Indoor cheer for winter

If you want a great indoor garden this winter, follow the three R's: Replenish, Repot and Replace.

Other than the usual tasks that are needed to keep the winter garden outside looking its best, your indoor garden also needs attention. June the ideal time to consider your houseplants by following a few essential guidelines.

Peperomias

Peace lilies

Replenish

Replenish your indoor plants by monitoring their watering needs and cleaning their foliage. In the course of a year, indoor plants collect dust which can block the leaf pores. Make sure that the dust is removed from the top and bottom of leaves. For small indoor plants, put them in a bath or shower and give them a gentle spray of lukewarm water. For larger plants, a warm wet cloth will do the job.

Most people are unaware that overwatering is the main reason why indoor plants fail. Keeping a plant saturated with water is tantamount to killing it with kindness. So, how often should you water your indoor plants? The generally accepted advice is that a plant should be allowed to become moderately dry between waterings. Water them well every 10 days rather than give them a little water every few days. A little water only penetrates the top few centimetres of soil and will rarely get down to the roots at the base of the container. A good watering will reach all the roots and benefit the plant in the long term. In winter, reduce the watering schedule of indoor foliage plants as they go into a semi-dormancy in midwinter, but never let them become bone dry. Remember that the best time to water plants is in the morning when they still have the daylight hours to utilise the water.

'How' to water is virtually as important as 'when'. The first rule is never use cold water - especially in cold weather. Use tepid or lukewarm water. Your plants are able to absorb it easier, and it will not send them into a state of shock.

Cineraria

Begonia

Repot

Take a good look at your indoor plants. Are roots growing out of the base of the pot? Are the new leaves on the plant smaller that the existing leaves? Does the plant dry out quickly? If the answer is yes, yes, yes - your plant needs a larger home. An average size indoor plant will need a new pot that is 5cm wider and deeper than the original. Smaller plants will need a pot one size larger - usually an increased diameter of 2cm. Avoid the temptation of buying an enormous new pot. The roots of the plant will flounder and it will not be comfortable.

Before moving any plants, wet the soil slightly so the plant will slip out easily. Untwist matted roots with a fork, and trim twisted roots. Layer the base of the new pot with pebbles for drainage, fill in the sides with potting soil, and water thoroughly. Commercially produced potting soil for indoor plants is sold at all garden centres.

Replace

Move plants which are struggling in areas of low light onto a bright patio. Accept that dark passageways are not a good place for plants and find more suitable décor. Identify empty corners that have enough light to sustain plant life and fill them. There are a range of indoor foliage plants for areas of high, medium and low light. Choose the right type of plant for the spot.

If you prefer colour, choose from the range of winter flowering indoor plants. Appreciate that most flowering plants do best in the pool of bright light beside a window. Try a cineraria, cyclamen, poinsettias, chrysanthemum and begonia. A corner of indoor colour will revitalise a bleak winter.

African violet

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