Light and temperature
Most houseplants will thrive in a well-lit, draught-free spot with an even temperature and reasonably high humidity. However, some plants have specific needs. For instance, flowering plants and those with variegated foliage need more light than plants with plain green foliage, while ferns like a cooler and darker position. Cacti and succulents like a bright windowsill, but avoid putting on a south-facing sill in summer, where they could scorch. Orchids prefer bright, indirect light and if possible, lots of fresh air and high humidity. Generally, if growth is poor and spindly, flowering plants are shy to flower or variegated plants revert to plain green, if this happens improve the light conditions.
Watering and feeding
Most houseplants are killed by overwatering. Aim to keep the compost moist but wait until it has almost dried out before rewatering. You can check by pushing your finger into the compost or with a soil moisture meter. It's best to water from above and put saucers under plants to allow excess water to drain away. Generally, plants will need watering more during the spring and summer growing seasons than in winter. Ferns, bromeliads, Calathea and other tropical plants enjoy a daily mist with a hand-held spray. Another way to increase humidity is to group plants on a tray of damp gravel.
Many houseplants can survive without water for a couple of weeks. Pots need a good watering before you leave and it will help if they are kept in a shady room. Although many plants will grow without feeding, regular feeding will be beneficial as the substrate does not normally contain any nutrients. Flowering plants are very hungry and will do best when fed weekly, ideally with a specialist fertiliser such as Houseplant Focus. Another option is to add a few granules of slow-release fertiliser to the compost, but follow the manufacturer's guidelines to avoid overfeeding. Most houseplants will benefit from a growth enhancer such as Plant Ultra, which will compensate for the declining fertility of the soil/substrate.
Most plants are easy to look after. Pinch off dying flowers with your thumb and forefinger and remove any damaged or yellowing leaves. Wayward branches can be removed with secateurs if necessary.
Flowering and fruiting
Many houseplants will produce flowers, a sign they are thriving, but rarely fruit.
Pests and diseases
Houseplants may be affected by a number of pests including various scale insects such as mealy bugs and red spidermites. An ideal way to kill any of the above insects is regular spraying with SB Plant invigorator, a contact insecticide.
Houseplants need repotting every 12–18 months or if the condition of the old soil is poor. For best results plants should be repotted early in the year just before the new spring growth starts but they can be repotted at any time in the summer. You will need a good quality repotting mix, we recommend the Houseplant Focus Repotting Mix.
Put on a pair of gloves and rework the mix – so it regains its texture. Carefully ease the plant from the old container.
Loosen root ball – breaking away any loose soil. Remove all the soil that you easily can.
Add a layer of moist mix to the bottom of the new container. Hold the plant in place and work mix well in between the roots. Add mix until it fills the container to just below the rim.
Water well from the top until there is runoff - keep in the shade for three weeks to allow new roots to grow.
Start feeding with Houseplant Focus six weeks after re-potting – it will encourage healthy growth. Feed your plants throughout the growing season and occasionally in winter. For best results we recommend Houseplant Focus and Plant Ultra.
Tip: The new container should be only slightly larger than the old one.