The A-Z of indoor plants

Aluminium Plant (Pilea cadierei): Native to tropical parts of Asia, Aluminium Plant won’t last long in temperatures below 15C. Keep well-watered and avoid heating and air-con vents.

Agave attenuata: Sometimes called Fox Tail Agave, this fleshy succulent is often known just by its botanical name. One for the sun room or near a window, it can also be placed on a balcony or in the garden. Water well during hot weather, less in winter. Tolerates a range of temperatures, but protect from frost.

Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium Australasicum): Tougher than most other ferns, the Bird’s Nest makes a surprisingly good indoor plant. Likes indirect light. Water regularly in summer, then allow to dry out a little in winter. Try to water the potting mix rather than into the centre of the plant.

Boston Fern/Sword Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata): Boston Fern remains popular because it is tough, attractive and easy to care for. Looks good in a hanging basket and survives outdoors in most climates. Prefers medium light and moderate water.

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior): A tough old-fashioned plant with deep green elliptical leaves. Tolerates low light, dust and inconsistent watering, making it a true survivor. Likes low to moderate light and thorough watering, especially in spring/summer, but allow soil to dry out a little between drinks. Water less in autumn/winter. 

Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema sp): Easy to grow and tolerant of low light conditions (avoid direct sun), Chinese Evergreen needs humidity and frequent watering. Use free-draining potting mix.

Devil’s Ivy/Pothos (Epipremnum aureum): A houseplant classic, Devil’s Ivy will cope with most light conditions except hot direct sun. Aim for a spot in medium light if possible and water well in the hotter months without leaving the plant constantly saturated. Looks good in a hanging basket or a pot positioned on a shelf so its long stems can hang down. Stems that get too long can be trimmed off and put in a water-filled vase, where they will quickly sprout roots.

Dracaena ‘Janet Craig’: A low light specialist, this Dracaena is often used as a floor-standing plant in shopping centres and other commercial settings where its toughness and deep-green foliage are appreciated. Tolerates a range of light, but not direct sun. Water well, then let it dry out. Dislikes flouride, so water with bottled water if possible, or let tap water stand overnight in a covered jug before using.

Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata): One of the great survivor plants, the Dragon Tree adds a tropical feel to any room. It tolerates cold better than many plants and is forgiving if you sometimes forget to water. Medium light/moderate water. Allow the top few centimetres of soil to dry out before watering again.

Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia sp.): Keep moist during growing season, when it likes misting to boost humidity. Less water over winter in cool climates. Feed with liquid fertilizer, mostly in summer and spring, or use slow-release pellets. Toxic, so wear gloves when handling and keep away from children and pets.

Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata): The houseplant star of the past few years, the Fiddle Leaf  has graced the pages of just about every home/design magazine. Likes medium light but keep away from direct sun. Over-watering kills many Fiddle Leafs, so let soil dry out between drinks and don’t water again until top few centimetres of potting soil is dry. Wipe its huge leaves occasionally with a damp cloth to remove dust.

Flamingo Flower (Anthurium andraeanum): Attractive plant from tropical South America with shiny dark green leaves and red, orange or yellow flowers. Likes bright light, but no direct sun. Keep soil evenly moist spring to autumn, slightly drier in winter.

Happy Plant/Corn Plant (Dracaena massangeana): With its yellow-striped mid-green leaves and long woody stems, Happy Plant is a distinctive indoor plant. Prefers filtered light indoors, or can live outdoors in the shade in warm climates. Keep potting soil moist in the warmer months.

Jade Plant (Crassula ovata): Jade Plant is a tough succulent that can cope with most conditions outdoors, but needs reasonable light to thrive as an indoor plant. Lower stems can be trimmed off to create a bonsai tree effect. Moderate water in summer, but not too much in winter.

Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana): One of the most popular indoor plants in the world, the Kentia Palm is as easy to look after as it is elegant. A native of Australia's Lord Howe Island, Kentias like bright indirect light. Keep soil moist spring to autumn, drier in winter.

Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa): An ideal houseplant in cooler climates, Lady Palm can be grown outdoors in the tropics. Features distinctive fan-shaped foliage. Prefers moderate indirect light indoors and moderate watering.

