Bring the garden indoors
Life is a garden is filled with glorious plants, but why not make your indoor rooms just as exciting by adding some interesting or colourful houseplants to the patio or living areas?
The patio is a form of compromise, a transition between nature and house. It can take various forms, paved but with no overhead covering, offer some sort of protection with an overhead trellis and vines to filter the fiercest of the sun's rays, or it may have a permanent roof covering and serve as an outdoor room where entertaining can take place year-round. How you choose to decorate this area will depend on your lifestyle. It could become a cool, green oasis with pots containing small palms, shade-loving ferns, variegated foliage plants, and that favourite parlour plant of Victorian times, the aspidistra. If it is a place for dining al fresco style, then scented plants such as scented pelargoniums, and herbs in pots are a good choice.
Potted dragon tree (dracaena), tall sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica) and Ficus benjamina with weeping, variegated or plain green leaves, are ideal for screening part of a patio. Climbing plants such as syngoniums and philodendrons can be given a pole made of wire netting filled with damp moss to climb up. Mandevilla sanderi is a semi-climber with pink, trumpet-like flowers and yellow throats, suitable for sun or dappled shade. Plant in a large pot supported by a trellis, but away from a wall, so that there is plenty of air circulation.
Given indirect light, a moist growing medium, and the high humidity found on the coast, anthuriums and spathiphyllums with long-lasting, spathe-like flowers are a good choice for patios.
Indoor plants have become an important part in the décor of homes, not only for their decorative qualities, but also because they are effective in purifying the air. They can be chosen for their foliage, flowers or growth habit. Vertical metal or fibreglass containers suit modern homes and are very striking when planted with bamboos or cordylines, while clay pots and glazed pottery go well in most homes. Light density is an important factor when growing indoor plants. Try and duplicate the light a plant would receive in nature. Air circulation and humidity are equally important. Grouping plants with similar requirements has more impact and will also help increase humidity.
Popular houseplants for low light areas include aglaonema with leaves splashed with silver, the Victorian favourite aspidistra, and maranta with feathering along the veins, known as the prayer plant because it closes its leaves at night. Marantas should never be allowed to dry out. Dieffenbachias are easy to grow indoors, provided they are given a position in medium light and moisture. They are known as dumb canes because of their toxic properties.
Spathiphyllums with dark green, spear-shaped leaves and white spathes that last for several months make good houseplants. Most ferns need a position in medium light and all need a moist, but well-draining potting mix. Ferns are among the most well known houseplants and can be grown as a single specimen, or grouped with other plants with similar light and moisture requirements.
Image on right: Spathiphyllum wallisii
Tips for indoor plants:
- Provide sufficient light for their needs – high, medium or low.
- Water with rainwater where possible.
- Humidity can be increased by misting with tepid water.
- Make sure indoor plants have good air circulation, but no draughts.
- Use a commercial potting mixture.
- Provide good drainage with a tray or saucer to catch water. Do not leave pots standing in water.
- Feed plants once a month with Multifeed Classic.
- Clean smooth leaves with a damp cloth and hairy leafed plants with a soft brush.