The Heronswood Houseplant Helper

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With many nurseries remaining open, plus online plant sales rocketing, why not spruce up your home with some new houseplants? Taking care of indoor plants is great for your physical and mental health, plus they look great. A fun project is to create an indoor planter with several different houseplants in one container. Not only will this allow you to cram more plants into your home, but there are also advantages for the plants themselves. In particular, the air between plants growing in a group is slightly more humid, helping to reduce the problems caused by dry air, such as brown leaf tips and spider-mite infestation.

Start by finding a suitable container, usually something decorative that matches your interior color scheme. It doesn’t have to be a pot designed for growing plants – be creative and try out unusual objects such as an old kettle or vase. The size of the container will determine how many plants you can fit inside. Ideally, the container will have a drainage hole, but there are solutions for pots without holes. Clean the container thoroughly, then add an inch of gravel or sand to the base. Fill with houseplant compost and, if there are no drainage holes, mix a little activated charcoal into the soil (readily available online or from pet stores).

For a successful container, you need to choose the plants carefully. Obviously, they need to look good together and with so much diversity in leaf and flower color and shape, the world is your oyster. But they must also like to grow together. A fern that needs shade and humidity will not thrive alongside a succulent wanting full sun and dry soil. Decide where your container will sit, then choose plants that will cope with the light available in that spot. Mixed houseplant containers do not last forever – after a year or two, you’ll need to separate the plants as they will have outgrown their space. So feel free to stuff your planter with lovely new plants that you can enjoy in the short term. Once planted, water well and revisit the container weekly to see if it needs more water. Other than watering and trimming off spent flowers and leaves, very little care is required, and your container will delight throughout the year.

Dr. Ross Bayton
Heronswood Assistant Director

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