Vertical garden at the Awesome Canteen cafe in Taman Paramount, Petaling Jaya.
Sword fern with soft lacy fronds.
A money plant is a good option for the bathroom.
Fuchsia flowers are very decorative.
The African violet likes bright filtered sunlight.

In the right conditions, it's possible to have a home filled with flourishing indoor plants, writes Stephanie Choo

A ROOM packed with live plants is an idyllic setting for many. But the fact is plants belong in the outdoors where there is fresh air, rain and sunlight. When plants are grown indoors — away from their natural environment, they are actually thriving in less than ideal conditions. But they can flourish and adapt to growing indoors ifgiven sufficient care.

HOUSE PLANTS

Any shade-loving plant that can tolerate low-light conditions and normal room temperature are ideal for growing indoors. Smallish plants such as African violets bear pretty, dainty blooms that delight the heart. Bigger plants with bold foliage such as the Calatheas, Aglaonemas, Dracaenas and palms add strong visual interest. Finely-textured ferns invoke a romantic feel.

THE BENEFITS

Nature’s beauty stimulates the sight. Its colours either excite or generate restfulness.Yellow, orange and red are cheery colours whereas shades of blue, pink and green promote relaxation.

Use small trees or shrubs to fill an empty corner and as a window or a table top plant. They make great accent. A living wall or terrarium makes a fabulous focal point. Some plants even have aromatic foliage (e.g. culinary herbs) or sweet-smelling blooms (e.g. certain orchids).

Besides giving sensory pleasures, plants take in carbon dioxide and other pollutants to self-produce food and release oxygen to the air through photosynthesis during the day to help improve air quality. The surface area of leaves and other parts of plants such as stems, branches and barks are able to absorb sound.

HOW TO CARE

Both the plant and pot should complement the interior decor. If you do not wish to do any repotting, pick a suitable cache pot or decorative pot — one that is big enough to hold the original pot of the newly purchased plant. If the cache pot has drainage holes, place a saucer at the bottom to hold excess water. When the plant becomes root-bound, move it to a larger pot.

Use clean, loose and well-draining potting mix. The money plant and satin pothos can be cultivated by just sitting them in some water. With orchids, use the same media it comes with — either sphagnum moss or an orchid potting mixture that includes chunky charcoals.

Plant requires warmth and sunlight to flourish. Locate it at places where they can receive some sunlight, directly or indirectly.

Coloured or variegated plants require more sunlight than all-green ones. Rotate plants occasionally so that all sides receive equal amount of light. Let the top surface of the soil dry up first before watering. Stick your finger into the soil about 2.5cm deep to test.

When the surface of the soil is dry to the touch or once a week (more frequently if the plant receives more sun), water the plant at the window, outside in the porch or in sheltered patio. Leave it there for a day or two to help the plant to recover from the lack of sunlight. Occasionally, feed the plant lightly with balanced liquid or slow-release fertilisers.

Trim off any brown or yellow leaves to keep the plant looking its best. Brown leaf tips indicate dry air, too much fertiliser or dehydration. Dropping or yellowing leaves means over-watering. Keep their foliage clean by wiping them with a damp cloth. Replace or remove wilting, diseased plants or plants that are past their prime with new ones.

TIPS

• Ferns (Nephrolepis spp. and Pteris ensiformis “Victoriae” ), corn plant (Dracaena fragrans), money plant (Epipremnum aureum) and satin pothos (Scindapsus pictus “Argyraeus”) are robust house plants.

• Alternative ways to decorate the home with indoor plants include growing them in table-top terrariums, in water (like money plant) and on vertical walls. The latter uses special media that is soilless, very lightweight potting soil mix or synthetic felt.

• A bulbous plant, hoya or orchid that has blossomed outside and flowering annuals or festive plants like amaryllis, fuchsias, roses, chrysanthemums, poinsettias and anthuriums can bring cheer. After the blooms have faded, grow the plant in the garden.

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