House plants are having a moment – perhaps because we’re spending more time in our homes and crave the greenery of nature. As well as giving us Instagram-worthy interiors, looking after a home full of house plants may actually improve health and wellbeing – with research suggesting it can reduce stress, sharpen your attention and improve the quality of indoor air.
Want to get started? Here are our top tips to help you create (and look after) your own indoor jungle…
How to choose the best house plants for you:
- Consider your home’s lighting
Which way do your windows face? Do they get hot, direct sunshine or indirect sunlight?
Most house plants do not like full sun and may not survive if placed on a sunny south-facing window ledge – whereas cacti and succulents can tolerate a lot of sun. Some plants require partial sun and shade, so need to be seated close to a west or east facing window. Most foliage plants prefer bright light without direct sun – set these a few feet back from the window. Most plants are sold with growing and care instructions, and most information can be found online.
- How warm is your home?
As well as light, pay attention to the temperature each type of plant requires.
Room temperature in spring and summer is ideal for most plants – but ensure your plant choices can cope with potential temperature drops in winter or at night.
- Do you have pets?
Animals love chewing on house plants, but this can be very dangerous – it’s important to check any plants you want to bring into your home are not toxic to cats, dogs or other pets.
Remember cats can also reach plants placed higher up than dogs can.
- Are you often away from home?
Every species has a different watering schedule, but many need watering a few times a week.
If you work away from home or are often away for long periods, opt for cacti and succulents which are resilient plants that can survive a long period of time without water.
- Give them room to grow
Where do you want to place your plants? Tables and desks with unrestricted perimeters offer plenty of room for your plants to grow upwards and outwards – remember narrow windowsills, bookshelves or overhanging shelving may cast shade and restrict growth.
How to look after your house plants:
- Repot newly bought plants
Plants sold in garden centres and nurseries are often sold in the same pots they are grown in, which the roots may have outgrown.
Repotting into a bigger pot with fresh compost as soon as you get home allows your plant to grow faster and get more nutrients, as well as giving you chance to check the roots look healthy. Make sure your pot has drainage holes to prevent your plant sitting in water.
- Regularly dust leaves
Like all objects in your house, plants will gather dust if they are left untouched – and dust on a plant’s leaves can prevent all the sunlight it needs from getting through.
For larger plants you can gently wipe each leaf with a damp cloth – or gather them all up, pop them in the shower and finely mist with water!
- Prune when necessary
It can feel counterintuitive but cutting back plants can encourage fresh growth and an overall healthier plant.
Cut away dead or yellow leaves – look out for ‘nodes’ on the stems, little bumps which look like joints, and prune above these for best results.
- Don’t overwater!
It’s far easier to over-water than it is to under-water. Most houseplants need the soil to be kept moist – simply touch the soil’s surface to check but wait until it is almost dry before watering.
Make sure your plant pot has drainage and put saucers under plants to allow any excess water to drain away. You usually don’t need to water as much in winter, when plants have less active growth.
- Avoid radiators
Plants are not just for summer – when the temperature drops in winter, watch out for the dry heat created by central heating and radiators. You might like to invest in a humidifier, otherwise you can regularly mist your plants to keep the leaves moist.