Lucky Bamboo (Dracaena sanderiana): This popular desk plant will grow in water or soil. Likes bright light but not direct sun. Keep well-watered if growing in potting soil and change the water now and then if growing in water.

Maidenhair fern (Adiantum sp):  Can be tricky to grow, but is a joy to behold when you get it right. Likes humidity, so a steamy bathroom without direct sun can be an ideal location. Keep moist but not wet.

Monstera/Fruit Salad Plant/Swiss Cheese Plant: An indoor favorite in the 1970s, Monstera deliciosa is big again in the houseplant world. Tough and easy to look after, it likes good drainage, medium light and moderate water, except in winter when it needs less. 

Moth Orchid: Beautiful long-lasting blooms make Moth Orchids (Phalaenopsis) one of the world's most popular indoor plants and a popular alternative to cut flowers. They are treated by some people as a plant to be thrown away once flowers are finished, which is a pity because the foliage is attractive and plants will sometimes bloom again. They like humidity and moderate water. Keep out of direct sun.

Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans): Sometimes mistaken for a fern because of its foliage, Parlor Palm is slow-growing, so larger plants tend to be expensive. While it looks like a multi-stemmed plant, Parlor Palm is actually a collection of individual plants. Likes medium filtered light and low to moderate water.

Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum species): The popular Peace Lily comes in many varieties these days. A great plant for low to medium light conditions, Spaths like plenty of water. Plants that become badly dehydrated can be soaked overnight in a container of water.

Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica): The long-popular Rubber Plant is bigger and better than ever, thanks in part to new red, lime, and variegated variants. Prefers filtered medium to high light indoors and moderate water. Wipe leaves down with a damp cloth occasionally to remove dust.

Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata): Actually a succulent and not a palm, it likes bright, filtered light. Because it stores water in its bulbous trunk, the Ponytail needs only low to moderate water.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata 'Laurentii' and other variants): Likes a bright position but will cope with most indoor and outdoor conditions, except frost and hot summer sun. Does best in a succulent potting mix. Moderate water.

Spider/Ribbon Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): A new "curly" variant has helped the good old Spider Plant remain a popular choice in both the indoor and outdoor world. Bright to moderate light, moderate water.

String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus): A succulent that looks great trailing from a pot or hanging basket, the String of Pearls likes bright light and moderate to low water. Allow to dry out a little in winter.

Syngonium Podophyllum: Sometimes known as White Butterfly or Arrowhead Plant, it can be used in a pot or hanging basket. Does best in medium to bright light. Keep soil moist but not always wet in warmer months, but drier in winter.

Umbrella Tree (Schefflera and Tupidanthus species):  Newer forms keep their shape well as indoor plants. Likes a bright spot out of direct sun. Pot can be placed on a saucer of wet pebbles to increase humidity, or mist occasionally.  Allow the top few centimeters of potting soil to dry out between watering, and avoid cold drafts and blasts of hot air from heaters.

White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai): With attractive wide leaves reminiscent of a banana plant, this tough Strelitzia helps create a tropical feel indoors. Can grow into a large plant outdoors in the tropics, but remains manageable in a pot indoors. Bright light/moderate water.

Yucca elephantipes: These hardy yuccas are falling out of favor because of the risk of injury from their stiff, pointy leaves. Plants grown out of direct sun tend to have softer leaves. Bright light/moderate water.

ZZ Plant/Zanzibar Gem (Zamioculcas zamiifolia): This low-maintenance plant is legendary for its toughness. Needs little water, and doesn't like too much direct light. It's sometimes mistaken for a plastic plant because of its glossy leaves. 

 

 Devil’s Ivy looks good in a hanging basket. Picture: PlanterGarden.com.au

Devil’s Ivy looks good in a hanging basket. Picture: PlanterGarden.com.au

Black plant lurks monsteriusly in back yard

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Do you like our new Goth version of Fruit Salad Plant? We call it Monsterius black.

This new dark Monstera was created by PlanterGarden in our backyard in conjunction with a frosty Melbourne winter.

Our potted Fruit Salad Plants had a nice warm winter indoors and are doing just fine, of course.

But don't worry about the frost-burnt black monster, it will spring back to life soon, proving just how tough these jungle-origin plants are.

