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Six tricky house plants and how to prevent them from dying!

House plants - are yours dying to join the trend? 

Everyone is loving house plants at present. But some of them will give up on life and turn up their toes with relative ease. Others can live just about anywhere, with the minimum amount of care. So why bother with the tricky set? It's all about shape; structure; size; beauty. And that most elusive quality: extraordinary desirability. How can you not only stop your desirable and trendy house plants from dying, but help them to thrive?


Ficus lyrata, the fiddle leaf fig (above), is one of the trendiest house plants around at the moment. Many house plants have considerable charm in terms of their leaves rather than flowers. Size, shape and form are key elements of structure that can add architectural merit to just about every type of home. Together with huge benefits to the quality of indoor air and environment,of course.

You CAN keep these indoor plants alive and thriving, provided you ask yourself three questions before purchasing new house plants.

House plants can look highly effective in homes and offices. But make sure you give them what they need in order to prevent them from dying. How easy are plants within the desirable set to look after? Hopeful house plant owners often overlook the basic need to find out what their plants require before installing them indoors. Dying plants are not a desirable interior design feature. Here are three vital questions to ask yourself before placing a plant in its new forever home:


If you love your plants (and your dogs), you'll want them to thrive.

Question 1:

  • How much light will be available to my plant in the position that I wish to place it? Be realistic: house plants in the UK mainly originate from warmer climes overseas and you must appreciate that an indoor position won't be as light as outdoors. You might think that you receive lots of light through windows, but it's a tiny amount compared to outdoors. Unless it's a conservatory, where the high light levels and heat of a summer's day might be too much for certain plants.

Question 2:

  • How much water and feed does it need? Some plants will be happy in a drought, but rainforest-dwellers will die without enough water.

Ducks can't survive in a dry desert, and the same goes for certain house plants too.

Question 3:

Right plant, wrong place

This cacti arrangement looks very stylish. But if it's not close to a sunny windowsill, the plants are unlikely to thrive.

Social network sites

Instagram, the social networking app that is designed for sharing photos from a smartphone, is partially responsible for visual incorrectness when it comes to house plants. Many carefully-arranged plant photos are practically impossible to maintain. Succulents and cacti are frequently shown planted within a terrarium, for example. This is likely to result in a slow and painful death. Why? Because the nature of a terrarium, or semi-enclosed glass planter, is to create a humid environment.


The key to success with house plants is to place them in a suitable environment. Ferns suit shady, humid locations such as a terrarium, whilst cacti and succulents need bright light and dry, free-draining compost.Loving the dry desert

Succulents and cacti thrive in desert-like conditions with lots of air around them. They store water within their stems and foliage and will rot in a damp atmosphere. The ideal situation for these plants is a sunny windowsill even those occupying a space more than a metre from a bright window are likely to suffer in silence, resulting in gradual shrinking and dying. Give 'em what they need!


Want to learn why we are in love with cacti these days?

Rain on me please...

Conversely, don't try to keep rainforest dwellers in a south-facing conservatory unless you are prepared to provide some shade together with regular water on the foliage and soil. Otherwise, sun will scorch the leaves and the compost will be too dry. Shade and dappled-shade loving house plants need to be situated away from a bright windowsill and require damp compost (but not soggy). Many epiphytes in the wild, such as Staghorn ferns, for example,  will root into pockets within trees, where they climb towards the dappled light. The rain comes little and often but drains away quickly too.

Japanese moss trends

What about Kokedama? This Japanese technique has become trendy in recent years. But it's not entirely practical for most homes. The roots of house plants are wrapped in special clay, covered in living moss. They are then generally suspended from walls and ceilings on almost invisible fishing line so that they appear to float. It looks spectacular but the individual Kokedama will require immersion in water just about every day. This will, inevitably, result in dripping, so you wouldn't want them to be hanging around above your carpet or computer...

Six tricky house plants: can you succeed?

Number 1

Gardenia: There's no doubt that the scent of Gardenia is to die for. But these flowering beauties don't really like being moved around. They need lots of light and a constant temperature, without draughts or heat from a radiator. Gardenia smell wonderful, but they need certain care. They also need high humidity which can be achieved by grouping plants together or you can spray a light mist of water onto the leaves every day. Feed during the growing season but pick fertiliser and compost suitable for acid-lovers. You should also be aware of aphids, they love Gardenia and can turn this plant into a sticky mess.


    Number 2

    Orchids: These exotic flowers come in many different types and each needs something slightly different. Generally, they should receive a fair amount of light but only from a north or east-facing window rather than a bright south or west-facing spot. Orchids have the most exotic blooms, but make sure you find out what they need. They can be watered with rainwater around once per week, but not too much! Their roots need to feel the air around them and they will rot in soggy soil. They will readily flower year after year, if the conditions are right. Feed them about once per month during the growing season but use specific orchid fertiliser.

      Number 3

      Ficus lyrata: the fiddle leaf fig. This plant is wildly popular because it just gets better and better as it grows. It eventually forms a pleasing tree-shape and has the most amazing fiddle-shaped large leaves. It can be trained and pruned without problem, but it really doesn't like being moved around too much. 

      The glossy, thick and stiff leaves of Ficus lyrata are shaped rather like a violin. Ficus lyrata comes from a lowland jungle and it's used to being watered by rain, little and often. It needs some bright light but not as intense as that from a south or west-facing window. Give it regular misting with water; only occasional fertiliser during the growing season and keep it out of draughts and it will be yours for life.

      Number 4

      String of pearls: Senecio rowleyanus. This is a hanging, trailing plant and most people imagine it will be a breeze to stick it on a shelf and enjoy the cascading necklace of succulent pearls. But it needs high light levels, above all else! It can survive will very little water  that's the nature of succulents.The string of pearls is a succulent that should be treated almost like a cactus. Boggy compost means almost certain failure, it likes to completely dry out between waterings. And a gloomy spot just won't suit it. Great for conservatory living, perhaps?

          Number 5

        • Crotons, the Codiaeums, have the most amazingly coloured foliage in bold colours of yellow, pink, red, orange and green. The stiff, leathery leaves look almost indestructible. Known as Joseph's coat because of the vibrancy, it's not surprising that people want this in their homes.  The bright leaves of a Codiaeum stand out amongst the crowd! In reality, these need sunlight in order to maintain their magnificent colour. They also dislike being moved around, and they can't tolerate cold temperatures or draughts.

        Number 6

        The Boston fern, Nephrolepis is a most beautiful fern, but once it starts to fail, the little leaflets cascade all over the place and create a bit of a mess! This fern loves a stable, warm home but it's a sensitive plant that can't stand smoke from coal fires or wood stoves. It should be positioned out of draughts in a position that receives plenty of indirect light but not on a south or west-facing windowsill. Boston ferns, or Nephrolepis, are beautiful house plants, but you need to make sure they get what they want in order to prevent them from dying.


        By Perfect Plants


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