plant’s requirements, for example basil has larger roots than most other herbs so will need a large/ deep pot to accommodate them however too large and even soil moisture will be difficult to achieve and maintain.

 

Vegetables

 Water

Water frequently and slowly to allow the soil to absorb the moisture, monitor your watering carefully as overdoing it will kill the plant.

 Light

Choose windowsills that get plenty of sun, a minimum of 5 hours a day is best or as much as possible in the summer months. Don’t make your vegetable plants compete for light by overcrowding pots, give them plenty of space.

 Temperature

An average house temperature (17oc to 21oc) is warm enough to keep your window veggies alive, however in colder months the roots can withstand cooler temperatures so don’t worry about digging them into the garden should you wish. In summer months, the increased temperature and sunlight will encourage growth so don’t forget to give them plenty of food.

 Soil

Use compost specially designed for containers as it will be most effective in holding water and extra nutrients. Nutrients will soon get used up by vegetable plants so get hold of a liquid feed and use at least once every two weeks.

 Potting

20cm deep window pots are fine for most window vegetables, however if you venture into dig- in carrots or beans then you will need up to 30cm. Be wary of space, overcrowding the pot will result in poor growth.

Other popular choices

Some of these other home favourites are a little trickier to care for so ensure you read the instructions on them carefully once purchased and show them lots of attention.

Japanese peace lily (Spathiphyllum wallisii)

 Water

Keep soil moist but avoid overwatering. Leaves will brown if underwatered. Another cause for browning leaves may be the lily’s sensitivity to some of the chemicals found in tap water such as fluoride. Filtered, room temperature water would be best for watering.

 Light

Keep peace lily’s in a well-lit area but avoid direct, intense sunlight. Morning rays are great to encourage growth, but direct afternoon light can be too intense so try to avoid on warmer days.

 Temperature

Peace Lilies prefer warmer, humid climates so will thrive in temperatures of 21 degrees upwards, although they can survive in temperatures of 16oc and above provided they are kept away from cold, drafty windows.  

 Soil

Any well- draining, all-purpose soil is suitable for peace lilies.

Philodendron (Philodendron bipinnatifidum)

 Water

Allow the top soil to dry out between watering by approximately 1 inch.

 Light

Keep in a well-lit area out of direct sunlight. The most suitable place would be next to a window where sun rays never directly reach the leaves.  

 Temperature

20 – 23 degrees is the ideal temperature for a Philodendron.   

 Soil

Use any good planting soil and fertilise every 1-2 weeks using liquid foliage houseplant fertiliser.

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)

 Water

Keep soil consistently moist during spring and summer months for growth, this can be reduced in winter.  

 Light

Keep in a well-lit area out of direct sunlight. The most suitable place would be next to a window where sun rays never directly reach the leaves. 

 Temperature

18 – 26 degrees is the ideal temperature for a cast iron plant.    

 Soil

Use any good planting soil, fertilise regularly during growth periods and reduce in winter months.

Orchids (Orchidaceae)

 Water

Most orchids need watering approximately once a week. Overwatering will cause the roots to rot so avoid this.

 Light

Orchids are best placed on a bright windowsill to get plenty of light.  

 Temperature

18 -26 degrees is the ideal temperature for Orchids.

 Soil

Use specialised orchid soil and feed weekly with specialised orchid fertiliser.  

***If you have pets or young children be cautious when selecting your house plant as some plants can be toxic if ingested by humans or animals.***

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