Houseplant expert shares 4 crucial jobs to ensure ‘happy’ plants now

Houseplants: RHS advises on watering techniques

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Houseplants can struggle during the winter months due to the lack of daylight and central heating being on. However, if they’ve survived it until now, they’ll be ready to grow once again when they leave their dormant period in just a few weeks. Houseplant experts have shared three top tips on making sure they are “happy and healthy”.

1. Prune and prepare for growth

Houseplant experts at plant food brand Baby Bio® explained: “Throughout the cold winter months, many plants will have lost leaves, whether that’s due to under or over watering, lack of humidity from heating systems, or simply losing older leaves.

“Using a clean, sharp pair of secateurs or pruners, cut off any dead leaves which appear brown or yellow, or which show early signs of disease.”

Some plants are particularly susceptible to diseases such as leaf spot, black leg or sooty mould so it is important to use sterile secateurs when doing this job.

As well as dead leaves, houseplant owners may see some weak and leggy growth, which is to be expected following the winter months.

The experts recommended cutting back any long stems with just a few leaves. They added: “Your plant may look a little sparse for now, but during springtime it will focus all of its energy on growing new stems and leaves and will reward you with plenty of new shoots.

“Don’t forget, many plant cuttings you remove now can be popped into water for propagation and potted to create new plant babies when roots appear in a few weeks’ time.”

2. Clean your houseplant

Many houseplants will have gathered a layer of dust on their leaves, so now is the time to give them a good clean so they can soak up the sun.

Soaking up the sun is important for indoor plants as they convert this into energy to promote new growth.

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The plant pros said: “Damp a cloth with tepid water and gently wipe away any dust that may have gathered, supporting the back of the leaf with your hand to prevent damage.

“This ritual is especially important for plants with large, rubbery leaves such as monstera or fig leaf. For an extra pamper for your plants, incorporate a leaf shine into your regime and simply spray over the surface of each leaf after wiping clean and you’ll have an even shinier finish.”

3. Check root health and repot

Many houseplants benefit from repotting every other year, as this allows more room for the plant to grow as well as giving it better circulation to the root systems.

It can also help to prevent the plant from becoming waterlogged or bound, according to the pros.

They continued: “There are several ways to tell if your plant needs repotting. One of the easiest ways is to check to see if the roots are growing out of the drainage hole in its pot – this indicates it may be root bound and needs more space to grow. 

“You can also gently ease the plant from its pot to see if the root system is tight and tangled around the root ball itself. Other signs it’s time to upsize your plant’s pot is that the plant is being pushed out of its pot by the roots, or that it needs watering more often than usual.  

“To repot, begin by adding a couple of inches of a well-draining compost, which promotes aeration to the roots and allows good drainage, to a pot approximately one to two inches wider in circumference than its existing home.

“Next, remove your plant from its current pot by tipping the container to the side and gently teasing the plant and its roots free. Once you have successfully removed it from the pot, lay it on a clean surface and remove any compost mix gathered around the root ball. 

“Using a clean, sharp pair of scissors or pruner, cut off any dead roots that aren’t firm.”

If you find the roots appear to be soft and brown, this may be an early sign of root rot due to leaving it sitting in waterlogged compost. This can be saved by trimming off any dead or drying roots back to where the root becomes “firm and white”.

Add a little of the potting mix to the new container, placing the plant in the pot so it sits comfortably level with the top of the container and fill the gaps around the side with the compost. The houseplant experts suggested using a clear plastic pot so it is easier to monitor root health easily.

4. Reposition, water and fertilise

The pros continued: “As the weather begins to warm up and plants enter active growth season, most will require increased watering, so it’s time to increase your watering schedule. Remember to always test the soil first to prevent over or under watering, so insert your finger or a pencil into the top two inches of the soil – if this is still moist, there is no need to water.

“If the soil is dry beyond the top layer, aerate the soil to allow for an even distribution of water, again using your finger or something like a pencil. To ensure you’re not giving your houseplants too much, water from the bottom if your pot has drainage holes. It’s also time to begin using fertiliser in spring to ensure its soil is enriched with all of the nutrients your houseplants need to grow stronger roots, brighter blooms and more luscious leaves. 

“As a general rule of thumb, most plants need a mix of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for optimum growth, so invest in a plant food which can provide the perfect balance.”

There are several houseplant feeds on the market including Baby Bio’s® Organic Houseplant Food or Baby Bio® Houseplant Food original every time you water. Simply add a few drops to water and pour at the base of the houseplant. The pros added: “Some specialist plants, such as bonsai trees or cacti, require slightly different nutrients to most other houseplants, so make sure you invest in the appropriate ones accordingly. 

“Baby Bio® offers a full range of plant food including Cactus Food, Orchid Food, Bonsai Food, Citrus Food and Herb Food, ensuring all of your plants receive the right amount of nutrients to thrive this spring. Finally, move your plants to a sunny spot to soak up that springtime sunshine – east-facing windows are ideal, but ensure leaves won’t be scorched by direct sunlight when the weather warms up.

“Increase humidity levels by placing your plants next to a tray of pebbles in a shallow layer of water and remember to mist regularly too.”

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