Plant care basics

4 ways to make this #StayAtHome time better with houseplants

Research has shown that being in greener spaces, even indoors, improves mood and reduces stress. And if like me you’re working from home, a greener workspace improves productivity, attention span, and task speed.

But there’s also something meditative and calming about pottering about with plants, which is appealing in these scary and anxious times. 

So if you want to use your #StayAtHome time to get to know plants better, here’s four things you can try over the coming weeks and months.

1. Get a new plant

While they’re certainly not essentials, if you do want to buy a new plant to keep you company, there are some shops offering home delivery.

Small businesses in your area will also be struggling through this anxious time. Why not support a local business by having a look online to see which are offering safe, contactless deliveries.

Locally this includes the lovely Southsea-based Rose Clover. Though the Elm Grove shop is closed to walk-in customers, you can order lovely plants online. And if you’re not sure what you’re in the market for, Liz and the team give great advice on plants that suit your experience and conditions at home (or buy gift vouchers to redeem when this is all over!)

A new golden pothos from Rose Clover, pre-lockdown

2. Spring clean your plants

It’s not just your damp windows and that corner behind the sofa that could do with a spring clean after the winter. Your plants will have been largely dormant over the cooler and darker months, but as we move into spring, they’re likely to start actively growing again.

So it’s a great time to do a check over and give them some TLC. This includes:

Showering them down

Just like any other surface in your home, plants will pick up dust. This is especially the case for larger leaved plants (looking at you, monstera deliciosa) and anything with nooks and crannies.

In the wild they’d regularly be cleaned by rain showers, which helps keep the leaves clean and better able to photosynthesise – so it’s worth replicating that every now and again. 

Take your plant out of it’s exterior pot if it has one, and over to the bathtub or outside in the garden. Spray it down with a gentle hose, including both the tops and bottoms of leaves.

Move it to a shady spot to dry out, as bright sunlight on wet leaves can scorch them. 

Some very dusty ZZ leaves!

Check for pests

While you’re rummaging around, you can inspect your plants for any pests. Typically many plant parents will experience fungus gnats, black flies that crawl across the surface of your soil, or spider mites, which sap the thin leaves of prettier plants like calatheas.

It’s easy to miss the signs of an infestation when we’re out leading busy lives – but if you are able to spot and catch it earlier, you’re more likely to halt the damage and spread.

Rinse through your pots

Most of us water our plants by pouring what we think is the right amount straight into the pot. However this can lead to a buildup of salts and minerals in the soil – especially in hard water areas like ours.

Every now and again it’s worth doing a full rinse through of the soil to flush those out. 

As before, take your plant out of any exterior decorative pot (or take the whole pot if it’s in terracotta as above) and over to the bath or outside.

Gently pour water onto the soil until a few seconds after you see the water flowing out the bottom, then leave to drain fully, and then return to its usual home.

3. See what your home is really like for plants

Understanding the heat and light in different parts of your home is pretty important to knowing how to keep plants happy.

Many of us are out at work for 8+ hours a day, usually during some of the sunniest hours of the day, meaning we don’t quite know how bright or warm some of our rooms are.

For example I’ve just discovered the morning spring sun is high and bright enough to shine directly through our east-facing bathroom window. It’s much brighter in there than I ever actually thought. 

And our office, which I’m spending much of my time in now, actually gets a huge amount of direct, hot sunshine – which explains why my jade is looking a little sunburnt and some of my leafier plants are getting roasted! 

This time is a great opportunity to make adjustments or shuffle plants around now that you know what happens when you’re normally out.

Jade moneyplant slightly sunburnt from being in too much sun 🙈 See the crinkly and red leaves – it needs a good drink and a slightly shadier spot.

4. Multiply your plants

If you’ve not tried propagating your plants before, you may be surprised at how easy it is to take a cutting, and make more, for free! It’s a fun experiment to do for adults and children alike.

Plants that it’s definitely worth trying are those in the pothos (epipremnum aureum), spider plant, and tradescantia families. All you do is take a clipping in the right place, stick it in water, and a few weeks later you’ll have roots.

Stick the rooted cutting in soil, and you’ve successfully created more plants – easy as that!

A baby spider plant after being propagated

And finally

I hope these tips help you discover or rediscover the joy of houseplants. Here’s wishing you a happy and healthy period at home, and that enjoying and looking after houseplants can help pass the time during this stressful period. 

If you’d like to know more, you can listen to Episode 13 of the Southsea Folk podcast here. And look out for the new print edition of the magazine. 

Or you can subscribe to updates from Southsea Jungle.

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