Designing house plants: A guide
Invite Nature Into Your Home
House Plants are a great way of bringing fresh air into stuffy homes even without opening the windows. And there are different types to suit all sorts of conditions and budgets. But how much you like them probably depends on how easy you find them to grow. If you are green fingered, fine. If not, chances are you chucked out your cheese plants and parlour palms in favour of the next best thing, silk or cut flowers. In which case think again. Nothing is as fresh as a living plant or gives such a sense of achievement if its kept in tip top condition.
Porches with a punch: you can bring porches to life with easy to grow spider plants cascading from hanging basket. As pot and tub plants for porches, ornamentals in the Apocynaceae family that are common in gardens have become quite popular and fashionable as house plants. Species of Oleanders such as Nerium Oleander and Vinca minor, the ‘rose periwinkle’ are often planted in gardens and cemeteries. In recent years, the related genus Catharantus roseus has become a common pot plant of porches around the house.
Species of poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), many natural and hybrid species of azalea (Ericaceae) and carnations, bulb plants like aliums, kaffir lily (Clivia miniata regal), African violets, day lilies are all easy to grow and bring porches alive.
Group Tactics: For a simple route to keeping house plants healthy and making a real feature of them, display them in groups that require the same amount of light, watering and temperature. Alternatively, focus on one main plant and team it with pots of flowers that are cheap, seasonal and are meant to be replaced. A cut flower classic like anthurium, porceleain, rose (etlinger elatoir(, and heleconia also make colourful cut plants, bringing a feminine look and they bloom for weeks. Grouping plants provides opportunity to be creative and add character to your collection, and makes caring for them simpler. You are less likely to neglect individual plants, and because their leaves give off moisture essential for survival in our poorly ventilated homes, clustered plants need less watering.
Cool, Classic, Colonial: For a classic combination that will suit traditional and contemporary schemes, mix plants and ferns with a splash of renewable colour such as anthurium and hydrangea. Palms and ferns are particularly good for filtering synthetic toxins from the air, such as those given off by new furniture and computers. Spray the ferns to prevent leaf drops and keep palm leaves clean with leaf-shine – a therapeutic job for idle days, when you are stuck indoors.
Desert orchids: Love them or hate them, cacti have distinctly minimalist style and thrive on being neglected. But most varieties, like Echnocereus, have the ability to flower dramatically if kept dry and pot-bound during the wet season and given a place in the home on the sunniest windowsill.
High and dry: Space-saving succulent plants are ideal for brightening up a tiny, little used area. Less spiky than cacti, succulents offer a wide choice of colours and have the same resistance to heat, sun and neglect. Pot them in stone to recreate the desert look and keep the necks dry with horticultural grits or glass chipings.
Bathing beauties: For bathroom, look to the exotic for inspiration with a cluster of babytears, maidean ferns, trailing hearts and moths orchids. Don’t be put off by the orchids peculiar disposition. This designer flowers will effortlessly bloom for months in a warm humid bathroom. With plenty of natural light, orchids grow on special bark-chip compost that doesn’t hold many nutrients or much water. Therefore, the trick is to keep it moist and fed with a weak solution of house plant food each time you give it a drink.
Peaceful bedrooms: As peaceful opening to bedrooms with a calming feel, create an atmosphere with white and pastel blooms and soft green foliage. To save space, cluster pots scented lilies, cyclamen, streptocarpus into one large ornamental container. They are easy to maintain. Just take special care to drain after watering and remove dead leaves and flowers to guard against leaf mould.
Pepper pots: Spice up the kitchen windows sills with decorative peppers and flaming Katy (Kalanchoe) for throw-away plants that provide teaming them with long lasting dizygotheca. This foliage plants thrives in the humidity of bathrooms and kitchens. Don’t let it become too wet or too dry and spray it occasionally with the mister.
Top of the pots
Millennium dome: This is a bottle that traps moisture generated by humidity-loving ferns and moss and recycles it so your plants need less watering. You will need to prop up the glass occasionally for ventilation, or use it as a ‘green house’ to grow seedlings indoors.
Broad-based terra cotta Bulb bowls: They are a good choice for tall exotic plants like the beautiful peace lily. Its glossy leaves and elegant flowers require minimal presentation.
Futuristic pots: In ceramic and glass, in designs that add dramatic emphasis to shapely plants, closed designs will be suitable for succulents that require little watering.
Modern containers: Strike a balance by potting traditional blooming plants such as African violets in a modern container with strong design such as check or stripes in bold shapes.
For trailing glory: Pot bushy evergreen such as tousled bottled fern in tall geometric containers, and crackle effect square pots.
Pots compost: There should always be drainage holes in the base. If you use plastic pots inside ornamental containers without holes, always drain away any water at the base. When repoting, use a pot no more than a fingers width larger than the previous one. And if it’s a lot deeper, fill the gap with horticultural grit. Use multipurpose or special house plant compost, never garden soil.
Tools of the trade
Plants mister: Use one of these to prevent delicate leaves from dying out (but make sure you don’t spray hairy leafed plants): an old fashioned brass pumped design will look pretty on the windowsill.
Watering can: The long spouted (Haws) is best for preventing spoils. Keep it near plants or display in the kitchen to remind you and use without the sprinkler attachment.
Trays: When you buy pots with drainage holes in the base, invest in matching trays which are also handy for holding wet gravel to increase humidity around the leaves.