The 3 secrets to keeping indoor plants happy
Indoor plants are brilliant, beautiful things... until, of course, they start to flop or lose their leaves, and leave you feeling like a terrible plant parent. The truth is, most indoor plants are killed with kindness, rather than neglect. So here are three very simple ways to turn things around and get your indoor plants back to beautiful.
Start with the right (easy-care) plant
There are so many indoor plant varieties to choose from now, and often the temptation is to simply choose something that looks great. The trick to indoor gardening success is to start simple and choose an easy-care plant that is adaptable enough to hold up in your particular indoor conditions.
When you're looking for the right plant, check to see where it's positioned in the store, and read the specific instructions on the plant label. What kind of light access does it need? How does it cope with a draught? Can you replicate those conditions at home? If in doubt, look for low-maintenance indoor greenery, such as Zanzibar Gem, which thrives on neglect and has low water needs. Other striking and easy-to-grow options include cast iron plant (aspidistra), devil's ivy or pothos, dracaena, dieffenbachia, philodendrons, mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria), spathiphyllum and many palms.
Find the perfect position
The first weeks with your indoor plant can be a little touch-and-go as you figure out the best place for them to live. For example, fiddle-leaf fig loves a brightly-lit spot near a window, whereas Maidenhair fern thrives in humid conditions like bathrooms.
To narrow things down, start with sunshine - how much does your plant need? Does it like full sun, low light, or partial shade? Choose a room and location that can cater to your plant's sunlight needs throughout the day, keeping in mind you may need to change your plant's location according to the season.
Another thing to consider is temperature, since some plants don't cope well with air-conditioning, heating, or regular draughts. Phalaenopsis orchids are notoriously averse to air-conditioners and are much happier in temperatures that range from 24-29 degrees C. On the other hand, the famously durable Monstera deliciosa can tough it out in much more varied conditions.
Lastly, an often-overlooked fact is that most indoor plants thrive on humidity - and especially for those of us who have air conditioners or heaters running, that's something our homes are often lacking in! For humidity-loving indoor plants, keep a misting bottle on hand and give their foliage a regular spritz to keep them happy, or rest them on a shallow tray of pebbles and water which will evaporate and humidify the air around your plant. You could also consider placing them in the bathroom. Birds nest fern, pothos, spider plant, and spathiphyllum all thrive in humid conditions and really add some beauty to a plain bathroom.
Clockwise from left: Fiddle-leaf fig, Mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria), Spathiphyllum, Philodendron Xanadu.
One of the biggest indoor gardening mistakes is over-watering, so start by feeling the soil before your water. If your plant's dry, give it a drink. However, if the soil is moist up to a couple of centimetres below the surface, chances are it's doing just fine, so hold off on watering.
Check the plant's label for watering advice, and if you're still unsure, here are some of the common signs of over- and under-watering.
Dry soil: An obvious indication of under-watering. Water moderately and regularly until soil conditions improve.
Limp leaves: This could be a case of either too much or too little water. Check your soil - if it's soggy, let it dry out a little. If leaves are crispy, it's most likely a lack of water that's the problem.
Root rot and fungus: Fungus and rotting can be sign of overly damp conditions. Try reducing your watering and treat diseased plants accordingly.
Leaf curling and browning at edges: You might be getting the watering right, but missing out on all-important humidity. Grab a misting bottle and give your plant's foliage a spritz!
Once you get that perfect trifecta of plant, positioning and water, you should see your indoor plants starting to prosper. Good luck!