By Sarah Buchanan. First published by Rattan Direct on 11 May 2016.
Create a garden indoors
Houseplants offer colours, shapes and sizes to suit every room and mood. With a little care many live for years. Most appreciate some TLC as summer, and new growth, begins. Houseplants rely on the soil in their pot for food – and over time it is used up so you need to provide new soil or feed the soil you have. When I refresh the soil for my houseplants it’s a chance to move them into a bigger pot and offer room for new growth. With some summer TLC you can create a garden indoors.
A warning about orchids: these wonderful plants like to fit very tightly inside their pots so don’t re-pot them too soon, and always use specialist orchid compost.
How to repot a houseplant
- The right pot: if your plant is tight in its pot, it needs the next size up. You can find one that works by putting the existing pot inside another and making sure there is space of 1 or 2cm all around the edges. The new pot must be clean and have drainage holes. Add pieces of broken clay pot, or gravel, in the bottom of the new pot to help drainage.
- The right compost: read on! Part fill the new pot with compost so that when you put the current pot (with your plant inside it) inside the new one, the bottom of your plant is just below the top of the new pot.
- Give your plant a good drink in its old pot, so that its compost is moist, and carefully take it out and put it in the new pot.
- Add compost around the plant, pressing the compost down gently as you go, until the new pot is full and the old plant is sitting pretty in the middle.
- Water the plant in its new pot and display it in your home.
- Compost of the week – houseplants.
Multipurpose compost or specialist houseplant compost suits most houseplants. But some plants, such as orchids or acid loving plants like heather and azalea, need special composts: check the label that came with your plant or ask for advice at a garden centre and buy the right compost for your plant. You may need:
– Cactus compost: gritty, free-draining mixture
– Orchid compost: bark-based, very coarse and sometimes with charcoal
– Acid loving or ericaceous compost: a mix with high acidity ingredients.
Feed your indoor garden
Flowering plants need a lot of food to put on a good show. When flowering they benefit from a plant food – provided according to the instructions on the pack – once a month, or a slow release fertiliser in their compost. Babybio is the liquid feed many of us remember, and other brands are available as well as granules and spikes to add to the compost in the pot. Whatever you choose, follow the instructions on the pack.
Some houseplants, such as azalea, benefit from being put outside in their pots for the summer. In a sheltered and slightly shaded spot they can soak up rain, soft sunshine and fresh air. Even orchids can benefit from a spell in a shady place under a tree or behind garden pots. If you put plants out for the summer be sure to wait until frosts are over, don’t forget where you put them and make sure they are watered.
Pricking out and potting on keep gardeners busy in May. Find out, from Monty Don, what this means and how to do it:
Pricking out – means carefully taking small young seedlings from the seed tray, using a wooden lollipop stick or small spatula, and planting them in small pots or trays to grow a little larger before you pot them on. Dangers in the process are not only snapping the seedlings but making them too damp or too dry – as ever just the right amount of water is the key.
Potting on – means carefully moving small young plants to a pot that is a little larger than their current one, ready for moving into their final pot or garden bed. Think of it as the move from a baby’s crib to a cot! And potting on helps you prepare young plants for a life outdoors, bringing them under cover during cold winds and at night, so they adjust to the big outdoors.