Liven up drab corners
Kiran Narain

Indoor plants add freshness to environment
Indoor plants add freshness to environment

Increasingly in urban areas, as a growing number of people choose to live in apartments that do not enjoy the luxury of large gardens, indoor house plants are now a part of our lives.

One would begin well with buying the right sort of plant to match one’s own room conditions — light, temperature and humidity. The origin of each plant will tell you much about its culture. For instance, ferns grow in cool, shady forests, so can do well in homes where sunlight is limited. In contrast, cactii and succulents grow in hot, arid deserts, thus thriving in sunny balconies and rooms that lack humidity.

For the well-being of indoor plants, the first essential requirement is a proper amount of light. As a general rule, flowering plants need much more light than do foliage plants. Insufficient light will cause pale leaves, few or no flowers, weak stems and a leggy appearance.

If your balcony or room offers plenty of sun, you may include almost all flowering plants in your collection. Even plants with brilliant foliage like coleus, calladiums and crotons do well in sunny areas. Cactii and kalanchoe also need a south-facing windowsill for them to bloom. Most foliage plants do not require full or direct sun.

Rubber plants (ficus elastica), dumb cane (dieffenbachia),`A0 pilea mollis, pilea cadierreinana, asparagus plumosus, monesteria deliciousa, saxifraga sormentosa, maranta, chlorophytum, calathea makoyana and nearly 250 varieties of philodendron are popular indoor plants. In a bright not necessarily sunny corner, a pot or two of begonias, impatiens, cineraria, azalia or gloxinia will add colour and a pleasing touch to your collection of indoor plants. In rooms with less light, money plant (philodendron scandens), aspidistra, mother-in-law’s tongue (sanseveria trifasciata) and peperomia caprata do well.

Both flowering and foliage plants look better when humidity is around 50 per cent or higher (plants like cactii with xerophytic character excluded). No wonder then, they look best during the monsoon months. Plants tend to shed their leaves when there is not enough moisture in the air. A bi-weekly spray with tepid water will normally keep your plants happy. Plants such as maiden hair fern, chlorophytum, dracaenas, maranta and syngonium thrive in humid conditions and do well in bathrooms.

Proper watering and feeding of houseplants is vital to their well-being. Too much watering as well as too little can kill them. The frequency depends on the type and size of the plant. The simplest way to tell if your plant needs water is to poke you finger into the top soil for half an inch or so. If it feels dry, water it generously. Do not wait until the leaves become limp since it may be too late by then.

A complete fertiliser suitable for most houseplants should have nitrogen, phosphorus and potash. Usually twice-a-month feedings are sufficient but stop feeding if plants enter their dormant periods. Always remember to water plants before fertiliser is added to prevent burning of the dry feeder roots.