ASK THE EXPERTS: HOW TO LOOK AFTER MY HOUSEPLANT
We asked you to tell us about your cactus conundrums and monstera musings, so we could work with an expert at Leaf Envy, Olivia Elwin-Taylor, to help you get all your indoor foliage facts straight.
What's the easiest plant to keep alive?
“It’s hard to pick just one,” Olivia tells us. “The easiest plants to keep alive are those that are shade and drought tolerant, which means they can survive in low-light conditions and don’t mind skipping the odd watering session. The ZZ plant is perfect to bring life to a dark corner since they dislike bright light and ideally only need watering every two weeks, allowing soil to completely dry out between waterings.”
How much should I water my plants?
“While every species requires a different watering schedule, as a general rule of thumb watering your plants thoroughly in one go is much more beneficial than little and often,” explains Olivia. “It’s also important to water the soil evenly and gently, making sure every root is hydrated and nourished.”
Below are four factors to bear in mind when it comes to keeping your plants happy and hydrated.
“A simple rule to remember is that plants will dry out much quicker if they’re in bright sunlight than those in the shade,” Olivia tells us. “You can check on them weekly by putting your finger in the soil (two inches deep) to see if the soil is dried out, and if it’s completely dry then it’s high time for them to say hello to some hydration!”
“Some signs your plants need some water could be saggy or dry leaves, the plant leaning over to one side, or bone-dry soil,” Olivia explains. “The great thing about plants is that they’re not shy about telling you when they’re feeling parched!”
“Soil that has been too wet for too long – caused by your plant not having enough sunlight for the soil to dry out properly between watering, or merely just giving your plant too much water – can cause root rot, which deprives your plant of its essential nutrients.”
Note down when you first watered your plant and create reminders of when to check in next, based on their hydration needs.
How can I tell if I am giving my plant too much light?
“Light for plants is what food is to humans,” explains Olivia. “So giving them the right amount of sunlight is key to their growth and survival. To work out exactly which spot to place your plant in, you can take a shadow test – sharp shadow indicates bright light while a softer shadow indicates a more medium light.”
However, even plants which prefer bright light can get scorched from direct sunlight, which can often be because windows amplify the sun’s heat, causing damage if not protected correctly. Does this remind you of our skin? This is why we should always wear SPF, even indoors, even in winter.
“Noticing your plants are developing yellow leaves or growing smaller leaves than usual can be a tell-tale sign that they’re getting a little too hot under the collar,” explains Olivia. “Try exposing your plants less during the day by moving them away from bright, direct sunlight and into a more shady spot.”
How do you know when a plant needs repotting?
“Your plant will need repotting to a larger pot when they’ve outgrown their nursery pot,” says Olivia. “Tell-tale signs are when its roots are growing through the drainage holes at the bottom of the planter, they are pushing the plant out of the planter, or the plant is growing much slower than normal, although sometimes this can merely be down to winter dormancy.”
What are the top five pet-friendly plants and how do I get my pet to stop chewing them?
“A top styling tip to keep plants away from pets is to place them high up on a shelf or mantelpiece to create a beautiful focal point in any room,” explains Olivia. “Some pet experts say that leaving the peel of a lemon on the plant’s soil will keep your furry friends away, and that cats will stay clear if cayenne pepper is sprinkled around the plant!”