Indoor plants promote good mental health, super Zen vibes, texture, air purification, and something beautiful to appreciate as you go about your day. Life is a Garden, indoors too, and there’s a plant just waiting to bring that side table, desk, and bookshelf to life. Good old potting soil, fertiliser, and a watering routine makes all the difference in maintaining an indoor haven.
Try this: To help you choose the best plant for a room, you can now download an app that measures light intensity – how efficient is that! #nomoreexcuses
Look out for the *BF (beginner-friendly) options for novice gardeners.
1. Button fern (Pellaea rotundifolia)
Light likes: Pellaea enjoy humidity with no direct sun, high to medium light will do.
Soil & water: Let the top layer of soil dry between watering, he doesn’t do soggy.
On the weekends: He can be found chilling in a humid bathroom on the windowsill or in a hanging basket. His dark-green, evergreen, button-like leaves like to explore.
2. Blue star fern (Phlebodium aureum) *BF
Light likes: Medium to high light with no or partial direct sun, she’s very adaptable.
Soil & water: Enjoys moist over dry, water well when she’s thirsty.
On the weekends: Her forest-like foliage, with curious wavy blue-green fronds, can be seen fluffing about and grabbing attention everywhere she goes.
3. Bird's nest fern (Asplenium nidus)
Light likes: Medium to bright, no direct sun. She likes warmth, humidity, and moisture.
Soil & water: Moist, rich, and loamy does it.
On the weekends: She’s always cheerful with tropical light green fronds, resembling banana leaves. She’s good at limbo, but don’t touch her new fronds while she’s growing.
4. Kumquat tree *BF if you follow the rules
Light likes: Super bright light, even direct sunlight if possible. She enjoys the patio too.
Soil & water: Regular watering with excellent drainage.
On the weekends: This happy-go-lucky babe can be seen showing off dozens of bright little orange fruits. She’s good at inspiring new jam and preserves recipes!
5. Swiss cheese plant (Monstera deliciosa) *BF+
Light likes: Medium to bright, no direct sun, but they like warm corners.
Soil & water: Good drainage with weekly watering.
On the weekends: You may find them looking for things to climb on with their flamboyant, large and in-charge leaves. Beware, this beaut bites and is toxic to pets.
6. Triostar Stromanthe (Stromanthe sanguinea)
Light likes: Near a window with plenty of natural light, no sun. Rotate your pot weekly.
Soil & water: Well-drained, fertile soil that is kept moist but not soggy.
On the weekends: She’s the pretty, popular chick with impressive, vibrant pink foliage that’ll make you blush. Triostar’s gonna’ make you work for her though, be prepared.
7. Dragon tree (Dracaena marginata) *BF+
Light likes: The brighter the better, but he’s adaptable.
Soil & water: Good drainage and regular watering.
On the weekends: He’s a rugged, attractive guy with striking green, sword-like, red-edged leaves that stand at attention. Your friends may be jealous of his good looks.
8. Flaming sword (Vriesea splendens)
Light likes: They enjoy some morning sun with high light throughout the day.
Soil & water: Add some orchid mix to your soil, infrequent watering but not all the way dry.
On the weekends: They can be seen proudly parading their yellow-orange blooms that look like fun swords. Sadly, they do decline after blooming but they’ll leave you with offsets first.
9. Cymbidium orchid (Cymbidium spp.)
Light likes: Partial gentle sun and good light is her kind of vibe.
Soil & water: Loamy, moist, well-drained soil.
On the weekends: Her stunning sprays of large blooms are a sight to behold! Appreciate her while you can, it’ll be a while before you see her flowers again.
10. Areca palm (Dypsis lutescens) *BF
Light likes: They enjoy sunlight and warmth.
Soil & water: Avoid soggy soil but water them moderately.
On the weekends: These often golden-trunked, bamboo-looking darlings can be seen growing tall at their own pace, taking time to extend all their friendly fronds.
To help keep your indoor plants looking their best and breathing well, use a damp cloth to clean their leaves from any dust. Remember to checkout which lovelies are ready to plant now, or plan ahead for the right season and home your dream indoor gem. A spray bottle is also super handy to have around for quick watering touch-ups. See what’s potting at your GCA Garden Centre and have fun perfecting the art of indoor gardening!
Life is a Garden was launched by the South African Nursery Association to promote gardening as the ultimate leisure time hobby in Southern Africa and brings relevant industry-endorsed information, at the right time of the year, to interested gardeners across Southern Africa.
