Growing indoor plants

I am an avid lover of indoor plants. Even when it wasn’t trendy, I still had a house full of them. But of course, I am one of those who never follow trends – I prefer to do my own thing, or if possible, make trends!

So often we read recommendations for indoor plants to use that are for sub-tropical regions i.e. Sydney. Ficus lyrata, for example will not grow in the more southern climes. I only wish that it would grow in the more southern aspects of the country – it is a great foliage plant.

Even Spathyphyllum in the finer leaved form is doomed to death in the colder parts. The broader leaved form is hardier, but only just. I now don’t bother either.

I just think that the presence of indoor plants is warming to a home. And green is such a universal colour. Of course people who want colour indoors grow Cyclamens during winter. I don’t grow Cyclamens indoors – I prefer to keep them in pots outside for colour during winter around the home. Indoor heating just doesn’t work with them – they prefer the cold.

My all-round favourites are Aspidistra elatior the Cast Iron plant and Ficus elastica which is the Rubber Tree. The former is also an excellent plant grown in a shady place outdoors, whereas the Ficus should never be planted in the garden – the root system is horrendous once the tree really starts to grow – they cause considerable damage to any structure within their path.

Ficus hillii is another plant that I use indoors. But be warned; any change of position of this plant could result in all or some of the leaves falling. The plant will survive this change. Just don’t overwater thinking that it is because of a lack of water that the leaves are falling as this will then kill the plant.

I clean the leaves of these plants with a damp soapy cloth. Forget the products that are recommended for indoor plant leaves. Cleaning both sides of the leaves keeps them clean and stops dust settling. Spider mites will settle in any dust that remains on leaves for any length of time. Watch for scale and pick them off and also mealybug. But this latter is usually found in humid positions outdoors.

And your indoor plants need regular fertiliser. I use Seasol products applied as a very weak tea every second watering. I take the plant to the kitchen sink and water it in the sink until the water comes out of the drainage holes. I then put a knife under the base of one side of the pot, to tip it to the side, so that the drainage is increased. I leave the pot in this position for about an hour.

Plants that are understorey plants in a rainforest can make good indoor plants. Ferns, like the Maidenhair Fern are good choices here as is the Boston fern. Both do well with regular applications of very weak fertiliser. The native ginger, Alpinia caerulea also does well indoors for a period of time and then plants out well in a shady spot in the garden.

I don’t do palms – I find them too unreliable. And some of the unreliable factor can come from the supplier. The soil that they have been planted in for example, the size of the pot to the root system is also of prime importance. A pot that is too big is a real issue with indoor plants. It is better to have the pot on the smaller side and only re-pot to the next size up i.e. incrementally.

I can strongly recommend indoor plants to anyone who is a plant lover and who likes the appearance of warmth in a home – they are definitely not the minimalist look, but then this fad will also change in time.