House plants with staying power

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If you have a busy year planned with work trips, holidays and getaways then these quick recovery steps and suggestions for forgiving plants that survive neglect will come in handy.

The holiday feeling quickly evaporates when you arrive home to drooping houseplants. Not to worry because here are some simple steps that will perk them up again:

• Give them a good soak. Put them into the bath filled with about 5cm of water and leave them in there until the potting soil is completely moist. You can speed up the process by moistening the topsoil.
• Another option is to use a hand-held shower and gently soak the plants. This also washes off the dust that may have accumulated on the leaves.
• If the rain is falling put the pots outside to soak.
• Wipe the leaves with a soft, damp cloth to get rid of dust.
• Allow the plants to drain well after soaking. Cut away dead foliage and flowers and trim into shape.
• When you next water the plants, feed a liquid fertiliser at half strength and repeat every two weeks until you see new growth, then reduce feeding to once a month.

Next time around, try these forgiving plants that survive neglect

Sansevieria (also known as mother-in-law’s tongue) has upright, sword shaped leaves that are marbled dark green with a yellow border (Golden Futura) or grey green. There is even a white-leaved variety, Sansevieria Hahnii. Plants grow best in medium to bright light, but if you plan to be away for any length of time, move it to a position that receives lower light. If you give it a good soak before going away, it will survive a month without water.

ZZ plant (Zamioculcas) is one of the hardiest plants around and stylish into the bargain. A stunning new variation is Raven ZZ which has almost black leaves. Plants grow in low to medium light and although they prefer regular watering, they can survive a month without it. In fact, the worst thing you can do is to over water a ZZ plant. The thick stems are a water-storage mechanism to help it get through seasonally dry times.

Succulents like Kalanchoe and Calandiva, Echeveria, and Senecio ‘String of Pearls’ are able to survive periods of drought because they hold the water in their leaves. All like bright indirect light and should only be watered when the soil has almost dried out. Both Kalanchoe and Calandiva are long flowering plants that re-flower throughout the year if old flowers are cut off. Feed with a liquid fertiliser once a month.

The Split leaf Philodendron and Monstera (Delicious Monsters) are both big-leaved tropical plants that stand on their own as feature plants and are great space fillers. They like a warm room and medium light but will survive with lower light. They are surprisingly drought tolerant but if you are going away for some time, put the pot on a gravel or bark filled saucer so that any water that drains through can be drawn up again by osmosis while you are away. It also improves humidity around the plant.
Details: lvgplant.co.za

Anthurium is such a common house plant and the reason is simple. It is almost impossible to kill, unless you make the mistake of giving it too much water or let it stand in water. These colourful plants like good light and a warm room. Look out for the mini’s that are great novelty plants. Wipe the leaves to keep them glossy and snip off the dead flowers to encourage them to re-bloom.

 

Text: ALICE COETZEE

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