The average houseplant is easy to grow. Moreover, most of the ones that grow in Africa are hardy and resistant to a long spell of neglect. Take the Mother-in-law’s tongue, the Peace Lily, and the Lucky Bamboo for instance. They can survive weeks without watering and grow in the shadiest of locations.
But to get a thriving beautiful indoor garden, you need to pay the plants appropriate care.
Watering and pruning are the most important constituents of the African houseplant care regimen, but temperature and sunlight exposure are also important. We’ll cover these and more in this simple guide.
Let’s get started:
1. Don’t overwater your plants
Perhaps the most important guide to keeping your houseplant alive is to not overwater them.
It’s easy to think the more water the plant gets, the better it blooms. However, because the plant is indoor, there’s no sun to dry out the moisture through evaporation so indoor plants require far less water than outdoor plants. Indoor plants need just enough water to keep the soil moist.In fact, in cases of succulents like the Aloe Vera, the plants thrive better when you allow the soil to dry out between watering.
If the soil around the plant is water-logged, your plant can get weighed down by deadly pathogens that can lead to Root Rot and Crown Rot.
2. Keep plants away from Chemical or gas fumes
This is true for your houseplants as it is for you. If you suspect there is a chemical or gas exposure in your home, find the source and plug it as soon as it’s practical to do so. Or better still, contact house technicians to do this for you.
3. Use water at room temperature
Water – for watering your plants – should be used at room temperature. Not too cold, not too warm. Cold water has been known to shock the root system and warm water, of course, burns the root system.
So, this one time, it’s better to be lukewarm.
4. Don’t use Chlorinated water
Although chlorine is needed for photosynthesis, most house plants need only a little. It’s hard to know exactly how much Chlorine is in the water, but if you can smell chlorine, then it’s already too much. Using a highly chlorinated water could lead to leaf burn and diminished flowering.
The best type of water is actually rainwater, and you can actually harvest rainwater during the rainy season to use on plants. This also helps the environment. This is an article on how to collect rainwater – http://www.gardengatemagazine.com/52droughttolerant/
5. Cut off spent stems and blossoms occasionally
What pruning does is improve the quality of the plant. While you want to make sure you do it at the right time and with the right technique, the general idea is that you pinch away spent or deceased blossoms or stems. These deceased segments of the plant drain away the plant’s energy, so cutting them off is an excellent idea – like cutting off a gangrenous leg.
As you might have already figured out; pruning could be tricky and over-pruning could leave a dead plant on your hands, so do it with care.
6. Keep plants away from sudden air drughts
Keep your plants away from fans, air conditioner vents, or doors to avoid air draughts that can dry out the plant.
7. Give the plants a drainage system
As an extension of not over-watering, a good drainage is healthy for the houseplant. Use pots with drain holes underneath. Alternatively, put layers of stones in the bottom of the container without holes. The idea is to not let your plants sit in water.
8. Show them the light
Plants have different requirements for the amount of sunlight they need. However, almost all the houseplants that grow in Africa love their sunlight. Let them have enough of it by placing them at locations where they can get at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Some plants like the Peace Lily or Snake Plant can survive dimly lit space, but most others need light to thrive.
Ideally, plants should be placed near a window where they can get sufficient natural light or near LED lights. This is particularly true for offices as most of them rely on artificial light.
9. Fertilize occasionally
Unlike their outdoor friends, indoor plants don’t have access to a mechanism to replenish their nutrients. So, oftentimes, when they use up the nutrients in their soil, they don’t get a natural refill. It’s where fertilisers come in. Use trace amounts of water-soluble fertiliser at least once in a month to keep your plants healthy.
Like pruning, this is also tricky. In some cases, when you start seeing symptoms of nutrient deficiency – like dropping lower leaves or an overall unnatural yellow-green colour – it probably isn’t a cue to slather on the fertiliser. It could mean the plant needs more (or less) watering. Or that it needs more exposure to light. So, be sure to analyse all conditions before putting extra fertiliser. In some cases, adding fertiliser is worse than doing nothing at all.
10. Don’t lock up the plants
As much as plants don’t want sudden air draughts, they also don’t want to be locked up – blocked off from oxygen. When going on holiday, don’t lock up the house with the curtains pulled. It’s better to keep all plants in a shaded place outside and make arrangements for the plants to be watered.
Do you want outside help with keeping your indoor houseplants alive or you just want to talk? We help people plant and maintain indoor gardens. Contact us and let’s get started.