How to stop houseplants from turning into fall guys

Most gardens have enjoyed a great year – just the right amount of rain at the right time and plenty of sunshine to encourage plants both great and small. There have been a few blips but, overall, 2014 has been a time to relish outdoors.

Houseplants like this croton deserve loving care and attention.
Houseplants like this croton deserve loving care and attention.

Indoors, however, things have been a bit more difficult because houseplants have had to put up with higher-than-usual temperatures and the effects of strong sunshine magnified by the double-glazing.

And yet the majority continue to produce plenty of flowers and fresh foliage. We should feed them, water them, try to make sure they get the right amount of light and the right temperature – but many, sadly, are more or less left to look after themselves.

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Houseplants are the steadfast, dependable millions that have to battle some of the worst conditions known to plants – poor light, drought, drowning, starvation and the highs and lows of temperatures inside the average English home.

So perhaps it’s time to thank them for all their efforts throughout the year – repot them if they need it and then make sure they are in the right place. Light needs vary with the type of plant. Check the tag that came with the plant when you bought it.

If it wants lots of light, give it lots of light – but avoid hot, direct sunlight. Some plants’ leaves may be sensitive to the sun and may be burned.

If a plant needs more humidity than it can get on a windowsill, put it in the bathroom. For those plants that seem to need lots of water, pop their pots in a saucer that contains gravel; the gravel can be covered with water. Change the water every few days because if it gets past its sell-by date, it becomes a good breeding place for pests and diseases.

Watering can be tricky. Plants can easily be killed by over-watering. For most plants, water when the soil surface begins to dry and not when it feels damp to the touch. Many plants with coarse roots, such as dracena and philodendron, generally are kept on the dry side.

Keep plants out of drafts which can result in yellowing and leaf drop.

Basically, it’s a case of knowing what plant wants what – and it’s also a way of saying thank-you for bringing you so much pleasure.