The houseplant care guide

Written by    Last updated: August 30, 2007

Plants around the house not only help clean the air but are also mood uplifting, bringing a bit of the outdoors inside the home…

house plants

Houseplants fall into two main groups: foliage and flowering. Foliage plants are selected primarily for the appearance of their leaves, which come in all shades and patterns. Flowering plants are a great alternative to cut flowers and even during non‐flowering periods, are attractive accessories to place in any part of the house.

The amount of light, air, water, warmth, feeding and pruning that each plant requires will vary according to the specific type. Check on the care label before buying. It is useful to have an idea beforehand where the plant is intended to go in the house. For instance, whether the spot gets a lot of natural light and whether the conditions are likely to be more humid, like in the bathroom.

Useful houseplant tips

  • Always use fresh compost for potting or re-potting houseplants, rather than garden soil.
  • Houseplants generally do not need to be fed during the dormant winter months. Always check on the plants specific needs.
  • Water used to rinse milk bottles is a good source of food for houseplants and can be used instead of normal water.
  • In winter, melted snow is excellent for houseplants.
  • Adding fertiliser pellets to the soil surface is a great way to feed your plants each time you water them. This is particularly helpful for anyone with a hectic lifestyle and is likely to be forgetful about feeding them.
  • Ferns flourish well with the addition of weak tea; so burying a tea bag in the soil is likely to help their growth.
  • If you’re going on holiday, ask a friend to water your plants, or you could create a self‐watering device: place all the houseplants near a bowl of water and run a length of wool from the bowl to each plant – water will be passed to the plants slowly as wool absorbs the water.
  • Remember to clean the houseplants once every month. For tough and glossy leaves, wipe with a dampened soft cloth. Small leaves can be sprayed regularly with water. Leaves with soft hairs on them should be cleaned with a soft paintbrush.

Houseplant troubleshooting

Poor growth: the plant is not getting enough light
Yellowed leaves: it has been over‐watered or may be catching a draught
Brown patchy leaves: the plant is placed in too sunny a position
Drooping leaves: the soil is either too wet or too dry ‐ check watering instructions
Falling leaves: the soil is too dry or the position is either too cold or draughty
Bottom leaves falling: conditions too dry, too warm or the plant is not getting sufficient natural light
Not flowering: caused by either overfeeding or by not getting enough light

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