Plants are now an integral part of our interior spaces, but if questions directed to the Growing Friends are a guide, they are also a growing challenge. Here is some advice for indoor green success from one of our wonderful Growing Group volunteers, Greg Lamont.
All over the world indoor plants are back in fashion and for good reason. Plants bring life and calmness to indoor and outdoor living spaces and are proven air purifiers. Growing plants indoors is often the first attempt at gardening for many people and it can be very disheartening to watch your plants die.
The Growing Friends, are a volunteer group who run the Nursery for the Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens. Open six days a week (Monday to Saturday), the volunteers receive many queries on how to look after indoor plants so here are some tips to help your plants thrive.
A comfortable environment is important, and a good rule of thumb is if you feel comfortable then it’s likely your plant will – humid fresh air, temperature in the 20s, out of a draught and medium to bright light during the day. Many of the plants that thrive indoors have their origins in rainforests where they grow in warm conditions with dappled light.
Matching your plant with the correct light requirements is important for plant survival. Plants require bright light (not direct sunlight) in order to grow indoors. Less light may mean they survive but put on little growth. Plants with dark leaves will tolerate less light than those with pale green or variegated foliage. You might need to try various spots in your house and change things around through the year as the sun angle shifts with the seasons.
Poor watering is one of the most common causes of failure. Indoor plants are best watered in the kitchen sink. Remove them from their decorative outer pot and give them a good drenching with tepid water, allowing them to drain thoroughly. In warmer months this should be done weekly but in cooler months reduce to maybe twice a month unless you have heating, in which case it should be more often. Most plants benefit from a slight drying out between watering. Use your finger to test whether the soil is moist or dry in the top 2 cm. Watering too frequently results in overwatering, leading to sick plants. Water-logging can kill roots so if you have your plant sitting in a saucer to protect surfaces of tables or shelves raise the pot above the saucer with some pebbles or gravel to keep the roots away from water.
Indoor plants benefit from monthly fertilising with half-strength soluble plant food from October to May when they are in active growth.
Check for any pests that could be hiding in leaf junctions or near soil level. Scale (brown or white), which looks like little scabs; and mealybug, like fluffy white cottonwool, are the most common pests of indoor plants. Both suck the sap and slowly debilitate your plant. Their sugary exudate can also attract ants. A safe way to kill the pests is to dab them with a cotton bud dipped in methylated spirits.
Dust can be an enemy to indoor plants so wipe the leaves with a damp soft cloth or wash them down in the shower. If you need to give your indoor plants a rest outdoors make sure they are protected from any direct sun. The Growing Friends has a small range of hardy plants suitable for growing indoors. These include Peperomia obtusifolia, varieties of Japanese tree ferns (Asplenium), Crocodyllus fern, some Rhipsalis and several Begonia varieties with colourful or patterned leaves.
Learn how to propagate yourself
Join Greg Lamont, expert Horticulturist and Growing Friends Volunteer, for the chance to learn how to propagate plant species from the living collection in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney.
The afternoon will begin with a tour of the Garden to visit species that will feature in the propagation workshop, where, under Greg’s expert guidance, guests will get hands-on experience learning the skills and techniques required for propagating a range of unusual, rare and hard-to-find plants. He will also provide you with a good understanding of potting mixes.
The afternoon will conclude with a delicious afternoon tea on the Foundation & Friends Terrace, with the opportunity to purchase plants from the Growing Friends Nursery after opening hours. All event guests will receive 20% off plant sales. Find out more and book here.
Greg has 30 years’ experience in all technical aspects of large scale cut flower production of more than 50 lines of cut flowers. This combined with an earlier research career in the horticulture of native plants gives Greg an extensive knowledge and exceptional skills in this area, which he now gives to the Growing Friends with his dedicated work at the Nursery over the last six years.
As seen in the Spring 2019 of the Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens magazine.