How to care for houseplants
Neglected houseplants may not die, but sooner or later they can look very sad or sick, become untidy and covered in dust or pests. Regular attention to cleaning, pest control, training and trimming will pay handsome dividends.
Regular grooming should include the removal of leaves that show signs of disease, have turned yellow or died. With flowering plants, removing faded blooms will encourage new flower buds to open and continue the display.
1. Solving pest problems
A number of pests can attack your houseplants. Common ones include scale insects, whitefly and mealybug. Control can be quick and easy - simply spray an effective insecticide solution onto your plants to protect them for up to 3 weeks. A systemic insecticide spray controls root pests and those on stems and leaves and is watered onto the compost.
2. Keep plants clean
Plant leaves that are kept clean and free of dust will absorb all the available light and so ensure your houseplants remain strong and healthy. Dust the leaves of smooth-leaved plants with a soft, damp cloth. Support the leaf with the palm of your hand and gently clean. A hand shower fitted to bath taps is a useful tool for washing down large plants or plants with many small leaves.
Cacti, succulents and hairy-leaved plants should not be sprayed or washed. Instead use a soft, dry brush to remove the dust.
3. Add an extra shine
For an extra glossy finish, you can find leaf shining products that add a sparkle to your display. Don’t shine hairy-leaved plants, only those with thick, leathery leaves. Only shine mature leaves, not the new ones.
4. Room to root
As plants grow, their roots will gradually fill the pot and the plant will need very frequent watering, as there is little free compost available. If you want the plant to get bigger it’s time for a larger pot and repotting.
But flowering plants usually flower much better if they are kept slightly potbound, but in time these will probably need repotting too.
The best time to repot houseplants is when they are actively growing - usually in spring, but also in early summer.
- Water the plant thoroughly before you start.
- Select a pot just one or two sizes bigger than the existing one and put a layer of compost into the new pot.
- Knock the plant out of the existing pot and place the rootball into the new one.
- Fill the space around the rootball with compost and lightly firm.
- Water thoroughly to settle the compost, and then place out of direct sunlight for a few days.
If you don’t want the plant to get bigger, trim off some of the outer roots at stage 3 and gently scrape off some of the compost. Repot with fresh compost into the original pot.
Miracle-Gro® Peat Free Premium Houseplant Potting Mix is specially designed for houseplant care. It readily absorbs and retains water, but allows free drainage and air retention - essential for strong root growth.
This growing medium is enriched with all the essential nutrients and trace elements to sustain strong, healthy growth for up to 8 weeks, depending on the vigour of the plant. After this regular feeding with a good houseplant fertiliser is important, such as ready-to-use plant food or, for long-term feeding, continuous-release plant food.
6. Top dressing
Top dressing is ideal for plants that are too big for you to move or which you would rather not disturb. All you do is carefully remove the top inch or two of old compost and replace with fresh compost and water well.