Like the calm before the cool, winter preparations are smooth sailing this month with Life is a Garden’s crisp April checklist. Gardening during the cooler months definitely has its own challenges, but also so many exciting flowers and veggies to look forward to. Did someone say spring bulbs already? Head over to your GCA Garden Centre and let’s plant right in!
Enjoy your time chilling out and ticking off your April checklist. Ride the wave of cool-season thrills and all that’s up for grabs in the garden. Whether you’re maintaining, sowing, planting, or pruning, there’s always something to do in the backyard. Life is a Garden – welcome the refreshing autumn breeze into yours.
We know that many of our gardeners have green fingers longer than their balconies can accommodate. That’s why Life is a Garden has made November all about our city living gardeners out there. You can still make your patio pop, indulge your gardening cravings, and escape the city from your stoep, here’s how:
Before diving in, there are a few things to consider: What do you use your balcony for the most? Are you more of a lock-up-and-go or do you have some time to spend on maintaining your balcony greens? Does your space get full, partial, or no sun at all? How would you like your dream balcony to present you and your personal flavour? The answers to these questions can really help you conceptualise your space to make it practical for your lifestyle. Now that that’s sorted, let’s get your urban oasis going!
Any balcony easily comes to life with a little light! Your local GCA Garden Centre has a lovely variety of solar lights you can add to the space. Try draping some LED fairy lights from your railing with a few scattered lanterns in between your new pot plants, or perhaps hanging from a beam or two. Speaking of pots, container gardening is all the rage, especially edible ones! Using different sized pots in your balcony garden adds height and variety to the space, while also giving you an opportunity to play with different styles. You could upcycle a sweet teapot into a planter with your favourite tea time herb, or get the kids to decorate some cans and transform them into pot plants for a lovely homely feel.
Ditch the cold concrete and cover your stoep with some lovely faux grass. Available at your favourite GCA Garden Centre, there are a variety of soft and luscious faux grasses to choose from, and the fab thing is that you never have to cut or water it! Go full out with your mini city sanctuary look and opt for some tree stump seating, a pallet sofa, a self-standing hammock chair, or a trendy reed bench if that’s more your style. Depending on what you use your space for, you could even go for a picnic-style set up on your grass with large cushions or beanbags (with space for a hubbly or ice bucket in the middle). Alternatively, ditch seating altogether and use the space for an ambient water feature – now that’ll definitely help you get your zen on in the city. If you’d like to make your own balcony fountain, here’s another DIY on us: https://bit.ly/2G0EE4n
Picture a few hanging baskets framing your windows with an abundance of green life spilling over the edges – a view to appreciate from both inside and on the balcony. Add even more jungle vibes to your city escape with a gorgeous living wall to cover up that concrete and boring brick. Green walls are actually rather simple to make and so worth a little effort. You could also invest in some upcycled bamboo wall dividers (which we always see on the side of the road) and use these as wall cover-ups and creeper support. Vertical planters are also great for space-saving gardening, plus, they are super trendy and stylish for a more modern look. Dust off the cobwebs in the corner and let’s add a vertical planter with a quirky creeper for fun.
It’s important to know the sun moves across your balcony so that you can choose the right plants for your space. Here are some of our top plant picks to get you started:
Shady babies: Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) are hardy for the gardener on the go, Leather leaf fern (Rumohra adiantiformis) brings in texture, and Forest bell bush (Mackaya bella) do well in containers.
Sunseekers: Black-Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) is an old fave flowering vine, Climbing Snapdragons (Asarina) work well in vertical planters and living walls, and Petunias are great for cascading blooms. Geraniums are also a sure win for the balcony garden and let’s not forget roses for the most delightful potted rewards.
Transforming a balcony into your own unwinding city escape is well worth a little time and effort. In the long run, this space provides an important place of grace in between all the hustle and bustle of urban living. We tend to so often live for the weekend, so let’s bring the party to your patio and create an environment that’s so welcoming, every day is sunset on the stoep day! Caring for plants also helps your mental well-being, destresses you, and adds purpose to your daily routine. Life is a garden – how often do you tend to yours?
You can create your own wetland at home and produce delicious edibles at the same time.
World Wetland day is celebrated annually on the 2nd February and we at Life is a Garden think that a beautiful way to support and celebrate these habitats is by creating container wetland gardens to add as a design element to your garden. Many water loving plants are also edible, so be sure to include some of the edible varieties in your wetland masterpiece. This will be something different to your usual herb garden edibles.
