21st May, 2020
House plants are back with a bang! Something that only the green-fingered amongst us used to tend to, has become increasingly popular over the last decade - and they're even filling up our newsfeeds as we set ourselves gardening challenges whilst at home.
From small succulents to large ferns, even the Monstera Deliciosa (Swiss cheese plant) has made a comeback to many homes. Limitations to pots in corners have been removed and climbers are being encouraged to sprawl our bare bathroom tiles -- and don't forget the hanging Tillandsias (air plants) from the ceiling!
As we enter homes, we might also be greeted in hallways with full-height Kentia and Traveller's Palm as our children's bedrooms showcase Snake Palms - to help to purify the air - and English Ivy clambers around our shower screens.
These indoor beauties range from being incredibly low maintenance to terribly tricky to cultivate -- and the challenge can be as hard as you want it to be, often bringing immense satisfaction to those of us who have never even picked up a trowel outside!
But, here's a good place to explore whether there are more benefits to house plants than simply their complimentary shades upon our interiors -- and the self-satisfaction of nurturing a little bit of life.
In fact, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recently published an article suggesting that plants can have both psychological and physical benefits such as:
* Better mood
* Reduced stress levels
* Increased worker production
* Increased attention span
* Increased pain tolerance
* Reduced blood pressure
Many plants also increase the quality of air in our homes, with some data suggesting that over four million people worldwide may die due to our indoor air pollution (information sourced from RHS).
Additionally, several businesses -- and even hospitals -- are starting to incorporate indoor plants into the interiors where possible. Some healthcare facilities have invested significantly in outdoor gardens to support patients' well-being with significant research highlighting that such greenery aids a swifter recovery in some cases.
Not too far from our leafy headquarters in Huddersfield, Anna Balanel started posting images of her house plants from her Slaithwaite home on Instagram just over a year ago. And her @ourhomeatnumber_30 page has quickly built up an amazing following thanks to her aspirational photos alongside hints and tips on sourcing, growing and maintaining plants.
Chatting to Anna, we wanted to ask if she felt any health benefits as a result of her green-fingered artistry and what plants she would recommend to our readers.
Are there any noticeable health benefits to you and your family having so many plants that share your space?
Anna: It's so funny that you should ask this as everyone thinks our house smells like a forest! Plants do purify the air, but I think to see significant benefits I would need to increase the amount I have. Perhaps I can suggest this to my husband and sell it on the 'true health benefits' angle?
Do you think your plants have an impact on your own productivity?
Anna: Oh absolutely! Apart from running after a busy toddler, I am constantly checking on them -- they keep me occupied for sure! I had to create a routine for myself so none became neglected so I'd set watering and misting day reminders, as well as alerts for me to feed the larger ones that became too big to repot. There are also repotting days, mostly in spring and autumn, and I do enjoy everything about our plants because it's a 'nice' kind of busy and so rewarding.
What would be your top three plant recommendations to newbie house plant growers?
Anna: Golden Pothos, also known as Devils Ivy, was the first plant I bought. It's the one trailing up the wall in my bathroom and is such a gorgeous plant. But I'm not fussy at all, I will easily forgive if you forget to water it for two weeks or more!
There's also the Monstera Deliciosa which is another easy plant to look after. You only have to water it weekly in the summer, and every two weeks in the winter-time. I have five different varieties of this plant in total and I'm still on the lookout for more!
The Yuka always reminds me of grandma's house too. It was very popular in the 1970s and now it can be spotted in nearly every household, cafe or restaurant. I'd recommend giving it a sunny spot and watering every 10 days or so (less in the winter) -- you won't believe how beautiful it can becom!
Is specialist equipment needed?
Anna: There's not as much equipment required as such. Soil is, of course, very important for a happy growing plant -- I use normal houseplant potting mix to which I add a bit Perlite to help provide oxygen and good drainage for roots. In addition, a bit of orchid bark works well to keep the soil aired. That combination works best with keeping my plants happy.
Misting with a bottle creates humidity which the plants love -- especially when we have our central heating on -- and also cleans dust from their leaves. I tend to pop mine in the bath once per month and give them a good shower too!
Lastly it's all about the feeding. Many plats sit in the same soil for years growing happily and then suddenly you notice that your once favourite plant has never looked more sad. People sometimes rush to re-pot thinking it's the roots, but 80% of the time it's to do with how the nourishment in that soil has been exhausted.
I've found that the easiest way to rectify this is to give them a drip baby bio feeding bottle. Simply remove the lid and stick it in the soil upside down. I do that twice a year (spring and autumn) which is when the plants are in active growth and need it most. I recently also started using diluted tomato feed on my smaller ones. Or Miracle Grow granules which are so long lasting -- I just fork the soil a bit, then sprinkle a few over the top.
What is your favourite house plant or house plant display in your home?
Anna: This is an unfair question because it's just like asking to pick my favourite child! If I must choose, it would be my bathroom ivy. It definitely leaves everyone mesmerised by its size when they see it. Also -- at the end of last summer -- we created a living plant wall in the kitchen and it's the first thing people notice when they step inside our home. It gets a lot of attention!
Do you have any other hints or tips to share?
Anna: A lot of people tell me that plants attract spiders, little bugs and other tiny flies and question how I'm not scared of that happening. I personally haven't noticed any creepy crawlies, but just in case -- because everyone has instilled that fear into me -- I mist my plants with cold mint tea because I read somewhere that spiders hate peppermint! Also, when I Googled any repellents they all seem to contain peppermint oil extract, so ever since I've been using this method. I've also not encountered one spider on my plants... yet!
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