House plants for this season’s trends
by Rhiannon James
If you’re looking for quick ways to tap this season’s trends, you could track down some new tableware; buy more bed linen or re-paper a wall, but you could also just add a few plants. With a bit of creativity, indoor plants can give life to any look and their benefits don’t stop there: they’ll also boost oxygen, cleanse the air and lower stress. Here’s a few ways to harness 2012’s hottest styles using house plants:
Tribal style this year is all about strong shapes and vibrant colour, perhaps even a pop of neon. With their vibrant, spear-like flower spikes, vriesias are a great way to get the look, and you can amp up the colour even further by adding a fluoro mulch.
Things you’ll need
– A trough-shaped container
– Three vriesias – these are fairly easy to find at garden centres but otherwise, try www.houseofplants.co.uk
– Some spare newspaper
– A length of fabric – we used horticultural fleece but any spare piece of material will work
– A mulch – we used neon aquarium gravel and wooden beads
1. Vriesias, like most bromeliads, have very small root systems so it’s best to keep them in the pots they were sold in rather than re-potting them into a large container. Instead, fill the bottom of the container with small cardboard boxes, old books or any other spare materials you have to hand so that when you put the potted vriesias on top, they are sitting at the right height.
2. Pack around the pots with scrunched up newspaper to hold the plants in place and to create a fairly level surface.
3. Then place a layer of fabric over the paper, making holes for the plants – this will stop the mulch falling between the gaps in the newspaper.
4. Then add your mulch so that it covers all of the material and hides the plastic plant pots and you’re done!
5. Vriesias like bright indirect light and have a vase at their centre which should be kept topped up with water over the growing season. The compost should be moistened too, but let it dry out before you water it again. Add a weak liquid feed each month over the growing season and keep plants on the dry side over winter.
Sugared-almond shades are a big hit this season and if you want to add some pastel prettiness at home, try streptocarpus. These plants flower from spring right through to the winter – put them in homemade candy-coloured pots for an extra sweet touch.
Things you’ll need
– Streptocarpus plants – we’ve used ‘Falling Stars’, ‘Seren’ and ‘Tina’ but there’s a wide range to choose from. The best place to buy them is Dibleys Nurseries (www.dibleys.com) – if you opt for ones from the ‘Flowering houseplants direct to your door’ section, you’ll get full size plants rather than plugs. An alternative option is African violets – put these in super-sleek pots to give them a contemporary edge.
– To make the pots:
o Three ice cream tubs – ideally these should fit snugly around your plant pots. If they’re larger, you’ll need to raise the plants on plinths (try small upturned pots)
o Some thin card or thick paper in pastel colours
o A roll of self-adhesive covering film
o Masking tape
o Clear sticky tape
1. Wrap a sheet of card around an ice cream tub as shown in the picture – you will need to do this on an angle so the card will match the taper of the tub. Then use a small piece of masking tape to hold it in place.
2. With a pencil, draw around the top and the bottom of the tub – this will show you where to cut the card. Then remove the masking tape and lay the card out flat. Cut along the lines you have marked.
3. Next, you’ll need to cover your card with self-adhesive film to make it waterproof. Cut a piece of film that’s about twice the size of your piece of card. Then pull off the backing paper from the film and lay it out on the table sticky side up. If you stick the corners down with masking tape, this will stop it curling up at the edges. Carefully place your piece of card in the middle of the film and flatten it down – try to avoid creating any creases. Then, cut from the edge of the plastic to the edge of the card at intervals of about 5cm.
4. Fold each section of film on to the uncovered side of the card and flatten it down. Cut off any excess to get a neat edge.
5. Attach one end of your piece of card to the ice cream tub and gently rolling it around; secure the other end in place with some clear sticky tape. It might take a few goes to work out the best way to do this but once you get it right, it should fit snugly!
6. Repeat the same process for the other two tubs.
7. Pop your plants into their pots and you’re done!
8. Streptocarpus like bright, indirect light and it’s important not to overwater them – wait until the compost is dry to the touch. Cut off faded flowers and feed with a high potash fertiliser during the growing season.
Oddly enough, to create a sense of the sea with plants, it’s best to look to the desert. There are a variety of succulent plants which, although adapted to living in arid conditions, have the look of seaweed and other briny specimens. Plant them with pebbles or bits of coral for a clean, contemporary take on by-the-sea style.
Things you’ll need
– A selection of succulents: it’s quite difficult to source specific succulents online but there’s usually plenty of choice in garden centres – pick a few that make you think of the sea
– A container – one that’s wide but reasonably shallow will work well
– Cactus and succulent compost
– Horticultural grit
– A mulch – we used a mix of large and small pebbles, horticultural grit and some small shells
1. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, use a drill to add some so that any excess water can escape (put a tray underneath to protect the table or shelf).
2. Put a layer of grit into the bottom of the container and then add a layer of compost and firm it in. Keep adding compost and firming it in until you reach the point where your plants will be sitting at the right level in the pot.
3. Put any large stones or pebbles you want to use into place and then move your plants around until you find an arrangement you like. Then add compost into all the gaps between your plants.
4. Finish by adding your mulch. We put the pebbles in first, poured the gravel into any gaps where compost was still showing and finished by adding some small shells.
5. Leave your container for a week or two before you water it.
6. Succulents can usually tolerate some neglect but they like bright sunshine, fresh air and a winter rest. Water and feed during the growing season.
Prints are everywhere this season so why not really bring the look to life using plants? Just design a motif with a few house plant plugs and then repeat it all along the container – the more repetitions you can manage, the bigger the impact will be.
Things you’ll need
– Some house plant plugs: the selection of plants really depends on what’s available – the big DIY stores and flower markets are good places to look for plugs. If you’re struggling to find a good selection, try using herbs such as parsley which will grow happily indoors.
– A selection of stones or similar – it can help to include an object such as a stone in the motif to make the pattern more obvious
– A large container
– Horticultural grit
– Moss (make sure it’s from a managed, renewable source)
1. Try arranging your plants in a few different formations on the floor or on a table until you find a pattern that you like.
2. Put your moss into a bucket of water to soak.
3. Drill any necessary drainage holes into the base of your container, add a layer of gravel and then add compost up to the point where your plants will be sitting at the right level in the pot.
4. Then empty all your plants out of their pots and put them into the container, recreating the pattern you’ve decided on. Put the stones or other objects into place at the same time.
5. Then fill all the gaps with compost.
6. Finally, add moss around the plants and objects until the surface of the compost is covered.
7. Water in well and you’re done!
If you’d like a few more ideas for this spring, the Flower Council of Holland has just launched a guide to using flowering bulbs in interiors – see www.funnyhowflowersdothat.co.uk