Apparently the British are renowned for buying the fewest house plants and for killing them frequently! The April speaker at Clays Horticultural Society was therefore on firm ground with his subject; Geoff Hodges addressed members on keeping ‘Happy, Healthy House Plants’. Members now know the theory, but putting it into practice could be another matter!
One of the biggest problems in keeping house plants is that most are imported from a warmer climate or grown in controlled environments, and can struggle to acclimatise to our home atmosphere. Conditions in houses can be too hot or too cold; too bright or too dark. Beth Chatto’s book ‘Right Plant, Right Place’ is a useful guide for outdoors and inside.
Another tip was to buy from a good garden centre rather than a supermarket for a more reliable plant.
If you want to be certain of really keeping your plant, invest in a ‘grow light’ bulb to place near your plant. This will emit the correct amount of light constantly. There is a different bulb available for flowering plants or just foliage.
Watering is of course vital. Use tap water or rainwater – but it must be tepid, not cold. If the soil feels dry then water, but only in the growing season. If the pot feels heavy, it does not need more water.
Feed your plant with liquid fertiliser every fortnight from March to September; granules less frequently and only onto damp soil. Use a balanced fertiliser, high in potash. Dripper feeds to be placed inside the pot are effective. Mist your plants, especially orchids as they like increased humidity. Repot only when root bound, using a pot just one size bigger.
For orchids, cut off dead stems but for Cymbidium varieties, only to next joint node. Repot every four or five years using a plastic pot and specialist orchid compost, trimming away dead roots. Cymbidiums should be kept at 16-21 degrees in summer but no less than 10 degrees in winter. For Phalaenpsis varieties 21-29 degrees in summer and no less than 18 degrees in winter.
The speaker on 20th June will be Sally Smith on ‘The Wonderful World of Weeds’. Join them at 7.30pm at Wheatley Village Hall.