Improving Your Home with Plants

It is often supposed that plants are the perfect choice when it comes to selecting something to lighten up that darker corner of the living room, but nothing could be further from the truth. The only foliage plants that are likely to brighten the dark corners are those with highly coloured or variegated foliage, and these are the very plants that will require more than the average amount of light if they are to retain their colouring and prosper.

plants for home improvement

But this is not to say that there are no plants that are suited to less well-lit conditions, as there are many purely green foliage plants that will fare better in the darker, shaded corner or unused fireplace than they will if placed on the sunny windowsill. Among these you may choose from almost any of the many green-leaved philodendrons, which have either small leaves, in the case of P. scandens, or larger leaves, in the case of P. hastatum. Most of the bolder types of ferns will also be better if placed out of the sun’s rays, and the larger types, such as nephrolepis, will fill the space in almost any corner location. The latter, as well as most palms, are at their best when placed on top of one of those superb Victorian-style pedestals, or on top of a wrought iron pedestal if antique designs are out of the question. Mention of Victoriana immediately brings to mind the dear old aspidistra which was so much a part of the Victorian interior. A. lurida, the cast iron plant, is one of the most durable of potted plants provided a reasonable temperature is maintained. For proper decoration value, how­ever, it depends on a handsome container.

Plants for Corners

If one must have a colourful plant in the darker corner it will be essential to augment the avail­able daylight with an electric lamp of some kind adjacent to the plant. It would be an expensive business to have a plant in each corner of the room with its own electric lamp providing the essential additional amount of light, but for the owner of a number of plants the problem can be solved by grouping the plants together in one corner with one light source catering for all their needs. A group of plants growing together in this way with a light over them will be much more effective, and the plants will grow very much better than if they were scattered about the room because plants thrive better in company than singly. You can purchase or have made wrought iron or bamboo stands that are fitted with a series of rings in which plant pots of varying size can be placed. These rings are set at varying heights on the metal or bamboo stand and can be most effective when a variety of plants are placed in them. A selection of plants placed on a tall stand of this kind will also solve many problems for the householder who has far too many plants in living accommodation that is restricted in respect of space.

When arranging a plant stand of this kind it is essential that plant pot covers should first be placed in the rings into which plant pots are then placed – this will ensure that surplus mois­ture draining through the soil collects in the bottom of the pot holder and not on the carpet!

plants pots for interior design


A further small precaution will be to tip away any water regularly that has accumulated in the outer pot as it is important that plants should not stand in water for any length or time.


Another method of utilizing a corner loca­tion, dark or otherwise, is to fit a series of tri­angular shelves in the corner supported by wall brackets or by firmly fixing the actual shelves to the wall. Such shelves will require water­proof trays lined with absorbent felt pads in which surplus moisture will collect – the more conventional sand or gravel base would be

much too heavy for wall-fitted shelving. Shelves of this sort should be fitted about 45cm/ 18in apart, and plants will benefit considerably if the undersides of shelves incorporate a small fluorescent tube that is concealed behind the front edge of the shelf. For shelving of this type the smaller and more compact houseplants will be more suitable as the taller growing ones will too quickly outgrow their available head­room. A few to choose from would be the smaller-leaved ferns, the peperomias with darker green foliage, Ficus puniila, Philodendron scan dens, the small-leaved Fittonia argyroneura nana and saintpaulias, provided additional light has been incorporated.

Wall-hanging plant supports, made of wrought iron or bamboo, and wall supports of bark are another good way to utilize space. The latter are ideal for some ferns, particularly Platyccrium bifurcatuni, and some orchids.

hanging baskets indoors

Hanging Baskets

You may be keen to grow plants in the house, but feel you cannot because there is insufficient space to accommodate them. The surprising thing is that you often have much more room than you had ever imagined – it’s above your head. In every building the largest area of free and unused space is above your head, and it is quite amazing the number of plants and other accessories that the inventive person can sus­pend from his ceilings. You can even use the open area under stairs, provided it isn’t too dark. The fashion for hanging plants and baskets has had a strong grip on the American side of the Atlantic for a number of years and if fashion is to take its usual course it cannot be long before the vogue becomes more popular on the other continents.

To suspend the more conventional moss-lined hanging basket from the ceiling indoors would result in an almost continual shower bath, as it is the intention with moss-lined baskets that all surplus moisture should drain through the moss on to the floor below. Out of doors, where such baskets are mostly put to use, such an arrangement is fine, but continual drips do very little for the living room carpet! Therefore, you should seek out baskets that are designed with a drip tray attached to the base.

Such baskets are usually made of plastic and on the small side compared to the more con­ventional wire basket that is moss-lined before soil is inserted. Being much smaller they are obviously not going to hold the same amount of soil, so do not expect the same sort of results. The larger outdoor, or greenhouse-type, basket when filled with soil is quite capable

indoor hanging basket

of sustaining a collection of six or more plants for an entire flowering season if feeding is not neglected.

For indoor baskets use a soil that contains a high proportion of peat and restrict the choice of plants to foliage ones rather than flowering types, such as fuchsias and hanging geraniums, both of which require very good light if they are to prosper and retain their flowers. This is not to say, however, that flowering plants are completely taboo, as excellent results can be achieved with baskets filled with columneas or aeschyanthus, provided a reasonable tempera­ture can be maintained. With the smaller in­door basket the best effect will be had by plant­ing with three or four plants of the same variety, rather than by grouping a collection of different species together. The plants will also be much easier to look after if they all need the same amount of water and fertilizer. • Green foliage plants can have a pleasingly cool appearance when seen suspended from the ceiling, and a fine choice for an individual planting is Philodendron scandens with its attrac­tive heart-shaped glossy green leaves, allowed to trail rather than climb. Another that is suit­able, provided it is never allowed to dry out, is the creeping fig, Ficus pumila. Keep it out of sunny windows and away from the drying heat of radiators. For cooler rooms that are well lit there is a wide selection of ivies with both green and variegated foliage, green-

hanging baskets in the house


leaved ivies will tolerate dark situations and those with smaller leaves are best suited to planting in baskets. Another good subject for cool, well-lit conditions is the tradescantia of which there are many different forms and colours. Periodic pinchmg-out of leading shoots will ensure that your basket full of tradescantia plants will retain a pleasing rather than untidy shape. Trailing ferns, such as nephrolcpis and Asparagus sprengerii, as well as trailing peperomias and chlorophytums are also suitable for hanging baskets.

ivy indoors on stairs

A final word on baskets: the hook securing the basket to the ceiling must be firm enough to support the basket when the soil is wet and the basket is heaviest. And the basket should never be so high on the ceiling that maintain-ance becomes a problem – suspende djust above head height is about right.

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