How "NOT" to become a Serial Plant Killer.
It's been a funny old week this week, I've battled a pile of washing so big I actually contemplated hiring a Sherpa to help me reach the top. I felt like I was going to burst into flames whilst watching my daughters have what seemed like the worlds longest swimming lesson, oh and I nearly stacked it down a flight of stairs at the gym in front of a gaggle of grannies, "got to love legs day".
One good thing that I noticed this week was all the spring bulbs starting to come up in the garden. This always puts a smile on my face, because I love plants, not only do they make our homes and gardens look and smell beautiful, but are so beneficial for our bodies and minds too.
Not only do our house plants trap daily pollution but they also breath in all that nasty carbon dioxide and breathe out refreshing oxygen back out and that's not all. Did you know that house plants are proven to increase our positivity and reduce feelings of anger, anxiety and sadness. They can even help reduce our stress levels. Let's be honest the only time you see an angry gardener is when they have run over the power cord when mowing the lawn.
Having plants in the home is a no brainer for me, not only are they beneficial to our health but they look really pretty in pictures too. So with this in mind I've come up with five top tips to keeping your house plants happy, healthy and camera ready.
1, Know your plant...
OK first things first READ THE LABEL, I know its boring but it can save you a lot of hassle in the end. The label will tell you where your plant will like to be positioned, whether its full or half sun what temperature it likes, how much water to give it and if it's a flowering plant it will tell you what months it flowers. If for whatever reason your plant has no label and you haven't a clue what it is, a good tip is to take a picture of your plant and ask for advice at any garden centre help desk. Think of them as a green fingered version of a "apple genius" only without the massive queue'.
Now I'm not naming names (My Mother!) but I can't even begin to tell you the amount of house plants I've witnessed still sat in the same small plastic pot with the same soil that it arrived in years ago! The soil level is so low on some of them the roots have become exposed. It's like looking at lots of tiny arms trying to cling onto a cliff edge. Now plants can be just as fussy as us and getting the right soil and nutrition is key if you want a happy plant.
Most house plants like moist but not waterlogged conditions and to not dry out, so a mixture of some ordinary peat free multipurpose compost, with some sand / grit (not orange builders sand), some fertiliser gives a good mix. When repotting a plant always remove some of the old soil and use a pot that is one size up from the previous one.
3, Food ...
Like all living things we need food to survive and house plants are no different, but until the day they have evolved to eat last nights fish pie, here's what you should be giving them.
For lush, green foliage, feed every two weeks using a fertiliser with a high nitrogen content, if the leaves are looking yellow, then a nitrogen-rich food will give them a real boost.
For flowering plants use a generic house plant fertiliser every two weeks in the growing season, especially when flowering to replenish lost energy or to prolong flowering. Orchids however, don't like a lot of fertiliser and given too much will kill them, so when feeding its a good idea to dilute the feed to half or even a quarter the regular strength or follow the guidance on a specialist orchid fertiliser.
4, Water ...
Now when it comes down to the most common way of killing our beloved house plants water is definitely our favourite weapon of choice - a few (extreme) examples. Imagine a cactus can survive in sand and the only water it receives is some dew dribbling down the side on a cool Mexican night - it will not want to be floating in muddy water. Likewise a bog plant that would be found in wellington boot conditions would not want to be kept in a burning hot conservatory with no water for a week.
Did you know that the water itself can be a killer to our plants! Tap water can contain excessive levels of chlorine, chloramine and heavy metals, which can be toxic to plants. If you have a water filter this will remove the chlorine or better still collect rainwater in a bucket and use that. You can also fill a bucket with tap water and leave it outside in a sunny spot for a day or two to evaporate the chlorine and make it safe for your plants to drink.
5, Housekeeping ...
Just like our homes, plants need to be kept clean and tidy, this even involves checking for pests. If you should find any pests on your plant before you go running for the bug killer, first put your plant in the shower (unless it is a cactus haha) and give it a good wash, this will knock off all the little beasties (side note, to avoid over watering always take your plants out of there decorative pots or baskets first before putting them in the shower).
When it comes to dusting our plants, please leave the pledge in the cupboard. All plants need is a gentle rub with a damp soft cloth (don't we all) or I find a very soft bristle brush works a treat at getting your plants looking at their very best. Large leaved varieties can benefit from preparatory leaf shine wipes.
While housekeeping the inside of the house, why not move the houseplants outside in summer and let them benefit from the wind in their fronds!!
So whatever your plant be big, small, spikey or leafy, give it the time, effort and love it deserves and in return you will have a plant to be proud of to put in your next Instagram picture.
AND READ THE FRICKING LABEL!!