Basic House Plant Needs

Basic House Plant Needs

When you buy your replacement plant, make a change from the very wide range of house-plants available today. Do not buy a plant that is too delicate and exotic unless you have ‘green fingers’ or are prepared for it to last only a short time. But there are many house-plants out of the ordinary run which are easy to grow and will live happily with you for many months.

Some people see a house-plant which strikes their imagination and they buy it, take it home and then wander about trying to find a place for it, one that suits it both physically and aesthetically. Others have a place already vacant in their homes and they set out to buy a plant to fit this place. Which is correct? Both.

But a little guidance may be helpful. The most vital necessity for house-plants is neither warmth nor water but light. The plants which need the greatest amount and intensity of light are cacti, some of the few plants that will revel in direct and baking sunshine. All flowering plants and all plants with variegated foliage require good light. Sun coming through a south-facing window will be too strong for them, but not if it comes from the east or west. Plants needing the least light are those with thick or fleshy dark green leaves.

Moderate, moist conditions

With very few exceptions high temperatures are neither necessary nor liked by most plants. Certainly no plant should ever be placed near a fire or a radiator of any kind merely to ensure that it is kept warm. As a rule temperatures which are comfortable for humans are also comfortable for

most house-plants, so one should aim for a fairly steady 65-70°F or 18-21°C.

Where rooms tend to get overheated and perhaps smoky during the evening it is best that plants are removed during the day and placed where they will have cooler and less polluted conditions. Some plants, cyclamen for example, will always do better in a lower temperature than a high one. To retain these plants in good condition for long periods, it is advisable to keep them in bedrooms or in other parts of the house where higher temperatures are not reached at certain times of the day.

Central heating is good for plants in that it gives them a comparatively steady warmth day and night and at all times of the year, but it is bad in that it dries the air and destroys the natural humidity that the plants need. This humidity, incidentally, is also good for furniture and indeed for the human skin, so in every way it is worth while trying to increase it. Fortunately this is a comparatively simple matter. A few pans of water about the house will add appreciably to the humidity and they can be hidden or disguised easily enough. Radiator troughs are available very cheaply and these perform their task perfectly adequately without resorting to the sometimes very expensive electric humidifiers on the market.

Ways of providing humidity: But it is even simpler and in some ways more efficient to give localised humidity to each and every plant that really needs it. This is done by plunging the plant, a term which means sinking the plant pot inside another, larger, waterproof container which holds peat, sand, crumbled FLORAPAK or any similar material that will absorb quantities of water. By doing this two results are achieved. In the first place any excess water from the flower pot will drain off into the packing material and secondly, when this is damp it will give off moisture by evaporation and this will rise to envelope the plant foliage in a tiny micro-climate of warm, moist air, just the treatment it likes and needs.

So beneficial are the results of plunging plant pots inside these peat-filled outer containers that as a general rule it is wise and helpful for all house-plants to be so treated. There is the added advantage that the outer pots can be considerably more decorative than the normal plant pots, plastic or terracotta, and fitting into the general decor and colouring of the room.

A further means of providing the necessary humidity for certain plants is actually to spray them with clean tepid water, using a fine spray or atomiser that will project the water more as a mist than as actual droplets. A spray of this type can damage certain furnishings, so it should be used only where there is no fear of this happening or where it is possible to protect the background by means of a few sheets of newspaper or some similar shielding material. The spraying need be only very light, certainly not sufficient to cause drips, but this light misting will be enormously beneficial to the plants.

Yet another method of increasing general humidity is by producing steam. In some rooms it will be possible, once a week or so, to boil a kettle for a few minutes or to bring into the room a large saucepan of boiling water and leave it to cool. There will be a significant increase in the humidity and all plants in the room will benefit.

A more local steam treatment can be given to certain plants such as saintpaulias or African violets perhaps once a month, if it is suspected that the atmophere is too dry for them. Place the plant inside a slightly larger but waterproof bowl, if it is not already in a plunge pot. Stand this in the centre of a large basin and then pour in boiling water so that the steam rises around and envelops the plant yet the boiling water itself cannot damage the roots. Leave the plant there until the water cools.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.