How to Set Up Houseplant Window Displays

One of the difficulties with window displays often is the problem of deciding for whom the display is intended – the owner or the man in the street looking in. But however the display is arranged, the looker-in is likely to get the best from it, as almost all plants will quite quickly turn their leaves to the natural light source. The occasional twist of the pot will, of course, help to improve the internal appear­ance of the window arrangement. Twisting the pot in this way will also keep the more rounded type of plant, such as Peperomia cape-rata, looking less lop-sided.

how to set up plants in windows

Before arranging a window display, take into account the light requirements of the plant you intend to use, as there is nothing to be gained from putting shade-loving marantas in window locations that will expose them to the full, albeit filtered, rays of the sun. Similarly, there would be little point in putting sun-loving crotons in windows that face due north. Also, if there is nothing more than a simple windowledge for placing plants on, ensure that radiators immediately below the windowledge are not going to damage plants placed imme­diately above them. Hot air ascending from room heaters will be harmful to almost all potted plants, and the hot, dry conditions created will be a perfect breeding place for such pests as red spider. One way of overcoming the problem is to place a shelf on top of the radiator which will deflect hot air from the plants.

Where shelf space around the window is limited, a great deal can be done to increase the potential plant area by putting plants in hang­ing pots. Hanging baskets have been men­tioned elsewhere, but in most instances these would be much too large for the.smaller win­dow. However, there is no reason why con­ventional plant pot covers should not be

plant in window display in alcove

climbing plant for window display

adapted to become hanging planters. This is done by drilling three holes spaced at equal distance around the rim of the pot cover just below the lip, and fitting three slender chains or nylon string from which the plant in its pot can be suspended in the pot cover. Not having holes in the bottom, the pot cover will collect any surplus water that drains through the growing pot after watering. There are any number of attractive indoor plants that are well suited to this sort of treatment; almost all the ivies, Philodetidroti scandens, Rhoicissus rhofu-boidea and columneas.

Many of the trailing green-foliaged plants grow equally well when climbing a supporting stake or trellis, and the majority are sold as climbing plants. They are sold in this way simply because it is more practical for the pro­ducer of the plant to control them when they are neatly tied in to a support of some kind. Fortunately for the householder, the majority of the smaller-leaved plants can be carefully removed from their supports and allowed to trail down more naturally. Following removal from the support the plant leaves will have an unnatural appearance, but will quickly adjust to the new position as they turn their leaves to the light source.

Two trailing plants that are not too bulky, so not so demanding in respect of space, are Saxifraga sarmentosa (Mother of Thousands) and Ceropegia woodii (Hearts Entangled), both of which will trail very effectively. The cero­pegia has small heart-shaped leaves that are attached to very slender stems that hang straight downwards from the pot and may be several metres in length. Trailing Sedum sieboldii is another good choice.

For the narrow windowledge, trough-type containers are excellent as they blend more naturally and you can get many more plants into them, certainly more than if the container had a circular shape. Also with trough-type containers it is possible to butt them one to the other so that a continual display along the windowsill is possible. Having several smaller troughs is often better than one very long one, as you can give the plants in the smaller con­tainers more individual treatment. If there should be a major disaster then only a small section of the plant collection is affected. Also, with a number of small containers rather than one very large one their removal will be a much simpler task when such essential opera­tions as window-cleaning become necessary. A further advantage with a collection of con­tainers is that a range of plants needing very different treatment in respect of soil, watering and feeding could be grown alongside one another; for example, one of the troughs on the windowsill could be devoted to growing 4 cacti or other succulents.

Often enough the houseplant grower wish­ing to make the window area a special feature of the room will need a selection of larger plants at either side, to frame the picture as it were. The size of such plants will, to some extent, be dictated by the area and the height of the window area. But whatever the size of the plant, it is important that any framework to which they may be attached (trellis, for example) should be free-standing and not attached to the wall of the room, as plants will then in effect become part of the room. While the plant is growing trouble-free this sort of situation may be all very well, but if pests, for example, become a problem plants should be mobile enough to be moved outside and thoroughly sprayed over.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the best indoor plants are grown in the rooms that have the largest window area in relation to the size of the room, and that the best plants in such rooms will be growing in the vicinity of the window. Bay windows that are glassed to the floor are probably best of all as there is reason­able scope with such windows for the artistic plant grower to create a really eye-catching array of plants. In such window areas there is an environment that is as near to that o( a greenhouse as is ever likely to be in the home. And with a little extra effort the floor area o( such windows can be waterproofed so that plants in the window recess can be watered more freely.

Besides the bolder display on the floor there is also the possibility of fixing shelves across the window on which a wide selection of both foliage and flowering plants may be grown. Also, to keep the area surrounding plants cleaner and more agreeable for the plants them­selves a metal container fitting exactly into the window recess can be made. If the container is filled with moist peat into which the plant pots can be plunged the resultant plant growth could just possibly prove to be a tiny bit astonishing.

If the job is to be done properly it will also be necessary to fit blinds to the window. These can be drawn to protect more tender plants from the full effect of the sun’s rays on warmer days.

Drawing blinds in the evening will protect plants from cold draughts. The same applies on colder days as the leaves of plants should not touch the glass. Keeping plant leaves away from the glass on very sunny days is an equally important precaution, as they can very easily be scorched. When the curtains are drawn in the evening the plants should be taken from the window area, or draw the curtains between the plants and the glass. This will ensure that the plant collection is not unduly exposed to colder conditions.

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