Top ten tips for growing houseplants from Sussex gardener

With spring now sprung, West Dean Gardens are celebrating by opening some of their glasshouses to the public between 10.30am to 5pm each day.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 7:00 am
Kelly Dyer
Kelly Dyer

Entry costs £11 (pre-booking is essential), children under 16 are free and last entry is 30 minutes before closing time.

Tom Brown, head gardener at West Dean Gardens, said: “In terms of spring highlights, we now have a number of glasshouses open with social distancing and hand sanitising measures in place.

“The most eye-catching at the moment is the colourful bulb display which includes species tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, lachenalia, scilla and fritillaries. Other glasshouses offer great inspiration and comprise a baby leaf display, plus the nectarine, peach and apricot blossom is looking good. The magnolias are ready to burst in the spring garden with lots of spring bulbs in our meadows.”

To coincide with this Kelly Dyer, glasshouse gardener at West Dean Gardens, has shared her top ten tips for growing houseplants.

She explains: “As we have been in lockdown, people have had more time to appreciate their homes and for those who, maybe don't have a garden, houseplants have become hugely popular.

“My initial advice is to keep the temperature in your rooms consistent. Avoid positioning pots in draughty areas like doorways and above radiators, and most importantly be attentive to your plants by deadheading them when the flowers are spent, removing any fallen leaves, pruning off any dead or dying stems. In my experience, hygiene is the key to a happy and healthy plant!

“If you notice pests like white fly, aphid or scale, make up a solution of dishwashing liquid and water and spray the foliage, washing off the pests but also providing a viscous layer that will prevent sapsuckers from penetrating the plant tissue.”

Kelly’s advice is:

- Buy or source your houseplants responsibly. Where have they been propagated/How far have they travelled? Are they rare or endangered and could they have been pillaged from their natural environment?

- In Summer, water early in the morning in order to prevent any scorch caused by sunlight refracting through water droplets on foliage and flowers.

- If you have pot plants on your windowsills keep the foliage away from the glass, again, to prevent scorch. That said, keep your windows clean to allow in maximum light for photosynthesis.

- Top dress your pots with grit/gravel/pebbles to prevent Sciarid flies or Fungus gnats laying their eggs on the soil surface of your pots. Once you’ve got them they are a nightmare to get rid of!

- As much as possible water from below via a tray.

- Establish a watering and feeding regime. Remember your houseplants are in pots, so unlike plants in the ground which can grow down and along into the soil when in need of nutrients, the roots of your houseplants are restricted by the size pot they are in and rely on you for a top up.

- On that note, have a day in the year where you re-pot your houseplants into fresh compost and/or a larger pot if required. This is best done if/when the plant is dormant.

- Dust the leaves of larger/glossy leaved plants, removing a barrier to effective photosynthesis.

- Have fun propagating your houseplants for gifts. Share the love and passion (for free)! Take cuttings from plants like Pelargoniums and Fuchsias, pot up offsets (baby plants) from your succulents and divide plants like Aspidistras or Polystichum Fern.

- Get to know your plants. Each one has a story to tell. Where is it native to? What does it look like in its natural environment? This will also tell you what conditions it likes ie hot and humid or cool and shady, which will determine where in your house you position the plant. What is its botanical name and what does this tell you about it – often the genus and species provide invaluable clues to the structure or origin of the plant?