GREENING UP WITH THE GUARDIAN
This week The Guardian's Amy Sedghi caught up with our very own Nik Southern and RHS Wisley's Emma Allen for some top tips on caring for your plant gang.
In case you missed it, here is the article, jam-packed with handy bits of know how to get your plants living their best life.
Know your plant’s roots
Knowing the origin of your plant and understanding the environment it prefers is key, explains florist Nik Southern, the founder of Grace & Thorn and author of How Not to Kill Your Plants. “Succulents are desert plants, so they thrive in heat. Put them in a really bright bathroom or on a south-facing windowsill. A fern [will be] happy in a damp, darker environment.” She also encourages dusting the leaves with water and a damp cloth once a week. For a dark room, find a shade-tolerant plant, such as a cast iron plant or peace lily, advises Emma Allen, the garden manager at RHS Wisley.
Try not to overthink care
“I think people overcomplicate how to look after a plant,” says Southern. “Don’t panic when you see a brown leaf. It’s not dying. It’s almost like having a split end; just cut it off.” Monstera (AKA Swiss cheese plants), devil’s ivy, spider plants and ZZ plants are good low-maintenance options. Succulents and cacti are also easier to care for, says Allen, although she advises carrying out online research for plants that require extra care, such as some types of orchids.
Do not overwater
“Over- or underwatering is the top mistake,” says Allen. “Make sure you know whether your plant likes regular watering or likes to dry out between watering. No plant, unless it is an aquatic or bog plant, likes to sit in water.” Again, don’t overcomplicate it, advises Southern: “If you touch the soil with your finger and it’s dry: water it. If it’s not, [then] don’t. There are a couple of exceptions: for example, ferns do love to be moist but don’t drench them.” Drainage balls or gravel can be useful to draw water away from the roots.
Deal with pests
Aphids can be removed physically, explains Allen, “either by wiping the plant or washing them off in the bath or outside if not too cold”. She advises using a mild solution of water and a small amount of washing-up liquid, while Southern prefers a spray mixture of water and vinegar. Sciarid fly, another common pest, can occur in newly potted plants with moist compost, says Allen, who suggests using a gravel top dressing to assist surface drainage as well as taking care not to overwater.
Give them space to grow
“If you repot and give the plant a bit more room then it will grow bigger, otherwise you’re restricting growth,” says Southern. She also recommends repotting plants with new soil after purchase as it is highly likely that it will need refreshing. “Soil is plant food, so get a little bag and, every spring, go round and put some topsoil on top of your plants.”
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