Indoor plants made easy

TRANSFORM YOUR HOME WITH INDOOR PLANTS

Growing indoor plants helps to create greener, healthier and more beautiful interior spaces. Plants help us to breathe more easily as they filter the air and give us oxygen.

As indoor gardeners, we can grow anything from small herb planters on the kitchen window; to single or multi-planted pots, to vertical garden installations flanking an interior or inner courtyard wall.

The range of house plants now available is considerable and may be often be overwhelming for less than experienced indoor gardeners. This article aims to demystify the art of greening your home.

Indoor plants mostly originate from forested tropical areas where they are used to either dense shade or dappled light via protection from trees. Successful indoor gardening starts with making sure your plant is getting the light it needs for optimum growth.

Below is a simple explanation of light levels often referred to by horticulturalists or on plant labels, followed by plant lists.

Low Level:   

  • Artificial home or office lighting on sporadically during the day and plant is 2-3m away from a window. NB Fluorescent lights are best.
  • Corners of the room, hallways stairwells, no windows within 2m.

Medium Level:

  •  Artificial light on for at least 8 -10 hours per day.
  •  A level of light similar to being outdoors on an overcast day.
  •  A position 1-1.5m away from a north or north east window.
  •  A position next to a south facing window (this may not be enough light for your plant in winter when the sun is lower in the sky.

High Level:

  •  A bright room, sunroom or conservatory with natural diffused sunlight for much of the day.
  •  A position 75cm-1m away from a north or north east window.
  •  Artificial light - 12 -16 hours per day.

Light is critical to the wellbeing of your plants but periods of darkness are also important. Please ensure they receive at least 8 hours of no light per day for optimum health. 

WHICH PLANT IN WHICH LIGHT?b

Low level

Aspidistra Cast Iron Plant; bromeliads; Chlorophytum Spider Plant, Cissus kangaroo vine/grape ivy; Dieffenbachia maculata Dumbcane – note: poisonous to dogs; Epipremnum aureum Pothos, devil’s ivy); Philodendron oxycardium Heartleaf philodendron; Radermachera  China Doll; Pilea cadierei  Aluminium plant; Sanseveria  Mother In-Laws Tongue, Spathiphyllum peace lily (needs medium light to flower); Syngonium; Zamioculcas ZZ Plant.

Palms: Howeia forsteriana Kentia palm; Chamaedorea elegans Parlour palm.

Medium level

Aralia (previously Dizygotheca), Aspidistra elatior  Cast iron plant; cacti and succulents, Chlorophytum, Cissus Antarctica, Cissus rhombifolia Kangaroo vine,  grape ivy; Dieffenbachia; Epipremnum aureum pothos, devil’s ivy; Ficus benjamina, Ficus elasticaFicus lyrata; Hedera helix varieties (small leaved ivy);Hoya carnosa; Ipomoea sweet potato; Monstera delicious Taurii Swiss Cheese Plant; Peperomia sp. Philodendron oxycardium Heartleaf philodendron; Philodendron pertusum Splitleaf philodendron; Philodendron Xanadu, Congo and Rojo Congo; Schefflera Umbrella plant; Spathiphyllum; Syngonium

Ferns: Asplenium nidus Bird's nest fern; Nephrolepis exalta bostonienis Boston fern; Cyrtomium falcatum Holly fern and Adiantum sp. Maidenhair fern.

PalmsDypsis lutenscens Golden cane palm; Chamaedorea elegans; Chamaedorea erumpens Bamboo palm; Howeia forsteriana; Rhapis excels Rhapis palm

High level:

Aucuba; Bromeliads; most cacti and succulents, Calathea, Carnivorous plants;  Cissus Kangaroo vine, Ctenanthe, Cyclamen; Dracaena; Ficus benjamina, Ficus lyrata; Golden cane palms; Hedera helix; herbs, Hoya carnosa Ipomoea sweet potato; Maranta, Orchids; Peperomia, Rex Begonia; Saintpaulia species African violet, Schefflera Umbrella plant Strelitzia nicolai.

PalmsDypsis lutenscens; Chamaedorea elegans ; Chamaedorea erumpens and Howeia forsteriana Rhapis excelsa.

PROBLEMS

How do you know if your plant is not getting enough light?

1.   Straggly growth.

2.   New shoots angle towards the light.

3.   Lower leaves turn yellow, then drop (could also be overwatering).

4.   Growth is sluggish or non-existent.

5.   Variegated plants revert back to being green.

Too much light does this:

1.   Brown scorched patches on leaves.

2.   Leaves look faded, burned or patchy.

3.   Leaves become brown and dry off.

4.   Plant wilts during the hottest part of the day.

CARE

It is better to underwater than over water indoor plants, particularly during the colder seasons. Use your finger to check. If the plant is moist, don’t water it. If it is bone dry and small enough to do so, soak in a bucket of very weak seaweed liquid until the bubbles stop. You will get to know the watering needs of your plants after a while.

Weak tea with no milk or sugar is a nice tonic for house plants and also acts as a dilute fertiliser and pesticide.

Ensure your plants aren’t coated with dust – wipe or hose off - and that they have a holiday in the shade outside every 2-4 weeks or so. Some people have a rotation system where they swap 2 plants – ie one outside one inside.

If your plant is becoming brown on the leaf tips or is dropping leaves, it may mean it is being over watered or needs more humidity (mist the leaves). It may also be dry air from airconditioning (see pic) or a build up of fertiliser salts. Never leave your plant sitting in a saucer of water as it will cause leaf drop or rotting. 

Pests include scale and the dreaded mealybug. Both may be treated with Eco oil to which Eco Neem has been added. Confidor is an insecticide which works well with mealybug and, while we would never use this outside (it kills bees), it is generally okay inside where no bees will come visiting. If your plant is riddled with mealybug, dispose of it and buy yourself another plant. It is a persistent pest.

Fertilising: Indoor plants generally need much less food than their outside counterparts as they don’t tend to grow as fast.

Feed with a natural granular fertiliser like No Frills Rock Dust Plus or Eco Prime Garden in spring or summer. Every month or so except during winter, treat your plants to a weak solution of liquid fertiliser. Always ensure the plant is moist before fertilising.  

Propagation of indoor plants is so simple and many cuttings can even be struck in water (filtered or rain is best). Try: Dracaena fragrans,  Rhoeo (moses in the cradle), Ipomoea sweet potato; Philodendron cultivars, especially the climbing ones which are easy to strike, small leaved ivies,  Syngonium, Impatiens and Tradescantia. Change water when it starts to colour. 

Happy growing!

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