Hi, my name is Iain and I am a plantaholic.
I moved into my own place on October 31st 2017 and since then I’ve amassed a collection of 30 house plants. Some are gifts, some are purchases and some are babies of those gifts and purchases. I have my very own, enormous, green family. Although it’s a little out of hand, I wouldn’t change it. When you live in a city and you spend a lot of your day staring at the computer screen or looking at the grey walls of the concrete jungle, there’s something therapeutic about coming home to a green, living environment. Caring for them is relaxing and I find it relieves stress accumulated through the week. It reaps other rewards too, such as cleaner air and less damp (Peace Lily’s are known for helping with damp problems in bathrooms).
The most common question I get is, how do you keep them alive? The easy answer is, don’t kill them. It’s no different to having a puppy or kitten (except plants don’t climb your curtains or eat your couch) and you do research on that species of plant and you work out the most suitable position for it in your home and the best watering and feeding schedule. You should also learn their growing seasons because you don’t want to waste feed on them in their dormant season (yes you should feed your plants too, to encourage healthy growth). To be fair to you serial plant killers, it may be that you’re buying the wrong plant. If your house is really dry, it might be that the plants you’re buying don’t like that climate. Succulents and Cacti can cope with just about any conditions, but other plants are a bit more sensitive to their surroundings. Also, don’t over water! This is a common cause of plant death as the plant can’t process the water fast enough and the roots rot. Root rot = dead plant.
Here are 5 house plants I own, that haven’t died, that I love having around and that I find easy to care for:
- Spider Plant (Chlorophytum Ocean)These come in many shapes and sizes and are actually very hard to kill (although one did die on me… the cause of death remains unknown!). They are also known for rapid air purification and are a great plant to have around the home. I have 3 species, plus 3 babies which I’ve potted up for the next growing season. Spider plants like bright spots but aren’t great in direct sunlight, so don’t feel the need to put them in the window in summer! They produce babies like crazy in growing season and even sometimes off season (as I’m currently discovering) and you can leave these to grow and hang from the parent plant or you can clip them off at the base of the baby plant and pot them up. I’ll post about my foray into propagating baby plants later. Spider plants are sometimes called Spider Ivy and similarly to Ivy, they look good in a hanging basket or on a shelf, when they’ve started to grow over their pot boundary.
- Cheese Plant (Monstera Deliciosa)
I picked mine up in IKEA for under £20 and it was big when I got it… now it’s a beast! This one is a bit more work in that you can’t just leave it to grow freely. Well, you can but you’ll come home to it greeting you at the door and taking your coat. Mine grew considerably through summer and I had to buy a stake and tie the rogue, floor strafing stems up. This encourages the plant to grow upwards. The plant is also aerial rooting, so it grows roots from its stems and these extend to find a spot to propagate. It likes to be sprayed with water in summer as it’s a jungle plant so it’s used to intense humidity. You may also notice its leaves sweat when it’s a hot day. Bright spots are fine but it can cope in more shaded areas too. Best to give it some sunlight now and then though! This is a tough plant, so a good one for a confident beginner.
- Dragon Tree (Dracaena Marginata)
Similarly to the Monstera, this one can grow quickly although it’s easier to manage. Also, be careful when new shoots start to appear as they can be quite sharp before they open! I’ve nearly taken my eye out numerous times when bending over it to clip dead leaf tips. This is another air purifier, so get ready for some easy breathing. Keep an eye on the soil as it can go for weeks without needing water and then other times it can need weekly watering (in my plant’s case, it’s very erratic and non seasonal). I have mine in a bright spot and it’s thriving. When leaf tips go brown and crispy, clip them off and if a whole stem is dried out, you can easily pull this out. If it resists it isn’t completely dead.
- Aloe Vera
This is a well known house plant. It’s one of the top air purifiers (cleansing formaldehyde and benzene from the air – found in many household cleaners and paints) and it has medicinal properties too as a topical gel for burns and cuts, promoting fast healing. You need to watch out for over watering these guys as they’re pretty sensitive to over watering. I confess, I almost killed mine last week because I forgot I watered it the previous week. Easily saved with a repotting in drier soil. Also, they’re ok in direct sunlight but check them every other day to ensure they’re not turning brown as they could be burning. I moved mine out of direct sunlight in the hottest part of summer to make sure it didn’t burn. Keep it in a bright spot though. This can outgrow its pot very quickly so just make sure it isn’t getting too top heavy for its confines! I think they’re ok with tight spaces though.
- Easter Cactus
I have two of these in my kitchen. My mum took cuttings from her own at home, planted them and in a few months we had brand new succulents. These are very hardy plants and are hard to kill (don’t try please). Off season they’re pretty ugly, but in season (Easter time, obviously) they produce vibrant flowers and really brighten up your room. They need a lot of watering in spring / summer but you can tell by their leaves if it’s watering time. I had to water mine every week. When they are dehydrated they wrinkle like your hands after they’ve been in the bath too long. Soak them under running water in the sink and let them drain off… within hours they’ll be back to full strength. This is great a window and likes bright sunlight.
It may seem like a lot of effort to water your plants, to clip dead foliage off, to feed them and to move them around your home (you’ll probably have to move them around until you find a spot they’re happiest in – no joke). However, it really isn’t. It’s work yes, but like I said, it’s no different to caring for a puppy or kitten, in fact it’s much easier and less messy. If you invest your time in caring for them properly, you’ll be rewarded by how great they make your home look when they’re at full strength, properly fed and groomed. You’ll also find it relieves stress. Caring for my plants is like my weekend therapy.