The old Chinese proverb "He who plants a garden, plants happiness" is just so true! Plants add life to every little space, and at the same time they bring nature’s bountiful beauty into our homes. The instant colour, texture and aesthetic appeal that a plant lends to any indoor space cannot be matched by any other!
Every plant has specific requirements unique to each type that change according to the season. Let us discuss a few useful tips and basic rules to keep your indoor companions happy!
1) “And then there was Light”
One thing is certain; all houseplants do require sufficient light to thrive. Some plants like the soft morning rays of the sun, whereas others may prefer the strong light from a south-facing window. Many types flourish under low-light conditions and these are perfect for bathrooms and kitchens. Finding the correct light conditions for your indoor plants is the first step to keeping them healthy.
2) Water, the elixir of life
The thumb rule here to follow is to keep a watch over the topsoil to see how quickly it dries between two waterings. Under-watering or overwatering are best avoided.
Container grown houseplants need thorough watering once top-soil feels dry to touch and at the same time, to ensure excess water runs out from the bottom of the pot. If roots remain wet for long, they tend to be prone to root diseases. Plants such as succulents or cacti follow a different watering schedule.
3) Relocate and reposition
Always remember to relocate your plants as per season. For example, in winters, bring the plants that are on balconies and window sills into the rooms to protect from them from exposure to cold drafts of air. Similarly, plants used to warmer climates need to be given more access to bright windows in winter so that they get enough sunlight.<
Ensure you reposition and keep turning or rotating the containers regularly so that plants don’t grow lop-sided as they naturally turn towards light.
4) Clean the foliage regularly
Use a damp cloth to gently wipe away dust that accumulates over leaves as this can block absorption of light or help in harbouring insects.
5) A perfect soil to grow
A good quality potting soil that provides the perfect balance of nutrition, aeration and moisture holding capability, is a must for any plant to thrive. Select the perfect soil, specific to every houseplant.
6) Finding the perfect pot and re-potting
Select a pot that fits your plant. The size and material of the pot is important along with good drainage capability. Ensure every pot has a drainage hole at the bottom to drain out excess water. Plastic pots are lighter so well suited as hanging baskets, whereas clay or terracotta ones are sturdier but porous in nature and don’t hold water.
Spring is the ideal time to re-pot into larger containers. Plants require the extra space to spread their roots and flourish. Remember never to pull out a plant, rather gently loosen the roots from the soil, gently snip away old roots to encourage the plant to flourish in new soil and then re-pot into a slightly larger container.
7) Use of Fertilizers
The nutrients present in potting soil get drained away over a period of time due to watering. Use of fertilizers regularly refreshes the soil and replaces these lost nutrients to maintain its balance. The general rule is once a month feeding with a good quality well-balanced fertilizer in the growing season and to reduce the same during winter when new growth slows downs or even stagnates.
8) Control over pests and diseases
Prevention is always the best cure. Regularly inspect indoor plants for pest infestations and diseases and treat accordingly, as and when necessary. Overwatering too is another basisof diseases such as root rot.
Pruning is the best method to promote new growth as well as to maintain the form and shape of the houseplants. Trimming away old growth or dried tips of leaves usually is recommended towards the end of winter. Always use a sharp pair of scissors or cutting shears.
10) Maintain humidity and temperature levels
Indoor plants thrive in normal indoor humidity levels. However a good method of increasing humidity levels is by using a humidifier or by placing pots over pebble trays filled with water. Misting leaves occasionally is a good option too. Grouping plants together in a room is another effective way to increase humidity levels.
Most houseplants tolerate fluctuations in temperature quite well; however, it is advisable to shield them from sudden or brief changes in temperature. Keep them away from sudden air drafts from ACs or heaters.
You just don’t plant a seed or a sapling; you connect with a marvel called Mother Nature. Remember gardening is a continuous process, a job you never finish. A little care and a loving touch, patient labour and at times a lot of attention; but the rewards are infinite!