Houseplants will have supplied you with some lovely greenery during the gloomier months, but right now it’s time to give them a bit of TLC as they could do with some pampering, and create your very own houseplant heaven! Quite often houseplants get very lackluster and miserable over the winter and spring, so start by checking them over thoroughly. Remove and dispose of any that are heavily infested with pests or infected by diseases. Although it is sometimes possible to control these sorts of problems, unless the plant is of extreme sentimental value, it is rarely worth all the effort – particularly as you may still not be completely successful. Once done, continue as follows…
- Carefully pick over remaining plants, removing dead, damaged or discoloured leaves. If the leaf stems are quite tough then use a good sharp pair of scissors for this job or invest in a pair of special ‘snips’ or miniature secateurs – whatever you use, they must be really sharp.
- Houseplants usually respond well if repotted in late spring or very early summer, so if yours are pot-bound do this now. Check by carefully removing the plant from its pot and take a look at the root system. If it is really quite congested in the pot, then in most cases this means it is time for it to move house.
- When repotting, only move the plants up one pot size and use compost as similar as possible to the compost in which they are currently growing. If in doubt, seek advice from your local garden center or plant compost supplier. Most houseplants hate poor drainage, so do make sure that the compost is free-draining and always add crocks at the base of the pot. Consider adding additional grit or perlite to improve drainage.
- Once the plants have been repotted, place them in a cool, relatively stress-free environment for a week or two and avoid putting them in hot or direct bright sunlight. Keep them adequately but not over-watered and the roots will soon start to move into the new compost.
- Once they are happy in their new pot, give them a bit of a bath. Well-moistened kitchen roll or cotton wool can be used to wipe the leaves clean. Many of the more glossy-leaved houseplants respond well to an application of leaf shine, but always check that the plants you have will enjoy this treatment, as some respond badly.
- When did you last feed your houseplants? It is easy to forget them when you are busy thinking about other plant-related jobs. Houseplants do require regular feeding, and you can buy some really good fertilisers in garden centres. If possible, choose those which are formulated specifically for the plants you are growing or at least are sold as being especially suitable for foliage houseplants or flowering houseplants. If you grow cacti and African violets you should be able to easily obtain specialist fertilisers for these too. Each individual type of feed will be formulated to ensure that it produces the best results in the type of plant on which it should be used.
- Plants that have just been potted on will not require feeding for a couple of months, as the compost will contain adequate feed materials. Don’t forget, however, that both recently replanted and more established houseplants do need regular watering, particularly as they start to put on more growth and if they are in a fairly warm or sunny position.
- Don’t place plants in too sunny a spot. As temperatures rise it is likely that some of them could get too hot or suffer leaf scorching if placed too close to a south- or west-facing window. If possible, move them on to an east- or north-facing windowsill, or at least move them slightly further back from the glass. Remember that most houseplants benefit from a bit of a summer holiday and love to be placed in dappled shade in the garden, where you will find that they usually thrive – provided you keep them adequately fed and watered.
- Finally, why not treat yourself to a new houseplant or two? A visit to your local garden center is bound to provide you with plenty of inspiration, but do make sure that the plant is well-suited to the position that you have lined up for it – it’s tempting to buy those that only do well in really sunny situations, but if you only have a fairly shady windowsill to offer it, then it will suffer immensely over the winter months – so try not to be tempted by things that aren’t really suitable.
By Pippa Greenwood