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Houseplants and gardening indoors

There is good news for gardeners who miss their gardening fix when the winter weather prevents outside work. Indoor gardening with houseplants is back in fashion and some of the stalwart plants of our childhood homes are now right on trend instead of being “so last century”.

You should be seeing an increase in the number and range of houseplants on offer at garden Houseplants photocentres and DIY stores as well as florist shops.  We may be in December but houseplants are not just for Christmas although they can make great presents if you choose carefully.  Like plants in the garden, different indoor plants have different needs: the reason that old familiars like Aspidistra, Sanseveria and Spider plants are regaining popularity is that they are extremely tolerant, including neglect.  But many foliage plants need indirect sunlight so are not suited to a sunny windowsill and some houseplants originate in tropical climates so need constant temperatures and some humidity – less easy in a centrally heated house.  The answer as always is to read the label first!

And of course, houseplants are a great way to bring the garden indoors for people who are not able to garden outside.  As well as plants improving the atmosphere by removing pollutants and counteracting the drying effect of central heating, many people are introduced to the joys of gardening by success with a Spider plant or Christmas cactus.  Caring for houseplants can support our wellbeing just as much as larger scale gardening does.

Did you know that more houseplants are killed by overwatering than underwatering?  This is very easy to do if the plant sits in a pot cover like those in the photograph.  To increase drainage I grow all my houseplants in basic plastic pots and sit these on a layer of expanded clay granules in the base of a decorative cover (you can use gravel).  It is also then quick to lift the plastic pot up and use the weight to judge whether it needs watering.  Compost and plant material are very light, it is the water content of the compost that makes it heavy.

There are also plenty of opportunities to save money by propagating your own houseplants.  Most of us know someone with a Spider plant lurking in a corner with a cascade of shoots carrying young plants all ready to pot off.   Another reliable source of new plants are the Money Plant and Begonia Rex (grown for its coloured leaves). Cuttings can be rooted in a jam jar of water or direct into well drained compost.  Like all pot plants you will need replenish the nutrients after the first growing season – a slow release fertiliser is ideal – and repot after a couple of years.  Either move it into a slightly bigger pot to allow for more growth or just to refresh the compost which may have started to break down and lose the vital air spaces.

So no excuses, join the houseplant revolution.

Happy Gardening, Alison

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