Sunday, 26 February 2012

urban jungle - house plants

This week really feels like Spring is on the way doesn't it? It's sunnier outside, the heating is off, there's that fresh smell in the air in the morning that only happens as warmer weather approaches, and in my garden I can see the tips of tulips coming up. This got me thinking, about how lucky I am to have some outside space, it's especially rare if you rent in the city and you may be lucky enough to have a balcony, but sometimes not even that. So what if you want to get some plants in your life but don't have outside space? Fortunately there are some great products out there as well as some very clever people who've come up with ideas to grow things indoors.

There are a huge variety of indoor plants, so I'm not going to attempt to cover them all, I've selected unusual examples, or interesting planting tips. For example, this photo was quite inspiring, as tulips (growing ones as opposed to cut ones anyway) are normally reserved for the great outdoors:

Image source: Jan Timmons

I think it's a great idea, you get the same pleasure in seeing them grow and of course they last so much longer than cut flowers! Another great indoor bulb are daffodils. One of my colleagues had a pot of dwarf ones on her desk recently, so not only are they great in the home, they're a perfect way to brighten up your workspace. Another great thing about houseplants is the ability to move them. So they might like to be sitting on a bright windowsill most of the time, but can be moved to the dining table for a dinner party:

Image source: Common Ground

You can buy a ready planted pot of daffodils from M&S here.

While on the hunt for images of bulbs, I came across hundreds of ideas for up-cycling various containers to make pots for indoor plants. As you can grow a plant in just about anything, not only does it mean that your plants will have a unique home, it's also cheap to make. Pick up interesting containers at boot fairs or dig out some unused crockery from the back of your cupboards... the only limit is your imagination. Try a teapot (or several grouped together) kitchen storage jars, or a big soup tureen for a really stunning table centerpiece.

Image sources l-r Teacups: Epheriell Designs Book: Inhabitat Tea Jars: Indulgy

If you're looking for an easy plant to care for, look no further than succulents. Indoors or out they are robust little plants than don't need much water. Ideal for small arrangements or on their own, their sculptural forms are striking. The left and centre photos above show off single succulents, but if you want a bigger display, or a real touch of the outdoors, how about a terrarium? It's like a mini garden indoors:

Image source: The Clean Slate

Click on the link above to see how it's made. Again, succulents are a good choice here, they look contemporary and striking and require little watering. For other ideas on what to put in terrariums and a step by step video of how to make your own, go here.

This is the most creative use of succulents I've seen, and an amazing up-cycle. Great for kids rooms or those who love a bit of fun in their home, try spray painting them as well:

Image source: Oh Joy

For a quick guide to looking after succulents, go here.

While most people think of house plants as being small in scale it isn't necessarily so. Indoor trees add impact to even small spaces, and their scale really gives a sense of being out doors. I have a very large dracena in my kitchen, the space demands a large plant and the greenery really adds something to the room. That said, even a smaller room can take a tall plant, playing with scale is a great way to make the room seem larger.

Image sources: l-r Money Tree: Veldkamps Compact Dragon Tree: House of Plants Orange Trees: Little Green Notebook

Go for a statement container for the extra wow factor and make sure it's big enough for the plant to grow some more. Always add some pebbles or polystyrene blocks at the bottom of the pot to help with drainage and if your pot is really big it might be worth putting in on a pot base with wheels so you can move it easily if needed.

One of my favourite statement plants is the snake plant (also known as mother-in-laws tongue) Grow one from a small plant or buy a larger one for instant impact. They look great in bathrooms, work well in hallways (they are fairly compact) and look really stunning in large containers like the red one above centre. You could also plant them in a trough for a 'fence' of green leaves if you have the space.

Image source: Design*Sponge

I love the arrangement of the books, snake grass and quirky pot for the succulent above, it's the perfect vignette. Look at how the colours work, the red text on the spine duplicated in the candle holder, the zingy yellow of the telephone container against the red, and the spiky plants next to the spiky antler. 

Houseplants are generally easy to look after, the main problems they encounter are over watering, under watering and being in the wrong position. Some plants are a fussy about the type of soil they like too, but all of this information should be either on the plant label when you buy it, or readily available online.The basic rule with watering is, if the soil is moist, the plant doesn't need any more water. However, don't let the soil dry out too much, it's better to water a little at a time, water logging a plant will rot it's roots.

Lastly, while technically not for houseplants, this product is great for those people who live in new builds with those pointless 'Juliet' balconies.

Image source: Connex

These railing mounted planters come in different sizes, shapes and colours. Fill with flowers or other fragrant plants and get a great scent when you throw those doors open.

I hope you've found some inspiration here, from the smallest to the largest, plants make a real difference to a home and even if you have a huge garden filled with plants, every home should still have a few houseplants as well.

For some general tips on house plant care go here or to the BBC here.

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