 

Balcony plants: Sky's the limit when you're gardening on the edge

An exposed concrete platform high in the sky isn't the ideal location for a garden, but many apartment dwellers overcome the difficulties to create wonderful green spaces.

From a few succulents in small pots to productive vegetable gardens in clever planters or "pods",  there's plenty you can do with a little planning.

The key to success is knowing your site. It may only be a few square metres, but it's still crucial to know how much sun it gets, where the shade is on a hot sunny day and how the wind buffets the balcony. 

Frost-tender plants may be able to cope if there is an overhang or some other form of protection in the middle of winter, but will suffer out in the open.

Wheeled plant caddies make it easy to move pots under cover if frost is forecast. Failing that, throw an old sheet over the plant, ensuring it is secured and can't blow away.

Pot size is a major consideration. Many small trees thrive in containers, but pots need to be big enough to hold adequate moisture and let the tree develop a robust root system.

Deciduous trees can be a great option if you don't want to block out scarce sunlight in winter, while lemons and olive trees can be a tasty choice. Dwarf varieties are available in most fruit trees.

There are many vertical garden, green wall, or plant stand options to consider if space is particularly limited.

Safety comes first with anything you put on your balcony so please ensure pots and plants aren't at risk of being blown over the edge and injuring someone below.

 

 

 

 

Easy office plants: 10 tips for greening up your workplace on a budget

By Gary McGregor

So you've read all about the benefits of having plants in the office and now it's time to do something about it.

Greening up your office doesn't have to be difficult, time-consuming or expensive. Simply buy a few plants and look after them yourself.

And before you shout "but I'm a plant killer" while waving your black thumbs at me, check out PlanterGarden's 10 tips for office plant care. 

1. Get tough plants. Thirsty ferns will go to plant heaven fast if you often forget to water, but cast iron plant, dragon trees, yuccas and kentia palms are beautiful and hard to kill.

2. Provide the right pot or planter. Succulents don't need self-watering pots, but they can be good for peace lilies and ferns. Complicated watering systems, such as those used with some green walls, will eventually need maintenance, so opt for simplicity.

3. Find the right position. Maidenhair ferns don't belong in north-facing windows and snake plants, while tolerant of most conditions, can't live in the dark. 

4. Appoint a "designated waterer". I've seen office plants rot and die because two people were watering them, both thinking it was their job.

5. Put your plants on a diet. Moderate doses of slow-release indoor plant food (read the instructions) are all that's required.

6. Moth orchids and peace lilies bloom for months and are a great alternative to cut flowers. With a little basic care they may even flower again next year.

7. Give your plant babies a holiday. Sick plants may simply need a few weeks outdoors in warm weather (check light requirements) to soak up a little extra sunlight, but don't  leave indoor plants in hot summer sun. A shady spot that gets a little morning sun is often best.

8. All living things die eventually. Replacing a plant that's enhanced your quality of life for years is better than not having plants at all.

9. Safety first. Wear gloves if you have to trim plants and don't eat the foliage, no matter how much you've had to drink at the office Christmas party.

10. Ask Google. There's plenty of good plant care information online and it's usually obvious which info sites know their stuff.

And don't forget to smile. Air quality, mood and productivity are all better with some nice plants around.

Easy vertical gardens: All in all it's just a simple trick on the wall

Green walls (those created using plants, not just green paint) are all the rage, and with good reason.

These innovative vertical gardens create a calming, natural ambience without taking up valuable floor space in your home or office.

The downside is that they can be expensive, fiddly to set up and hard to maintain.

But there is a simple alternative.

Grouping some favourite plants together on a plant stand or bench is any easy way to create an indoor garden.

Two or three shelves, one above the other, can help replicate the green wall effect and it’s easy to move your pot plants around to achieve the look you are after.

To achieve the maximum wall coverage, put tall plants on the floor and vines such as Devil’s Ivy (Pothos) up higher, letting the stems hang down,

Grouping plants together helps create humidity around them, which is crucial for many tropical plants, while colourful orchids look even better framed by the leaves of deep green foliage plants such as the hardy Cast Iron Plant.

Succulents and other sun-loving plants should go on the brightest side of your “mini-jungle” to get the light they need while shading delicate species such as ferns.

