Not just for December: The reason why she should grow more houseplants all year round

They’re the best air purifiers around so we should grow more houseplants all year round, says Peter Dowdall.

Not just for December: The reason why she should grow more houseplants all year round

They’re the best air purifiers around so we should grow more houseplants all year round, says Peter Dowdall.

Most homes will have at least one plant if not many growing in a pot indoors during the Christmas period. Poinsettias, orchids, Christmas cacti and indoor cyclamens will be omnipresent over the next month or so. They are now, thankfully, as much a part of Christmas as the tree and the turkey.

We’re not wonderful houseplant gardeners in this part of the world though that is changing. With more and more people living in apartments and homes with little or no garden space, houseplants are becoming increasingly popular. Not only are indoor plants beautiful to look at and to admire but they are also the best air purifiers that we can get. With that in mind, perhaps we should look at growing more plants inside throughout the year and not just for the month of December.

Christmas Fern
Christmas Fern

Growing plants such as the peace lily or sansaveria (rather harshly referred to as mother-in-law’s tongue) in your home or office will make your environment a much nicer place to live and work by absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and producing oxygen. They will also increase humidity, reduce levels of certain pollutants such as benzene and nitrogen dioxide along with reducing airborne dust levels and helping to keep temperatures down. It’s great if you suffer from asthma or other respiratory problems or even if you just want the air in your home to be cleaner.

Bromeliads such as viriesea and guzmania are among the best of all for purifying the air as they continue to remove air pollutants and release oxygen throughout the night when their plant pals have gone to sleep. Native to Central and South America, bromeliads are also different to other houseplants in the way they flower and reproduce.

Their flowers are produced on very brightly coloured leaves and stems called bracts and it is these bracts that we often refer to incorrectly as the flowers, so attractive are they to look at. They are different too as they are monocarpic, meaning that they die after flowering. That’s not to say that the plant is finished, however, for though the main rosette and stem containing the bracts and flowers will die off after flowering, it will always give rise to some side shoots or pups. These can be removed from the parent plant when they have reached a suitable size and can be grown on as new plants.

As with our outdoor gardens, there are plants for nearly every space inside too. Areca palms, peace lilies and ferns will thrive in a very shaded part of the house with low light levels and some of the best flowering plants such as stephanotis and indoor jasmine will delight in a bright, light-filled room. These flowers are magnificently scented so you can ditch the scented candles and overpriced diffusers this year and invest instead in a few flowering houseplants.

The spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, known to many of us since childhood when it seemed to be growing in every bathroom, kitchen and porch in Ireland, has been virtually unseen over the last 20 or more years, overlooked as something from an Ireland long gone.

Spider Plant
Spider Plant

I’m happy to see though that this plant too is enjoying something of a rebirth in popularity, appearing in trendy restaurants and magazine features. It’s one of the easiest of all indoor plants to grow, thriving on neglect, another great choice for an area with low light levels. It sends out long runners with little baby plants at the end in the same way as strawberry plants. Position one high up in a room on a shelf or top of the bookcase.

Different types of plants will require specific conditions but follow some general rules and you won’t go too far wrong. Give them the correct amount of sunlight per variety but try and avoid direct sunlight from a bright hot south-facing window.

Most plants will let you know when they need a drink, drooping quite dramatically. Better to stop them getting to that point though. I would suggest standing them in a bowl of water for about half an hour and let them take up whatever they need and then remove them from the water. Feed with a good quality houseplant feed such as Bio-Gold. Keep them away from draughts and temperature fluctuations such as an open door or window, a radiator, fire or heater.

More in this section

Lunchtime
News Wrap

A lunchtime summary of content highlights on the Irish Examiner website. Delivered at 1pm each day.

Sign up
Revoiced
Newsletter

Our Covid-free newsletter brings together some of the best bits from irishexaminer.com, as chosen by our editor, direct to your inbox every Monday.

Sign up