For the past decade we have been taking the indoors outside, now is the time to bring the outdoors inside by creating an indoor garden sanctuary. Enjoy the benefits of nature’s greenery from the comfort of your home no matter what the weather holds outside. Healthy indoor plants create a special ambience in a room. The humblest potted geranium on a window-sill immediately converts a sterile space into a ‘living’ area. Whether you live in a period worker’s cottage or a contemporary inner-city apartment, indoor plants are an essential decorating element.
Choosing indoor plants
You can experiment with plants potted from your own garden, but generally the tried-and-true specimens found in covered displays at your garden centre are best suited to an indoor environment. Golden cane or parlour palm, cordyline, philodendron, dieffenbachia, dracaena, aspidistra, zanzibar gem, various ferns, terrariums and crotons are some of the foliage favourites. A trough containing several tall plants can make an effective room divider, and a climber, such as devil’s ivy can be trained up walls and across exposed beams to great effect. Flowering plants such as African violets, orchids, begonias, cyclamen, Cape primrose, impatiens, peace lillies, anthuriums and bromeliads do well indoors but will need sunlight to flower successfully. Never leave plants exposed for long periods to the full blast of sun from a western window as they will suffer from heat stress.
Potting Indoor Plants
Begin with a suitable pot for the size and type of plant, bearing in mind that you may need to repot as your plant grows. Some plants rarely need repotting and positively prefer a tight squeeze. If in doubt about repotting, ask your garden centre specialist for advice when you purchase your plant. Self-watering pots can be a good choice for indoor plants as they make it easy to keep the potting soil moist with minimum risk of water spillage on carpets or polished surfaces, but be aware that some plants prefer to dry out completely between waterings and for these the self-watering system is impractical. Cover pots are a stylise way to feature your pot plants. You can change the pot as often as you like to suit your decor. Periodically check the cover pot is not holding excess water at the bottom of the pot. We don’t want to drown the plant’s roots and kill the plant.
Pot up indoor plants with a premium potting mix designed for indoor plants, such as Searles Peat 80 Plus Potting Mix. Make sure you use a premium quality potting mix because if you forget to water, they will forgive you a lot longer. If you choose your indoor plants sensibly, most will flourish with little more than regular watering. Some indoor plants perform better in potting mixes designed specifically for their needs. Look out for these professionally designed Searles mixes in garden centres — African Violet Mix, Cymbidium Orchid Mix, Dendrobium Orchid Mix, Cacti and Succulent Mix, or Bonsai Mix.
Searles Water Crystals added to the potting mix will release reserved moisture into the soil when necessary — very useful if you sometimes forget to water or if you are away for a few days and your plants are home alone.
Positioning Indoor Plants
Natural light is essential to indoor plants. Though some do quite well in dim surroundings, most need at least indirect sunlight for several hours a day to flourish. Check the plant’s care label for light requirements. To prevent uneven growth, quarter-turn pots regularly so all sides of the plants are exposed equally to the light. It is advisable to remove indoor plants from time to time to a sheltered position in your garden or on a verandah or patio for a week or so of outdoor living. Indoor plants love bathrooms, kitchens and living rooms where bright indirect light is generally in abundant supply.
Feeding Indoor Plants
Indoor plants grow more slowly than outdoor varieties and consequently need less feeding. Be careful not to overfeed. A liquid fertiliser like SeaMax Fish & Kelp, applied no more than once every two weeks, is ideal for strong, healthy houseplants. Searles Robust – Pots & Indoors controlled release fertiliser can be added every six months for long term feeding, and use Searles Recharge for pots that are too heavy to re-pot but need the soil revitalised.
Do’s and dont’s
Plants don’t enjoy extremes of temperature. The living areas in your home suit them best as these rooms tend to be kept at a fairly constant comfort level. Try to avoid draughty spots and don’t place plants too close to heating vents or open fires, as this will cause pots and plants to dry out too rapidly. Always monitor soil moisture carefully when air-conditioning, either hot or cold, is in use as most climate control systems will reduce humidity. A water fountain or room humidifier can help to redress the balance.
Don’t over water or over fertilise. Keep a record of when you fertilise your plants and don’t be tempted to overfeed. Remember to feed and water less often in the winter months.
When planning where to put your indoor plants, take advice from your garden centre and learn from your own experience. Some plants thrive in low-light conditions, while others must have sun. Don’t place large, spreading plants in walkways or landings where they may suffer from passing traffic.
Benefits of indoor plants
Indoor gardens help to clean the air, removing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Peace lillies, mother-in-law’s tongues, ivies and azaleas even absorb and break down airborne toxins such as paint and cigarette fumes. Houseplants can be incorporated into your lifestyle to any degree, from the odd flower-pot or spot of greenery, to a full-scale jungle room. Adding running water to a grouping of indoor plants will make a cool oasis to escape to in the summer. This can be easily achieved by buying a small indoor water fountain from a garden supplier and arranging it with a group of suitable plants, or you can create your own water feature using a purchased submersible pump, a selection of terracotta bowls, and river stones or pebbles.