Succulents (Snake Plant, Jade Plant etc) don’t like humidity, but will cope in medium to bright light indoors as long as they are not overwatered. You may need to water your Peace Lily deeply once a week (depending on conditions), but giving Snake Plant (or even a Fiddle Leaf Fig) that much water will probably rot its roots.

To avoid messy leaks, make sure your pots have deep saucers or opt for sealed cover pots.

Check plant labels to determine the appropriate light and water requirements for your plants and arrange the collection accordingly.

Follow these few simple rules and you will be enjoying your indoor rainforest for years to come.

 Orchids look even more spectacular surrounded by Maidenhair and other lush plants.     Picture: Gary McGregor, PlanterGarden

Orchids look even more spectacular surrounded by Maidenhair and other lush plants.     Picture: Gary McGregor, PlanterGarden

Food for thought on indoor plants

There are many ways to feed your indoor plants, ranging from homemade compost (usually a bad idea) to specially formulated plant food (a good idea).

If you learnt about photosynthesis at school, you will know plants make much of their own food using light energy from the sun, water and carbon dioxide, a handy trick if ever there was one.

But they need fertilizer as well. And while plants growing outdoors in soil can send out roots in many directions (and often long distances) in search of food, your potted plant doesn't have this luxury. The food you give it is all the food it gets, and if you don't provide the right fertilizer the plant will suffer.

Potted plants need complete fertilizer containing the macro-nutrients nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), sulphur (S) and magnesium (Mg), plus all the micro-nutrients, which include iron, zinc and boron. While some are needed only in tiny amounts, they are still essential to plant health.

The easiest way to feed your plants is with complete slow-release products (usually in pellet form) that provide small amounts of plant food each time you water. Osmocote says its "prills" release more fertilizer is warm weather, when plants are actively growing. These products are relatively expensive, but one application will feed your plants for several months.

Soluble products such as Thrive and the fish-based fertilizers are fast-acting because they feed plants through both leaves and roots, but take care not to use too much. Fast-growing food crops need plenty of fertilizer, but your house plants don't.

If you are moving your plant into a bigger pot, or if you think it may need a boost, give one of the seaweed products a go. They stimulate root growth and promote resistance to insect and disease attack, but unless they contain added macro-nutrients, seaweed-based products are considered a great plant tonic rather than a fertilizer. 

Plants need fertilizer in the warmer months when they are putting on new growth, but ease up with the food over winter. 

And please don't kill your plants with kindness. Too much fertilizer can be worse than too little, so it pays to double check application rates. 

- Gary McGregor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Indoor plants hot for a steamy bathroom

PlanterGarden horticulturalist Gary McGregor has featured in an article about bathroom plants in Melboune's Herald Sun (Saturday, January 28, 2017).

“Many of these plants originate from the understorey of tropical rainforests, so a typical bathroom with low to medium light and some humidity from your bath or shower is just about ideal,"  he told the newspaper.

“The exceptions are bathrooms that let in lots of direct sunlight or get really cold in winter,” he says.

As well as being a beautiful addition to any bathroom, plants improve air quality, while some actually remove toxins from the air.

Bathroom plants can range from a small fern on the countertop next to your basin to a complete green wall, if you’re feeling adventurous.

Plant placement is usually determined by how much light there is and what you have room for. It’s important to put plants where they look good but won’t get in the way and end up being knocked over.

Shelving or an attractive plant stand are a good way of grouping some of your favourite plants together.

If you have some room for floor-standing plants then kentia palms, fiddle leaf figs, Swiss cheese plant (monstera) and rubber plants are options, while peace lilies, moth orchids, lucky bamboo and Boston fern may be suitable smaller plants.

Spider/ribbon plant works well as long as it can get reasonable light and isn’t over-watered.

If you can’t keep a maidenhair fern looking lush, a humid, low-medium light bathroom may do the trick, he said.

Plants such as devil’s ivy (pothos), heart-leaf philodendron and syngonium white butterfly all look fantastic with their attractive foliage hanging down from a basket, but take care if you have kids or pets who may be attracted to them because the foliage is moderately toxic if eaten. The same applies to peace lilies.