A wetland is found where the land is wet enough (saturated or flooded) for long enough to be unfavourable to most plants but are favourable to plants adapted to anaerobic soil conditions. It is important that we understand and protect the incredible biodiversity of these beautiful and vital South African habitats. Not only do wetland ecosystems support a host of animal and plant life - but they are critically important for the survival of humans too, from the modification of climate change to the protection of human settlements from floods. If we protect wetlands, we also protect our planet and ourselves.
Here is an easy step by step tutorial on making a container water garden that is simple and inexpensive.
What you will need:
Choosing a Container
When choosing a container for your water garden, keep in mind that technically, anything that holds water will work. Make sure however that it is not porous. Choose a container large enough to comfortably hold at least three or four water plants. A 60 cm wide container will be a perfect start. We chose a beautiful, stylish powder blue glazed pot.
When choosing water plants for your container, keep in mind to choose based on the size of your container. Huge plants in a tiny container will just look like a wet jungle and too many tiny plants in a large container will just look like clutter.
Choose your types of plants much the same way you would design a regular garden bed. Use different shapes and textures of plants to add contrast, and to set each plant apart. We suggest using at least three. First a tall spiky plant, then a broader leaved plant, and finally, a floating option such as water hyacinths, or even a single water lily.
Arranging Your Water Garden
Arranging the plants in your water garden is easier than planting a garden bed. If you don’t like the arrangement, you just pick them up and move them, because you never remove the water plants from the nursery pot.
Displaying your container water gardens
Place your water garden where it gets at least 6 hours of sun every day. Make sure the water level is topped up regularly. If the roots are exposed for any length of time, you will likely damage, if not lose the plant. We suggest you overflow the top of the container with water every couple of days, just to make sure no mosquitoes are using your new garden as a breeding ground.
Enjoy making your own container water garden! Water is a restful element to add to any garden, and can attract birds, frogs and butterflies as well. Not to mention, water plants themselves are beautiful, and can be fragrant in addition to being low maintenance.
Sadly, 50% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed. Without suitable wetland habitat, many species could soon be homeless. Here are 11 reasons why you should care about wetlands:
You don't need acres of garden to grow fresh salads and veggies. All you need is a balcony, patio or a postage-stamp of a garden, some good-quality terracotta pots, the right growing medium and a watering can, and you're A for away. Life is a Garden offers these tips to assist you in creating the perfect container garden.
Whenever we're asked what containers to use on a patio, we tend to recommend a nice big terracotta pot or a matching set of terracotta pots. Why terracotta and not plastic? Terracotta pots are made of clay, and natural materials like clay tend to work better with plants. Terracotta pots can breathe, allowing air and even moisture to move through the walls, keeping plants healthier and helping to prevent fungal root disease.
Plants don't like sudden changes in temperature, and terracotta pots act as insulation, slowing down variations in temperature.
Weight is also an advantage – terracotta pots are heavier than plastic or wood, which is great when you've got a cat that keeps rubbing itself against your veggie pots and knocking them over! Finally, terracotta pots get better and better with age, weathering and developing a beautiful patina that cannot be replicated.
What to plant?
Choosing what to plant can be overwhelming when you're starting out. Our first rule of thumb is to plant what you eat! There's not much point in growing coriander if the flavour offends your very being. But if you love cooking with other herbs, start by planting things like rosemary, thyme, mint and origanum.
Another thing we suggest is to mix things up a bit – don't be boring and grow only edibles. Beautiful ornamentals can do well in containers alongside their edible bedfellows, and some have the added benefit of being edible too. Viola flowers can be tossed in a salad, while the flowers of lavender and calendula have a range of uses.
A good base
The key to potting success is a growing medium that can fulfil a plant's nutritional needs.
Whenever we're getting ready to plant up containers, we start by mixing up a big batch of potting medium. To do this, we mix four parts good-quality potting soil, 1 part palm peat (soaked in water beforehand) and a big handful of pelletised organic plant food. Prepare the medium in a big bucket so that you've got enough for all the pots you'll be planting up.
When planting, place a handful of gravel or stones in the bottom of the pot, to ensure proper drainage and prevent the drainage holes from becoming blocked. Then fill the pot with potting medium to about 2/3 full, place the plants in the pots and fill up the pots to a few centimetres below the rim.
Keep them hydrated!
Plants will put up with a lot, but you can't expect them to survive without water. Containers have a limited water-holding capacity, which is why we add water-retentive materials such as palm peat to our mix.
Check if the soil is dry by pushing a finger into the first inch or so – if it is dry, add water. In hot weather, you'll need to water your containers daily, in the morning before it gets too hot. Check again in the afternoon and water again if necessary. In cooler weather, especially in seasons when plants aren't growing as fast, you can get away with watering pots about 2 – 3 times a week.
