House Plants In Living Rooms And Kitchens
The most popular room of the house, the living room, demands almost as careful a choice of plants because it will almost certainly fluctuate in temperature, becoming increasingly warm at the end of the day until everyone has gone to bed and cooling off suddenly almost to hall temperature. At the same time it may be subjected to clouds of tobacco smoke and probably fluctuations of, depending on the presence or absence of a number of perspiring human figures. Given that the room has good light, any and all of the plants mentioned in the ‘easy group’ list will be successful in such a room. Indeed, they have been chosen primarily with such a room in mind.
In the kitchen we come suddenly face to face with a problem that may possibly affect the entire house. If cooking or water heating is by gas, indeed if room warming is by gas fire rather than by a more remote gas central heating, it is certain that a minute amount of gas will be entering the atmosphere and doing a great deal of harm to all but the toughest of your house-plants. Most plants are intensely sensitive to atmospheric pollution and even the tiniest amount of domestic gas in the atmosphere will affect many of them.
An efficiently ventilated kitchen, however, will permit plants to be grown in the vicinity of a gas appliance and many plants, including even some culinary, can grow for long periods quite happily here. Much will depend on the availability of light, heat and humidity. The latter is sometimes a regular part of the environment of some kitchens, which can enable the happy and comfortable growth of certain plants which might otherwise need special care. But space in the kitchen is usually at a premium and the kind of clinical cleanliness demanded by some housewives may lead to the banishing of house-plants, with their earthy flavour, from the sterile scene.
Bedrooms are a different matter. In most homes, barring only the most Spartan where the windows are open all day and the curtains flap in the hygienic and virtuous wind, this is the best room in the house for house-plants. There is usually good light and some slight degree of warmth which varies very little at different times of the day. The humidity is comparatively high, compared with the warmer and more heavily inhabited parts of the house, and there is usually space for a plant to spread itself without being in the way. Unfortunately, except in the case of the bedridden—a very different circumstance—plants in a bedroom can only be admired and enjoyed for a matter of a few minutes out of every 24 hours.
In recent years there has been a rather charming fashion for growing house-plants in the bathroom. This has, I imagine, come as a result of the incidence of large bathrooms converted from the bedrooms of Victorian homes. Some of the modern plumbed cupboards called bathrooms are hardly large enough to get into ourselves, let alone share with a plant or two. But whatever the reason, the fashion is both acceptable botanically and admirable aesthetically, for most bathrooms are either white or in light tints that produce excellent light intensity. They also produce and harbour great quantities of steam, thus producing a humid atmosphere which is the delight of almost all house-plants.
Here, in the bathroom (so long as there is space and so long as the water is not heated by a localised gas system) is the place for one or two tender African violets, for a sensitive little pilea or a gorgeous chocolate and green maranta.
Choosing the right spot
Choose as carefully as you can thein your home for your plants. Look first for the quality of the light available, for it is not difficult to make a room warmer or cooler, or more humid, but you cannot increase the intensity of the light which falls on a plant. For years I had a pretty little variegated ivy growing in an antique water pitcher in a corner of my bedroom. It was healthy and attractive but it refused to grow. I tried more water and less, more food and less, but to no effect. Then I moved it across the room and placed it right in a south-facing window and in a matter of a few months it had grown some 4 ft.
As well as demanding plenty of light, practically all house-plants also need freedom from draughts. Cold draughts or hot draughts, it makes no difference, both are highly damaging. So if your plant is in a window make quite sure that the frame is well fitting. Equally, if it is somewhere near a fire, radiator or other heating appliance, make quite sure that the rising hot air does not sweep around your plant.
On the whole, however, once a plant has been given ain the home into which it can settle comfortably it should give you little or no trouble. This is not to say that plants can be left alone tor long periods. Obviously they require and and the best thing to do is to establish a regular routine for these activities. If you make a habit of going around your plants at the same time on the same day once or twice a week you will find that you cut down the time you need to give them and you enormously increase your prospects for success. The little occasional dribble of water into this pot or that, the odd drop or two of on the spur of the moment, these things can so quickly add up to a plant dying of drowning or of burnt . But if these attentions are given regularly, then it is a simple matter to remember.