Windowsills are an option for light-loving plants, but rooms with windows facing north and west sometimes get too hot in summer and plants may need to be moved to a cooler spot for a while.

Drought-tolerant plants including succulents don’t like steamy conditions, but a bathroom with good ventilation and reasonable light should be OK as long as they aren’t over-watered.

Plants such as orchids can use the moisture in the air after you have a bath or shower, but your bathroom plants still need regular watering. Self-watering pots may help with thirsty plants like peace lilies and ferns.

“Extra humidity is good for many tropical plants, but basic care requirements don’t change massively because a plant is in a bathroom,” he says.

“The best advice I can give it to read the plant label, consider how much light your plant needs and keep an eye on how it’s responding to the conditions.”

 

 

 

Help indoor plants light up your life

One of the main things to consider when buying an indoor plant is the light it requires.

Many people buy a plant they like the look of then try to find a spot for it. But sometimes it makes more sense to consider where you want to put a plant, then find the right one to go there.

Light conditions change through the seasons, so a plant growing happily in a medium-light spot in summer may need to be moved if available light falls dramatically in the depths of winter.

Here’s a list of some indoor favourites and the best light conditions for them. Some plants are included in more than one category if they can cope with a variety of light levels.

Low light

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior), Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum Clevelandii, Wallisii etc), Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema), Devil’s Ivy/Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Dracaena Janet Craig.

Medium light

Devil’s Ivy/Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), Dragon Tree (Dracaena marginata), Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia), Happy Plant/Corn Plant (Dracaena massangeana), Kentia Palm (Howea forsteriana), Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata), Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa), Monstera, Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans), Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica), Ribbon/Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum), Umbrella tree (Schefflera actinophylla).

High light

Lady Palm (Rhapis excelsa), Pony Tail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata), Succulents (Snake Plant, Jade Plant etc), Yucca elephantipes.

 

 

 

Water wisely and your plants will thrive

Some indoor plants need a lot of water, some need a little, and at certain times of the year some need none at all.

If that's too much information, here's a general rule that works most of the time: Water thoroughly, then don’t water again until the top few centimetres of potting mix is dry.

If you don't want to bother with a moisture meter the best way to check the "soil" is simply to stick your finger into it. If that doesn't appeal, use a stick instead. If the stick comes out clean, the potting mix is dry.

Avoiding soggy potting soil is particularly important with drought-tolerant plants such as succulents. If you continue to pour water on to plants growing in sodden potting mix there's a good chance your succulent will rot and eventually die.

The same applies to many indoor plants in winter when days are shorter and growth slows. They don't need fertiliser at this time of year and they certainly don't need to be over-watered. 

Tap water can be quite cold In the colder months, so it pays to add a little warm water before watering your plants.

Giving a plant a good watering means pouring on the H2O until it drains freely from all the holes at the bottom of the pot. This is better than dribbling on small amounts of water because it ensures adequate moisture is distributed evenly through the potting mix.

A thorough watering also helps flush away harmful chemicals, which can build up over time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why artificial plants will never grow on me

Artificial plants used to look fake and quite silly, but that’s all changed.

Many of the new “plastic fantastics” are so realistic it’s hard to tell them apart from the real thing, but I still don’t like them.

They don’t need watering (although the occasional rinse helps get rid of the dust), they don’t require fertiliser and they won’t die on you like some temperamental rare orchid.

So why don’t I like them? Because they’re FAKE … not the real thing … artificial … bogus and not even slightly alive.

Worse still, I sell real plants so I can’t make a cent out of them.

But the No.1 reason you should avoid fake plants is because they are bad for you. Not only do they take the place of oxygen-producing living plants, but they almost certainly give off toxic fumes. Maybe only in small amounts, but these are gases you can do without.

Paint, furnishings, carpets, cosmetics, printers and copiers and many kinds of plastic are among the culprits that can emit these gases, known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). They exist in the air outdoors as well, but in far lower concentrations. (You can Google VOCs to discover more, but it’s not that interesting.)

The good news is that many indoor plants mop up these airborne nasties at the same time they produce oxygen and consume carbon dioxide.

Peace Lilies, Rubber Plants, English Ivy and Snake Plant are among the champions of air purification.

- Gary McGregor