As autumn and winter descend and the nights draw in, we’re all hunkering down and spending more time indoors. As the greenery outside starts to wither, now is the perfect time to inject some life into your living space and make it the most comfortable, colourful and enjoyable place to spend your time.
One very easy way you can add a pop of colour and brightness to your home is with house plants. And no matter how big or small your living space, there is a plant to fit it. From miniature succulents to giant palms, plants can lift the mood of any room.
We spoke to horticulturist Alys Fowler, the author of Plant Love, to get her top tips on how to care for your precious house plants.
Don't fret If your plant dries out
Ever picked up your plant, for it to come out of its pot completely in one piece? If that's the case then it's more than likely it's been grown in peat - dry, crumbly turf with little nutritional value for the plant.
Alys says, "Peat is not necessarily good for the plant, it tends to have little or no nutrient value and, worse still, it dries to the bone if neglected. One solution is to immerse the entire pot in a bucket of water and if the compost doesn't look like it is rewetting quickly enough, add a drop of two of washing-up liquid.
"You will see bubbles start to appear as air is pushing out between the soil particles. When the bubbles stop, take the plant out and allow it to drain. Fresh oxygen-rich air will then be drawn back into the pot and, if it's not on the brink, the plant will revive."
Be wise with your watering
Plants are living organisms, so need to be cared for like any other living thing.
Alys says, "Be a consistent carer, water evenly and regularly. Don't go for drown and drought. Also never let a pot sit in a saucer of water for more than an hour. You are drowning your plant otherwise.
"If you're unsure how much your specific plant needs and how regularly, take a look at the care instructions that usually come with a new plant. Failing that, have a search online."
Get decorative with your plants
Plants already look great by themselves but they could look even brighter and full of life by topping them with decorative pebbles or grit. This also has other benefits too.
Alys tells us, "Adding pebbles helps lock in water and stops it being lost to evaporation. To some extent, this helps to stop compost gnats - those annoying little flies that you often get with houseplants. They are looking to lay their eggs in damp organic matter and grit is far from that."
If you go away on holiday
If you're going away on holiday for a few days but can't get anyone to come in and look after your plants, don't fret.
Alys says, "If you find yourself unable to keep up with watering a plant, then moving it away from the light source will slow down its growth and reduce the amount of water it needs. Move your plants to slightly shadier conditions and they will require less water and grow more slowly."
Plants need good drainage
Not a well-known fact, but did you know plants need oxygen to survive, just like us?
Alys tells us, "One commonly held mistaken belief about houseplants is they should be put in a pot with no drainage. This severely limits how well the plant will grow, shortens its life span and requires you to be very attentive with watering. All roots require oxygen to survive. They need this just as much as the parts of the plants above ground."
Make sure your plants can breathe
It's always nice to have a change of scenery, isn't it? Well, it turns out if plants could speak they would also agree. Alys says that repotting your plant is a good way to make sure the compost stays fluffy, but you may only need to do this every two years or so.
She added, "In the meantime you can take a chopstick or similar implement and poke holes carefully around the top of your pot, going down as far as you can without damaging the roots, wiggling the chopstick around, so that you aerate the pot. These air channels will provide the roots with fresh oxygen and ensure that water drains through the pot faster."
Plant Love by Alys Fowler is published by Kyle Books.