African violets are hardy plants that can reward the indoor gardener for many years. Most problems with African violets occur from over-zealous loving attention rather than lack of care.
African violets prefer a warm, mildly sunny windowsill or a spot somewhat within a warm and very bright room where they are touched by sunlight sometime during the day. For better results see that this site is under a strong lamp which provides extra light in the evening.
African violet is one of the few flowering indoor plants that will grow and flower well under strong artificial lighting. While the plants will survive under a variety of conditions, they demand strong light for good quality flowering. Avoid cold, drafty positions!
They prefer a free draining potting mix that remains moist but is never wet. Water allowed to stand in the plant’s saucer, especially under cold conditions will often lead to rot. The plants should be kept a little drier during the winter months or whenever the room becomes cold.
Feeding should be at about half strength to most house plants. There are special african violet foods and they respond nicely to half strength Phostrogen mixed with a tiny spot of fish emulsion. Plants will need repotting once the plant’s diameter is more than twice that of their pot and the plant is looking a bit “tired”.
Increase the pot size only slightly. Healthy, mature leaves will quickly form new plants when their stem is submerged in a small pot of sand and placed in a bright warm, moist spot.
The colour and variety range of the modern hybrids is superb. Once you’ve got the “knack” of growing these little treasures you’ll want them to be a permanent part of your indoor garden!
Aralia dizygotheca (the false or cut-leaf aralia) and Aralia sieboldii (syn. Fatsia Japonica, known as the Japanese Rice Plant) are two easily grown foliage plants that are excellent for the New Zealand home and the office.
Both have dramatic foliage that is dark green, glossy, and spreading like an open fan. The plants can grow to a considerable size under ideal conditions but their size is easily controlled by pruning back their top growth in spring or summer.
They can also be dwarfed by growing them in small pots. Aralias prefer cool to moderate room temperatures and bright indirect light, except under drafty conditions where some sunshine will be essential.
The Japanese Rice Aralia will also thrive in direct sun and can be grown outdoors with some shelter and protection. Water sparingly, keeping the soil moist but never wet, especially during winter or whenever conditions become cold and light levels are low.
These plants are hardy and are not fussy about what you feed them, although being foliage plants they like nitrogen to produce new leaves. Nitrosol or phostrogen will suit them perfectly.
Once a month is adequate although more frequent feeding won’t hurt and will insure that your growing indoor garden remains lush and lovely.
Asparagus fern comes in a number of unusual forms. Plumosus has angular, ferny foliage on wiry, climbing stems that are treasured by florists. Sprengeri has feathery foliage that can trail making it an excellent hanging plant.
Meyeri has unusual cone shaped foliage that spirals up the arching stems. All are very hardy both indoors and in the garden. They will tolerate medium to bright indirect light up to full sun and can survive with minimum feuding.
However, for best results feed at least monthly (most any sort of plant food will do) and always keep moist. If asparagus ever dries out its foliage will yellow and drop and cannot be replaced on that particular branch.
If you want your asparagus to remain bushy, give it as much sun or strong light as possible. But if you’d prefer your asparagus to trail or climb more quickly, then place the plant in an indirect light position. This is especially important as the small asparagus tip shoots start to grow.
Lower light will force the young shoots to “stretch” for the light. Once the shoot has elongated, the plant can be moved back into brighter light or sun which will help the young shoot to develop many more healthy leaves than it otherwise might in the darker position. Asparagus ferns grown in this manner can sometimes trail to 3 meters!
Bromeliads would be one of the easiest, most handsome and colourful of all the indoor plants. All are members of the pineapple family and many are classified as epiphytes.
That means they live and grow off the air.. .now that’s hardy! They prefer a bright, warm position or even mild sunlight to bring out their best colour. But they are famous for their ability to withstand quite low light positions for many months at a time so long as conditions are not too cool.
Always keep water in the central cup of the plant to avoid drying out and keep the soil moist during warm weather but on the dry side during winter months. Bromeliads come in hundreds of forms, many of which carry large, colourful and very exotic blooms.
Plants seem to flower best when kept warm and in very bright light. If a large plant that is at least a couple of years old hasn’t flowered for you try placing the plant in a plastic bag with a very ripe apple for several weeks in a warm, bright spot.
The gases given off by the apple often will stimulate flowering in bromeliads. Probably the easiest to grow to flowering would be the garden billbergia nutans, sometimes known as Friendship Plant or Queen’s Tears.
The Neoregelia hybrids have many smaller blue or purple flowers that bloom over a long period within the water of the cup like baby water lilies. Their foliage is often spectacular shades of red, bronze and crimson.
Bromeliads are one of Nature’s little wonders and are so treasured that entire societies and clubs have been established around their culture! Once you successfully grow some chances are that you’ll be eager to keep these indoor plant friends around for a long time!