Happy House-Plants

Two common misconceptions about house-plants are that in the first place they require a great deal of attention and secondly, that as a result of this they will live almost for ever. Neither of these suppositions is true.

When we plant a shrub in the garden (most house-plants are shrubs) we take the normal protective steps to make sure that it gets off to a good start, but after this it is more or less on its own. We check it occasionally to make sure that it does not need water, that it is not infested with pests or that it is not broken or misshapen, but on the whole it has to learn to make its own way in life. If it fails, if it turns out to be sickly, unproductive of blossom or fruit, unhappy in appearance or demanding of too much time or labour, then out it comes and it is replaced by another plant. Because there are so many plants in the garden we cannot afford to be over-sentimental about just one of them.

But indoors we are closer to our plants in our day-to-day lives; we get to know them, one by one, almost like pets and they steal their way into our hearts so that unless we control ourselves we tend to treat them that way too. We fuss over them, over-feed them, over-water them, move them around and given them no opportunity to settle down and get used to their surroundings.Rubber Plant - Ficus elastica

It is true that house-plants, living as they do under highly artificial conditions, require more attention and care than the trees and shrubs outside in their natural surroundings, but no real house-plant should demand more than two or three minutes’ attention a week. I manage to live with and enjoy rather more than 100 plants in my home in the country and I give them an average of only about half an hour a week. This is partly because of many years of experience, partly because the house is particularly suited to their care and partly because I am (just) able to steal myself into throwing out plants which have become sickly or unproductive of bloom through old age, and beginning again with new—in short, to regard house-plants as a means of decoration which must be treated as expendable. But on the other hand this is not to say that some of the plants here are not more than ten years old and have in their time demanded considerable time and attention to see them through a particularly bad patch.

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