Clivia-and-Cactus-on-the-windowsill Clivia and Cactus on the window sill[/caption]

 

House plants are all the rage!

I would like to introduce you to my top three houseplants, which give me endless pleasure and generally little trouble. They are not trendy ones, but I have picked them as they are cheerful, easy to grow and give me much pleasure when they flower or I see the sun through their leaves.

One of the astonishing things which occurred while we were all locked down in the last couple of years was a developing trend for houseplants to enhance our domestic environments. The facts are that even if you are not much of a gardener, house plants can enhance your indoor space even if you do not want a jungle. Whatever the case, and you may wish to join the not inconsiderable trend of surrounding yourself with houseplants, you need to know how to love and care for the ones you do have in order for them to grow successfully.

Clivia miniata

The Clivia is a marvellous, striking houseplant which originates in South Africa and is also known as the Natal Lily. It has long green strappy leaves and large orange clusters of trumpet-like flowers in late winter or early spring. It likes a minimum temperature of 10C which makes it perfect for our homes, preferring a cooler shadier place than a hot sunny one. I give mine a holiday outdoors in the summer and bring it in before the first frosts. The plant likes regular watering in summer but a more sparing (once a week) one, in winter. Generally, though the plants are resilient and thrive on neglect.

Once a year, I repot mine giving them ordinary well drained compost and repotting any offshoots which arise from the rhizome. Other methods of propagation are setting the seeds once they have ripened and then being patient for at least four years for the baby plants to get to flowering size. However, they are great gifts once they get to a flowering stage as many of my friends will testify.

I am excited to be waiting for a butter yellow flowered variety which I saw at the Malvern Flower Show several years ago, to get to flowering age. The Hoyland Plant Centre sold me the seeds and have a lot of useful information regarding Clivia management at www.somethingforthegarden.co.uk/clivia-grow-propagate . I recommend the plants to you, they are special and unusual.

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Begonia Rex

The next plant I would like to highlight is largely grown for it’s leaves which are heart shaped and are incredibly different in different lights. There are types which may be red, bright green, dark green, purple or a mixture of different colours, patterns and combinations. There are many different types of Begonias  – these only grow indoors, preferring a west, east or south facing window. They will also be quite happy further into a room in indirect light but are best when you turn them regularly, so they do not become one-sided.

The only tricky bit of managing an indoor begonia is the watering, it will rot and die if you overwater it – so water it only when the compost is dry. It is otherwise very unfussy and will not overwhelm you with flowers as they are very small and insignificant. This plant type is kept for it’s wonderful leaves and will light up a corner or windowsill.

If you want a really happy begonia you will reward it with a tray of pebbles and a slightly humid atmosphere by watering the tray rather than the compost. Once again, let the compost tell you when the plant needs water. At any rate you should avoid water splashing the leaves, as this makes them more susceptible to fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.

They are easily propagated by placing a small offshoot into a glass of tap water and waiting until it sprouts a decent number of roots which it will do in three weeks or so. Potting them into compost can follow and you have a new plant for a different windowsill or to give away to a friend.

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Cyclamen

The final plant I would like to spend some time reviewing is the glorious genus of cyclamen which you can grow indoors. There are many outdoor species which are hardy, tolerating snow and frost with ease, but those which we buy for our houses are generally tender types which must be looked after inside. The large flowered types which are also known as florists cyclamen come in a gorgeous array of pinks, reds and whites some with feathery flower tips. There are also a number of similarly coloured ‘mini-cyclamen’ which are designed to tempt you to add them to your houseplants, usually in the depths of winter when we all need cheering up. The leaves of larger and mini cyclamen are good value with different patterns and colourations.

These little pots of joy will best reward you with a long flowering time of six to eight weeks if you can find them the right position. They do not like rooms which are too hot and are happiest out of direct light and away from radiators. Mine are most rewarding on east and north facing widow sills, and many will flower for months on end. They appreciate a rest period, when they no longer flower, and I reduce the watering at that time to help them along. They tell me when this dormancy period is needed by their leaves yellowing and withering. It is often then that people decide they have killed their cyclamen and discard it but with a little patience and a short outdoor holiday in a sheltered dryish place, it will reflower many times over. It is usually a couple of months before they put out a new set of leaves and buds. It is often at this time, that I repot them with fresh compost, adding a handful of grit so that their drainage is good. If you manage to keep your plant from year to year, a small amount of house plant fertiliser every couple of months will encourage more flowering and keep your plant in an excellent state.

Indoor cyclamen prefer to be watered from the base which allows the plant to draw the water it requires. If water stays in the saucer, tip it away and do not water the plant again until the compost is dry to the touch (usually a week or so).

When flowers have faded, it is best to give them a good pull, close to the tuber to remove the whole stem, this helps to prevent rot. Further information is available at How to Plant, Grow & Care for Cyclamen | Sarah Raven

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What next?

A small amount of effort is required to ensure that your houseplants thrive and continue to produce flowers for you. The challenge is worth the reward! However, there is no doubt that a small jungle or plants dotted about on your windowsills (if you still have any space on them) will make your home feel more homely and will give you hours of pleasure. There are plenty of other easy and not so easy care houseplants out there so try something new today!

It’s not just plants that can decorate your home, other items from the garden work too https://northleedsgardendesign.co.uk/using-your-garden-to-decorate-your-home/

Enjoy your plants whether they’re inside or out and contact us if you’d like help to create your perfect plant filled haven!

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