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Houseplants

Houseplants brighten a room and they bring real health benefits. Recent studies have indicated that in the presence of plants people recover from illnesses quicker. The care of houseplants can vary from species to species because they come from different environments and therefore have different requirements, but there are a few easy guidelines to follow for indoor houseplant care.

Most houseplants will thrive between 16-22oC which is the normal range for a centrally-heated house. Lower temperatures will restrict growth and may lead to leaf drop. Some species such as Ficus are fairly sensitive to low temperature but most plants can tolerate a wide range of temperatures.

Most plants require bright positions but not direct sunlight especially in the spring and summer. Spider plants, peace lilies (Anthurium), begonias and ferns are among the species that require less light compared to most. Cacti, succulents, Dracaenas, Dieffenbachias, Ficus and the money plant are among plants that require brighter positions. In general, plants that flower and plants that have variegated leaves will require more light especially in the winter. Apart from cacti, succulents and the money plant very few houseplants can tolerate direct sunlight in the spring and summer.

In general, water moderately at regular intervals but more during the growing season in spring and summer. Plants should never stand in water. The frequency of watering will depend on how warm the house is, the size of the plant and its pot, how free draining the growing medium is and whether the plant is growing or not. Most houseplants are dormant or grow very slowly in the winter.

Most houseplants originate from the tropics where humidity is high, whereas the home environment is quite dry - naturally in the summer and due to central heating in the winter. Houseplants will respond to regular misting of their leaves and growing medium with soft water or Houseplant Myst which can act as a foliar feed, growth enhancer and pest repellent. Misting is best carried out in the morning. Although it is unlikely to cause any problems it is advisable to avoid misting plants with hairy leaves.

It is important that you feed houseplants with a balanced fertiliser especially during the growing season. Houseplants soon exhaust the growing medium and need balanced nutrition for healthy growth. Fertilisers that contain organic ingredients such as seaweed, humic acid and fulvic acid will greatly improve soil fertility.

Houseplant Focus is such a multi-purpose fertiliser and will provide all the necessary nutrients needed by the plant to compensate for the declining fertility of the growing medium. For plants under stress or for the ultimate in plant nutrition you can add a growth enhancer such as Plant Ultra to the solution. Some special plants such as African violets, cacti and others will benefit from more specific fertilisers such as African Violet Focus and Cactus and Succulent Focus respectively.

It is almost impossible to say when houseplants should be repotted as the rate of growth varies widely from plant to plant. Most plants will be happy in the same pot for two to three years. You can give a boost to most houseplants without repotting them by removing the top 3-5 cm of soil and replacing it with fresh growing medium.

The best time to repot a plant is in the spring or early summer when it is not in flower and it is looking healthy. Repotting is not a good way to restore health to an unhealthy plant as it tends to disturb its roots. It is important that you use an appropriate growing medium to repot houseplants as some of them have specific requirements in terms of drainage. African violets and Streptocarpus for example requires a very free-draining growing medium such as African Violet Focus Repotting Mix, whereas carnivorous plants require a peaty growing substrate such as Carnivorous Plant Repotting Mix.

Houseplant Focus Repotting Mix is a free-draining, multipurpose growing medium designed for best results with a wide range of houseplants. 

When you repot a plant it should be at the same depth as in the previous pot. It is important that plants are potted in a slightly larger pot and not in a significantly larger pot where the growing medium would not drain well between waterings. The new growing medium should be pressed firmly but not tightly compressed. Thereafter, the newly repotted plant should be watered sparingly for few weeks until it is well established in its new ‘home’.

Faded variegations

If the variegations on the leaves fade or disappear on plants such as spider plant, Croton or any others with natural variegations, it is a case of too little light. Move the plant to a brighter position.

Scorched or blackened leaves

If a plant is placed too near a window there is always a risk of scorching or the leaves turning black. Remove to a position away from direct sunlight.

Drooping leaves

Apart from fungal disease the most common cause is too little water. To avoid this problem water in regular, moderate amounts.

Browning on the leaf margins

The most probable cause is direct sunlight or excess feeding. Adjust conditions accordingly.

Leaves falling

Some leaf drop of older leaves is normal especially in spring but it could also be the result of overwatering, cold temperatures or pests. Reduce watering if appropriate and if pests are present use an appropriate pesticide such as SB Plant Invigorator.

Elongated stems

The most likely cause of abnormally long stems is low light so move the plant to a brighter position.

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