The gardening side of Twitter was very busy on January 10th, designated as Houseplant Appreciation Day. Photographs were posted of everything from cacti to ferns and spider plants to succulents. Itís great to see so many people introducing plants back into the home. It's a habit we lost over the dull Naughties, a decade that decreed everything must be minimalist and sterile - and, as it turns out, unhealthy.
A study by NASA has found that houseplants absorb many harmful chemicals around the home or office, improving the atmosphere and helping the mood of the people around them by releasing ďhappyĒ chemicals.
Top of their list was the spider plant (Chlorophytum) closely followed by peace lily (Spathyphyllum). Speaking as someone who has just had to re-home a spider plant that had become huge, they are very easy to care for and look extremely attractive. Their needs are simple, just water thoroughly every week and fertiliser once a month. Displayed in a hanging pot or on a stand where the long shoots can trail, they are very graceful and dance in the slightest breeze. The other great thing about them is they are so easy to propagate from the little off-sets at the end of the flower shoots. There are now five little plantlets rooting in a pot by the window, ready to become replacements.
Swiss cheese plants featured highly amongst the pictures on Twitter, but having grown one of these many years ago (when they were very popular) itís a plant that gets very big and you do need a lot of room for them as they grow. Much like single-stem rubber plants, where one of the most common questions asked of a gardener used to be ďcan I cut a rubber plant down?Ē. The answer is yes, you can. You can even air-layer the top before you cut it off so you get a second plant, but thatís up to you.
If you look after your indoor plants well, they will last for years and - if you select the right ones - they will provide flowers when the weather is too miserable to be outside. The Clivia plant pictured produces a huge head of fragrant orange flowers in January and May every year, with others appearing over the summer. The original plant would have been well over 30 now, but it was huge and woody so this is a second generation off-set from it. It gets watered once a week and fed at the same time from January to October. It only gets repotted when thereís no room left in the container, when thereís a choice of removing the off-sets and returning the original plant to the same pot or leaving them as a unit and increasing the pot size.
We have cacti and money plants on a sunny windowsill, orchids in the north-facing kitchen window, Christmas cacti, Clivias and spider plants and thatís without seasonal plants like poinsettias, flowering bulbs and pot roses (before they are planted out in the garden). If a plant gets too big, we either take cuttings and start again or prune it back. The trick is to start small, so if you should discover you have a plant you donít like (or donít have the right spot for), it wasnít a great outlay. Small plants adapt more quickly to new surroundings anyway and will learn to live with you, just as you learn to live with them.
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