Baby, it’s hot outside. And somewhere between the weather and work-from-home routines, we’re spending a lot more time indoors – and desperate to develop a green thumb. With that in mind, we observed a moment of silence for all the plants we’ve killed over the years and headed to Dubai Garden Centre for a chat with horticulturist Abdul Aziz, whose knowledge of all things botanical is nothing short of astounding. Here’s what we learned.
How to Select Them:
You can choose from evergreen, flowering (seasonal and perennial), and fruit-bearing (lemon and kumquat, for example) plants in addition to cacti and succulents.
Acclimatised plants will not only survive, but also thrive indoors at temperatures ranging from 16ºC to 30ºC, which means the climate in this region shouldn’t be an issue.
If you’re a first-time plant parent, opt for the statement-making areca palm as all it requires is regular watering and a nitrogen-based fertiliser once a month. And if you start to see signs of damage, simply cut off the problematic stem to protect the rest of the plant.
Apartment dwellers can overcome space constraints by buying hanging plants such as English ivy or the money plant. Not only are these trailing varieties easy to maintain, but they’re also versatile – they can be grown in hanging baskets or trained to climb up a trellis.
Succulents are also great space-savers and only need to be watered once a month. They’re not dependent on extremely bright light, either.
Some varieties (the peace lily, snake plant, rubber plant, and prayer plant included) are especially known for their air-purifying properties, and therefore very popular.
The dieffenbachia plant is toxic owing to its sap and should therefore be avoided by families with pets and young children.
How to Display Them:
The best spot to place any indoor plant is at least one metre away from the window, where it gets bright yet indirect light for optimal photosynthesis.
While the jury’s still out on the suitability of plants in the bedroom, air-purifying varieties remain popular. The peace lily, in particular, will help you sleep better.
Planters with drainage holes aren’t necessary for indoor plants. In fact, clay balls added to the soil will absorb excess water without creating a mess and reduce the risk of root rot, making them perfect for indoor use.
The key to styling plants is creativity – anything from wooden ladders and tyres to dresser drawers, milk jugs, and even wellington boots can be repurposed as unexpected planters.
Create a visually appealing display by grouping together plants of varying heights, and aim for an odd number for a more effortless-looking finish.
How to Tend Them:
Artificial lighting, while sometimes used, isn’t ideal as it simply can’t compare with the wavelengths of sunlight.
Yellow leaves are a sign of deteriorating health. If your plant is underwatered, its leaves will droop. And if your plant is overwatered, its leaves will soften. A moisture metre measures the humidity of the soil, and therefore helps keep a plant’s health in check.
Liquid fertiliser and powder fertiliser that is water-soluble come highly recommended for all types of indoor plants. Avoid the slow-release granular type entirely as it’s intended for outdoor plants.
Evergreen plants and succulents require a nitrogen-based fertiliser because it will help prevent discoloured foliage and sub-par growth. In contrast, flowering and fruit-bearing plants benefit more from a potassium-based fertiliser, especially when they stop producing flowers and fruits respectively.
If your plant is healthy and well-maintained, opt for a blended fertiliser that contains particles of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus alongside small amounts of micronutrients.
The soil of this region isn’t natural – it’s a potting mix made with coco peat, leading to iron deficiency, which can be identified by slightly yellow leaves and prominent veins. In this case, an iron-based fertiliser is a must.
Mealybugs – tiny, cottony insects that feed on plant sap – are a very common problem, but an infestation can be avoided by not over-watering your plants. A few spritzes of lemon juice once or twice a week, however, will remedy the problem.