Indoor plants can be a little tricky sometimes. One may need litres of water when another prefers to remain on the dry side. Blasting full sun or light shade. A free draining soil or boggy conditions. It can be hard to get it right. So the best way to find out how to take care of these indoor beauties is to answer this ‘simple’ question:
What are indoor plants?
Indoor plants are actual outdoor plants that cannot grow outside in our climate because the temperatures are too low. Depending on which part of the globe they are from, they will have different needs. So when you wonder how to care for your plant, the first question to ask yourself is what is my plant’s country of birth. Is it a Mexican sun-loving plant or a Tropical rainforest native who needs a constant temperature and a daily shower?
But, obviously, unless you are a plant geek like us, you might just want to know which plant will survive with some neglect. So here is a little selection of very forgiving plants and a few basics to make the most of your indoor garden.
The shady corner is a common problem in our homes, whether you live in an apartment or a house. There are only a few plants that can tolerant very low light levels. Having this said, although tolerant, it does not mean that they can be grown in a room without a window.
A native of Africa and Southern Asia, the Sansevieria is often overlooked. However, this is one the easiest indoor plant to grow. It will grow as well in shade as in sunlight and needs only a little water, making it the perfect beginner’s plant. Cherry on top: It is one of the rare plants that stores up oxygen during the day to release it at night, an ideal one for the bedroom. Definitely a 5-stars plant!
From left to right: Sansevieria Bacularis ‘Mikado’, Sansevieria Trifasciata, Sansevieria Trifasciata ‘Futura Superba’. Photo ©Windyridge Garden Centre
Another African beauty to add to your collection. The ZZ Plant (ZZ stands for Zamioculcas Zamiifolia) can look almost dormant in shade with its leaves remaining dark green and shiny. But give it a tiny bit of light and you will see the bright green new shoots coming out. It is a good alternative if you are looking for something a little more lush than the snake plant but just as easy to grow. It also prefers to stay on the dry side so allow the compost to dry between waterings. Indeed the roots have the ability to store water and they will quickly rot if overwatered.
It likes warmth and a little humidity so it is perfect in the bathroom.
Zamioculcas with Cacti. Photo ©Windyridge Garden Centre
This Chinese native is definitely as durable and strong as cast iron (hence its nickname), able to withstand a variety of conditions including variation in temperatures. It is a good specimen for a hallway, for example, where it can take the draught.
Like the plants mentioned before, it is very slow growing and requires only a little water. A once very popular indoor plant now making a come-back as it is so easy to grow.
Chimpanzees with Aspidistra Eliator and variegated Pothos in the backgroung. Photo ©Windyridge Garden Centre
Care tips: These three plants, although quite different in appearance, actually have similar needs and features.
Light: These are shade-lovers, although they can tolerate indirect sunlight as well (except for the Sansevieria which can tolerate any light condition). Dappled shade is ideal as it will help the plants to keep dark green, lush leaves.
Soil: Well-drained. The compost must be light, avoid any mix containing soil like the multipurpose and go for the specific indoor plant compost for these.
Water: Little. Allow the top half of the compost to dry before watering (this can take a week or 2 depending on the temperature so the best way to check is to stick your finger in the compost or lift the pot to gauge the weight; if it is light it needs water).
Temperature: Between 15 and 25°C is ideal.
Drought tolerant, yes, but not desert
You love indoor plants but don’t have the time, or patience for that matter, to do your weekly watering, the fortnight feeding and daily misting? Here comes the Cactus! Of course, it seems obvious, with watering needs reduced to the extreme (nothing for 3 months in the winter and once a month the rest of the year), the cacti family is the perfect companion if you want to reduce the watering task to its minimum.
But, if you have a very bright area and you are not too keen on our spiky friends, there are some very attractive alternatives. They are not necessarily desert-dwelling species but yet very forgiving when it comes to satisfying their very small water needs.
This palm-like indoor plant is the perfect choice if you need height. Keep in mind that it is slow growing so it is best to get a mature plant to start with. Provide a very good light, even direct sunlight for a few hours a day if possible. Yuccas can store water in their trunks so they can stand periods of drought. Allow the compost to dry before watering to avoid rot (the trunk becomes soft when you squeeze it. Unfortunately, when you reach that stage, it is time to organise the funeral).
Yucca Elephantipes and Bougainvillea (pink). Photo ©Windyridge Garden Centre
Beaucarnea or Ponytail palm
Welcome to the ‘Cabinet des curiosites’! If you are the ‘always on a hunt for something special’ kind, then the Beaucarnea is for you. It is a bit of a weird one with long strappy leaves drooping above the chunky trunk. Also called Elephant’s foot, this Mexican desert native can store water in its bulbous trunk; an adaptation to its natural habitat.
Beaucarnea Recurvata (Centre) surrounded with succulents. Photo ©Windyridge Garden Centre
Feng shui amateurs, this is the one that will bring you prosperity! Also called Jade, Lucky or Friendship plant, The crassula ovata is the perfect positive attitude companion to keep around or gift to spread the joy! This native of the southern part of the African continent is extremely easy to grow and will become overtime a small tree, bonsai –like, that you can take outside for the summer. A real feature on its own, on the patio or balcony.
The Crassula is actually a very large family of succulent (all very low-maintenance) so you could also try the creeping ones, the coral looking ones and so on. Why not start a collection?
Crassula ‘Buddha’s Temple’ (left), Crassula Ovata ‘Sunset’ (back) and Succulent arangement containing Crassulas, a Sedum and an Echeveria. Photo ©Windyridge Garden Centre
Care tips: These plants share similar growing needs.
Light: Very bright, with some direct sunlight if possible.
Soil: Well-drained, don’t hesitate to add some sand to your mix.
Water: Little. Allow the compost to dry before watering again and make sure that water is never sitting in saucers or pot covers if you use them. Indeed, the best way to kill one of these is by overwatering it.
Temperature: Between 15 and 25°C is ideal although they can tolerate lower temperatures for a very short time.
Finally, with these plants being very easy to grow and undemanding, they are also slow growing. To help, you can feed them once a month during the growing season (March to September) with specific indoor plant feed or a general purpose fertilizer very diluted.
So before you give in to artificial plants, why not try one of these. After all, they are also good for your indoor air quality.