Taking care of your plants should be an enjoyable, rewarding exercise and should benefit your mental health. It will fill you with a feeling of well being. Hence the saying that happy, healthy people live with plants!
Providing a suitable indoor environment for your plants is only the first step to growing them successfully. Step number two is maintenance – watering, feeding, and grooming them so they will continue to thrive.
1.1 When To Water
More plants die from too much watering than from any other cause. A dry plant can alert you that it needs water by letting its leaves droop. An over watered plant doesn’t send out warnings; it sits around looking fine while its roots are invisibly rotting away. Then one day it just keels over. At that point it is probably too late to save it.
Because plant roots need oxygen as well as water, it is a good rule to let the soil dry out a little bit between watering. Put your fingers into the soil. Is the soil dry to the touch? It should not be so dry that it feels powdery. Have the leaves lost their firmness? That is a sign that you’ve waited too long. The best test is to lift the pot. If it feels light, the plant needs water. Common sense, a little practice, and the understanding that it is usually better to err on the too-dry side will soon take the mystery out of watering. Meanwhile here are some general rules:
- The warmer the room, the more often your plants will need water.
- Plants in sun or bright light need more frequent watering than plants in medium or low light.
- Small pots dry out faster than larger ones, clay faster than plastic.
- Water is likely to run right through a root bound plant without thoroughly wetting the soil. If the pot is too big, the excess soil will retain too much water and the roots will drown. Re-pot your plant if either of these problems exists.
1.2 How To Water
Always use room temperature water and apply it thoroughly – until the water seeps through the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot. If this happens almost immediately, it may be because the soil is extremely porous – like African violet soil – because the plant is too root bound, or because the soil is too dry. In these cases let the pot sit in the saucer of water for more than 15 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Never let it remain standing in water.
Even plants that like dry conditions should be watered thoroughly when they need water. Watering just a little each time will moisten only the top of the soil, while the bottom remains dry as a desert.
The easiest and most satisfactory way to water houseplants is from the top. Take the plant to the sink and either sub-merge the whole pot in a sink full of water until the soil is covered. When the bubbles stop coming up from the soil you know the plant is thoroughly watered. If you have many plants this way of watering is easier if you use a clean dustbin (preferably used only for watering), and do this out side. The leaves can be washed off with the water hose as you wait for the air bubbles to dissipate. All plants benefit from periodic showers as long as the water isn’t alkaline. Make sure it doesn’t stand in the receding water. Also – do not let it stand in hot sun for long when the leaves are wet – it will burn the leaves as water attracts sun!
The same way you need good nutritious food to sustain your energy and stay healthy, plants need regular feeding.
Any complete all-purpose houseplant fertilizer will do. Worm- tea or vermicompost tea from either your own wormery or bought from a reputable nursery is the way to go organic and do your own little bit to preserve our planet. Also, over feeding is not a danger with this wonder tea.
2.1 When To Fertilize
The feeding schedules suggested for each plant in the Encyclopaedia are the optimum for plants growing under ideal conditions. If your plant is existing on the low edge of its light requirements, or if you don’t want a foliage plant to grow too large, feed it less frequently. Flowering plants may not bloom unless according to schedule. Some general rules are:
- Dilute your fertilizer to a weaker strength than that recommended by the manufacturer. Never try to make up for a missed feeding by using a stronger solution. Next to over-watering, over-feeding is the largest cause of houseplant dead.
- Don’t feed a newly purchased plant for 6 months, because it has been given long-acting plant food in the nursery. Feed flowering plants according to schedule.
- Plants growing in soil can manage with less fertilizer than plants growing in a soil less potting mix.
- Don’t feed a plant when the soil is bone dry. Water it first.
- Above all, remember that fertilizer is food – not medicine – and should never be given to a plant that is ailing or resting.
When it comes to caring for houseplants, there is no bigger pay-off for a small effort than in grooming.
- A yellowing leaf will never turn green again; a faded flower will never revive. Cut or pinch them right off.
- Neatly trim brown edges and tips of leaves.
- Pick fallen leaves off the surface of the soil – for sanitary as well as aesthetic reasons.
- Gently wipe off large leaves with a soft, damp cloth or sponge. As well as making the leaves look dull, dirt blocks their pores so that the plant can’t take in air and moisture. Use commercial leaf “shiners” or milk or mineral oil very sparingly on the leaves only (these products tend to attract more dirt)
Plectranthus is the largest South African genus of plants belonging to the mint family (Lamiaceae). There are many Plectranthus species (around 44) that are currently used as ornamental herbaceous plants throughout the world’s gardens. They come in a number of shapes and colours ranging from white, pink to dark mauves, and lavenders.
The ‘Mona Lavender” is a hybrid developed in the 1990’s at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It has since become a hit around the world.
‘Mona Lavender’ is a quick-growing perennial shrub, reaching up to 0.75m in height, forming a lovely rounded, dense bush. It does very well in either shaded or partly sunny positions (It is one of the few plants that grow well in shade). When it receives sun it tends to stay smaller and more compact, and the leaves exhibit a much more intense coloring.
der’ is ideal for mass planting in your garden or for container gardening. Enjoy this plant with multiple combinations in your patio containers during the summer months. Then when the cold months come, move ‘Mona Lavender’ inside and enjoy it as a houseplant for a splash of colour during the gray months of winter. They also do great as a hanging basket on the deck or patio. Like most Plectranthus species, “Mona Lavender’ enjoys a rich soil with plenty of humus. Water every few days to keep it fresh and turgid. Pinch back to induce better branching and compactness.
One of the only downfalls of these splendid plants is that it doesn’t tolerate very cold conditions.
Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ is being very effectively commercialized by the Ball Horticultural Company based near Chicago in the USA. The NBI has an agreement with this company to commercialize certain selected plants. For each plant that they sell, South Africa receives substantial royalties. As a result of this agreement, Ball have effectively marketed and sold Plectranthus ‘Mona Lavender’ for Kirstenbosch throughout North America, Europe, especially in the UK, South Africa and Australia. Without their marketing and distribution abilities this would have been very difficult.
Ferns are one of the oldest groups of plants. Many have been found as fossils dating back to prehistoric times. It is grown strictly for its foliage for it does not produce flowers.
Of the plants tested for their health benefit to humans, the Boston- or Nephrolepis fern is the best for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment.
Ferns in general can be kept best in semi-sun to shade. When taken indoors, it prefers bright light from a window. In general, all ferns likes damp, but not soggy soil that is rich in nutrients. Ferns thrive best in humid conditions, so when grown as a house plant, it might becomes necessary to mist the leaves when the humidity is low.
Purifying and odour-eliminating house plants! Suggestions to purify air include:
- Aloe is great for a sunny kitchen and helps clear the air of chemical-based cleaners. Philodendron Scandens is resilient and can be placed in most rooms and combats carbon monoxide.
- Add a Gerber daisy to your bedroom or laundry room to filter out trichloroethylene, which is found in detergents and dry cleaning. A Sansevieria is best known for filtering our air pollutants and formaldehyde, which is common in cleaning products, toilet paper and personal care products. Place one of these in your bathroom.
- Place a Scindapsus Aureus in your garage; they cascade from a hanging basket and combat car exhaust fumes. It is a great plant because it remains green even when kept in the dark.
- For your home office, put a Chrysanthemum, which not only brightens a home office or living room, but the blooms also help filter benzene which is found in glue, paint, plastics and detergent. It requires bright light so place on a sunny windowsill.