Growing healthy Indoor Plants

Have you ever brought home a lovely looking plant from the local store that looked a picture of health only to find that within a few weeks time you have killed it? If so you are not alone as looking after an indoor plant requires some effort and some understanding of what the particular plants requirements are.

To make sure that our indoor plants are going to grow successfully we first need to look at the position in which the plant will be placed. What conditions are we providing for the plant in regards to the amount of light, the temperature and the actual micro climate that the plant will be exposed to.

Is the plant near a door where cold breezes will come through, Is there a window nearby that could expose the plant to excess heat or is there a lack of light? Once you have established what the overall conditions will be then you can chose a plant that is suitable for these conditions.

Lets take a look at various plants that will thrive indoors when situated in the right position and cared for correctly:

Lady Palm ( Raphis Excelsa )

The Lady Palm is in my opinion the easiest and also one of the nicest looking indoor plants that you can grow. They are extremely tough and require very little maintenance as long as they are receiving ample light and are in a freely draining soil.

I have grown the Lady Palm both indoors and out and they are extremely hardy. If you have a large window then they will thrive next to it and within a few years they will grow into a good sized specimen.

The only down side of the Lady Palm is the initial cost. They usually retail for around $40 for a smaller specimen and once they reach 3 feet or so they are in the hundreds of dollars range.

Peace Lily ( Spathiphyllum )

The Peace Lily or Spathiphyllum are another great variety of indoor plant that is also very hardy and trouble free if looked after correctly. They are available in several different varieties including a giant Peace Lily which grows to around 3 feet tall.

As long as these plants are in free draining soil they will thrive in even quite low levels of light. Do not be afraid to water them a lot as they can tolerate quite moist conditions. Fertilize with slow release Osmocote or similar every 3 months or so during the warmer seasons.

Fiddle Leaf Fig ( Ficus Lyrata )

The Fiddle Leaf Fig is another great choice as an indoor plant as it requires very little attention and if given the room can reach around 10 feet in height within a couple of years.

As with most Ficus varieties they are strong growing plants that require good drainage and regular watering. Fertilize at the beginning of Spring with slow release Osmocote.

If you see the edges of the leaves turning yellow then make sure that you are not over or under watering the plant. The Fig needs a good regular watering however it is best to allow the soil to dry out before repeat waterings.

Devils Ivy ( Epipremnum aureum )

Devils Ivy is perhaps one of the most common of indoor plants grown in Australia. It is relatively fast growing and it can be trained up a stick, along string or even on a mini pergola.

Devils Ivy likes a fairly well lit position and fortnightly fertilising from Spring and throughout the warm seasons. Regular watering but allow the soil to almost dry before watering again.

The plant can be cut back when needed and if let go it can spread to around 6 meters or more. Devils Ivy will also tolerate low levels of light however the leaves will look less variegated and they will be larger and more sparse.

Monstera ( Monstera Deliciosa )

The Monstera is also known as the fruit salad plant as it produces a beautiful fruit which literally tastes like fruit salad. The Monstera is the most popular of all indoor plants grown in Australia and if looked after is extremely hardy.

As with most indoor plants the Monstera prefers plenty of light and a warm position but not in front of a window that has the sun shining directly in as it will burn the leaves.

Give the Monstera a good soaking and then allow it to almost dry out before watering again. Too much watering and the plant will start to show signs of drooping or yellowing leaves. The Monstera can grow quite large so it is best given a decent amount of room to grow into.

Dwarf Umbrella ( schefflera arboricola )

The dwarf Umbrella Tree is another one of my favorite indoor plants that is also very easy to grow and quite hardy. They come in both a dark green and a variegated variety however I prefer the non variegated plant for indoors.

The Dwarf Umbrella is very drought tolerant and if over watered the leaves will turn brown and drop off quite rapidly. It is best to allow the Umbrella to almost dry out between waterings.

A light and airy position is ideal for this plant and regular pruning when small will help to produce a thicker and more attractive specimen.

ZZ Plant ( Zamioculcas zamiifolia )

The ZZ plant is another great choice for growing indoors and is almost fool proof. The biggest enemy of the ZZ plant is too much water so be careful and allow the plant to almost dry out before watering again.

The ZZ plant is happy growing in low amounts of light however it will grow better and look better given more light but not too much direct sunlight. Tell tale signs of not enough light are tall, lanky looking plants.

To maintain a healthy and happy plant the leaves can be wiped down with a damp cloth every so often and small amounts of Osmocote or similar slow release fertilizer can be added every 3 months or so during the warmer months.

Soils for indoor plants

Once you have selected the type of plants that you wish to grow inside then the next issue to look at is the type of soil to use. One of the biggest problems with potted plants is that the soil simply does not drain efficiently which in turn creates a compacted soil that holds too much moisture and can’t breathe.

The ideal potting soil is a very friable mix that drains freely and does not lump or compact together easily. In saying this the majority of potting mixes that I have come across are not free draining and simply are not suitable to grow a healthy plant in. For this reason I generally mix a quality potting soil with a good quality seed raising mix until I obtain a very friable and free draining mix.

If you are keen enough and you wish to make your own potting soil then this could produce the best outcome. Just remember to test your finished potting mix blend for drainage and also to see that it does not bind together. If when you water it the soil simply goes muddy and clogs together then you will need to add more material to improve it’s drainage. Note: Please wear a mask and protective gloves when mixing soils and organic materials to avoid breathing in bacteria’s such as Legionella and longbeachae which can be fatal once they get into the lungs.

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