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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. It is formulated to suit most indoor houseplants such as Spathiphyllums, Ivy, Anthuriums, Ferns, Dracaenas, Ficus, Palms, as well as Poinsettias, and Bromeliads. 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.

Alternatively, for a simple and convenient way to feed plants you can use a Houseplant Focus Drip Feeder throughout the year.

It is difficult 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 three to five 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, require 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 and cacti require a gritty, sandy substrate such as Cactus & Succulent Repotting Mix.

It is also beneficial to add SuperDrive when watering for the first couple of months after repotting, to improve rooting and minimise any shock.

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.

Houseplants have many benefits and help us improve our quality of life. They brighten the home adding colour and interest; they release oxygen into the air (thus making breathing easier) as well as water (thus decreasing the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs).

Adding plants to hospital rooms speeds recovery rates of surgical patients, whereas plants in offices decrease fatigue, colds, headaches, coughs, sore throats and sickness rates.

Very importantly plants remove toxins from the air – up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours, according to NASA research. VOCs include substances like formaldehyde (present in rugs, vinyl, cigarette smoke and grocery bags), benzene and trichloroethylene (both found in man-made fibres, inks, solvents and paint). Benzene is commonly found in high concentrations in study settings, where books and printed papers are found.

Fresh air at night

Most plants give off oxygen during the day and carbon dioxide at night, but some do the reverse so they are ideal for bedrooms where fresh air is needed mostly at night. Orchids, (especially Phalaenopsis and Dendrobium which are super night oxygenators), cacti especially Christmas cactus and Easter cactus, bromeliads, swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) and Aloe vera.

Top 10 plants for clean air

Dracaena reflexa
All this plant needs to thrive is to be placed in an area with indirect sunlight and the soil kept slightly moist.

Dracaena reflexa is one of the most efficient plants at removing pollutants from the air in your home.

Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
A popular houseplant that is also very effective at purifying the air in your home. Very low-maintenance. Water it frequently, but to avoid root rot allow the soil to dry between waterings. Growth occurs best in higher temperatures, much like you would have in your home, as well as relative humidity levels above 50% so spray regularly with Houseplant Myst.

Gerbera jamesonii
A beautiful flowering plant. While intended for and mainly used outdoors, Gerberas are becoming more popular to display in containers for indoor use. Very effective at cleansing the air.

Gerberas prefer full sun, plenty of water and well-drained soil. If you try to use this as an indoor houseplant, make sure you have it in an area that has plenty of natural light. It also thrives in moist soil without overwatering it. Gerbera jamesonii is able to withstand a wide range of temperatures.

Chrysanthemum morifolium
A popular perennial plant that loves direct sunlight and a medium amount of water. Suitable for outdoors and indoors if kept cool.

With the proper care, it will start to produce lots of beautiful blooms that not only help brighten the room, but they help cleanse the air of many chemicals that are common in homes.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
This beautiful plant is easy to care for, and requires very little light. It should never be put in direct sunlight, as the rays of sun may lead to leaf burn. Peace Lily is the most efficient at removing airborne pollutants. Simply put it in a corner, water it well and it will help purify the air around you.

English Ivy (Hedera helix)
Another popular houseplant that helps filter airborne toxins inside your home. It also helps reduce mould. Caring for Hedera helix is relatively easy. Keep it at a constant temperature, give it plenty of direct sunlight and water generously with well-drained soil. If you can do these three things, English Ivy will return the love with cleaner air in your home.

Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum)
It is best to keep Epipremnum aureum near a window, without direct sunlight shining down on it. The soil should be peaty with lots of moisture.

Devil’s Ivy is extremely easy to care for and is very efficient at cleansing the air of pollutants.

Tail Flower (Anthurium andraeanum)
A beautiful evergreen plant that is most known for its gorgeous flowers. Very easy to grow if you give it plenty of indirect light. The blooms love to soak in the rays, and you’ll be rewarded for weeks with their beauty. It prefers high-humidity so spray with Houseplant Myst regularly and ideally place it on a humidity tray.

Bamboo Palm (Rhapis excelsa)
The perfect fan palm to have in a dark corner of your home. They are able to tolerate low-levels of light, high amounts of water and a wide range of temperatures. While this houseplant prefers to live in moist soil, it does need to have the proper drainage available to avoid root rot. It can thrive in both indoor and outdoor environments.

Mother-in-law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
This is one of the best houseplants for absorbing airborne toxins. It can endure low amounts of light for long periods, but it prefers to have plenty of bright light. Just make sure you don’t overwater this plant, as it is likely to rot if the soil is too moist for too long.

Mother-in-law’s Tongue requires very little maintenance.

More air purifying plants

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum)
Removes benzene and formaldehyde from the air and thrives in low indirect light. Available in an array of visually appealing varieties.

Philodendron
Removes formaldehyde from the air and thrives in moderate to low indirect light. A quick-growing trailing plant, known for its heartshaped leaves.

Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
Removes formaldehyde, xylene, and toluene from the air and thrives in moderate, indirect sunlight and cooler temperatures. A great houseplant for propagating!

Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata)
Removes many air pollutants from the air and thrives in moderate, indirect sunlight and high humidity.

Click here to download a leaflet - Houseplants for Clean Air.

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