Remember that overwatering can be as bad as underwatering, so always do the finger test before watering.
Container-grown plants need regular care, including feeding, as the nutrients in the limited quantity of soil get depleted.
Louisiana Irises (Iris), and Waterlilies (Nymphaea) are beautiful and elegant water-loving, flowering plants.
Louisiana Irises (Iris) bloom from mid-September to mid-October – this is the prime-time to buy them in flower from your GCA Garden Centre.
They like to grow in full sun to semi-shade and will grow successfully in garden beds where they receive regular irrigation, preventing the soil from drying out. A thick mulch layer will assist in keeping the soil moist (not the mention all the other benefits such as suppressing weeds and feeding the soil). As Louisiana Irises naturally occur in swamps, ditches and other moist sites in the Southern USA, they are at their happiest when grown in a bog or shallow pond and make superb aquatic plants. They can also be grown in large pots with no drainage holes - creating a mini-bog.
Louisiana Irises have one of the most diverse range of colours of any Iris. After flowering, the spent flower stems on your potted Louisiana Iris, should be cut back and the plant can then either be planted into the garden or transplanted into larger containers, in both instances lots of compost should be added to encourage new growth for next season.
Waterlilies (Nymphaea} - the prima donnas of the water garden are among the simplest of ornamentals to grow, all they need is full sun (a minimum of 6 hours per day), some good soil and at least 30 cm of still water, although some varieties can grow in water more than 1.5 meters deep. Full sun is necessary for the plants to grow vigorously and produce flowers as well as for the flowers to open during the day. They do not like to be in a pond with a fountain or in swiftly moving water, neither do they like wind.
They are winter dormant and usually start emerging from dormancy towards the end of August / early September. Feed your waterlilies with designed aquatic plant soil (available from GCA’s). We recommend using bone meal: apply by lifting the pot out of the pond, making two or three holes in the soil (approximately 10-15 cm deep) and pouring 15 ml of bone meal into each hole. Backfill hole with some sand to prevent the fertiliser from leaching and set waterlily back in pond. Bone meal can be applied every three months thought-out the growing season to maintain optimum growth and flowering.
Does the idea of spending an afternoon in a tranquil and breath-taking landscaped garden sound enticing? Well, with our help you’ll be digging in and transforming your garden into a haven just in time to have it ready for the festive season. Whether you’re looking to create a staycation spot or an entertainer’s dream, we have some tips that will help you get started.
To begin, you’ll need a better understanding of the canvas you have available to work with. Take a walk around your garden and make a note of the sunny areas that would benefit from sun-worshipping plants and flowers. Also, pay attention to the shadier areas that might be ideal for you to convert into your peaceful escape or a lively entertainment area.
Once you have an idea of the space you’re working with, it is time to get the creative juices growing.
Plants and flowers are an obvious first thought when thinking about your garden, and it is essential to have an idea of the types of flowers and colours you’d like to see dotted around this space as well as possible areas where you can plant trees and shrubs.
Having mapped out your flora you’ll have a better idea of where you want to place inviting pathways that lead you to explore your garden and soak up the beauty and fragrances that will linger around every corner. There are various paving and stepping stone options available to meet a variety of tastes.
Pots and a decorative bridge can be used as a focal point adding additional charm to the garden. Water features are also attractive additions to any garden and the soothing sound of water falling adds an element of calm to the environment. They also attract birds to the garden to further enhance the outdoor experience.
A tranquil and breath-taking garden can provide a gorgeous backdrop for relaxing family lunches soaking up the afternoon sun. However, at night, your garden can also transform into an enchanting paradise that dreams are made of. A fire pit in the centre of your night-time entertainment area will create a cosy atmosphere. It will also mean that there is no need to move indoors on cooler evenings. Add a few comfy outdoor couches and cushions, and you’re set to enjoy hours entertaining under the moonlight.
Garden lights could be positioned around the garden to emphasise large trees, stunning flower beds and walkways. To add to the sensory experience, consider planting some flowers that look their best under the moonlight and others that emit the most fragrance at night. Fairy lights can also add colour and magical sparkle to the area. You’ll also want to make sure that there is sufficient lighting around the entertainment area, allowing for easy access from the house when it is dark outside.
These are just a few of the options available to transform your garden. For more inspiration to creating the garden of your dreams, scroll through the pages at Life is a Garden. Don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter for monthly inspiration and reasons to love your garden.