I have been very guilty of loving my houseplants too much- by overwatering, over-fertilising and doing every other over-the-top thing. I have lost many plants and also money. So now I have reduced what I buy- though I still love to have plants in the house. Contrary to the view that houseplants hugely increase the amount of carbon dioxide during the evening and night and therefore it is not good to have them inside the house, it has now been calculated that they only increase it by a very small amount. This amount of carbon dioxide does not have any health disadvantage and the benefits of having house plants outweighs everything else.
During the late 1980’s, NASA did some research on houseplants as a means of providing purer and cleaner air for space stations. The plants filter out certain harmful compounds in the air and make it much healthier to breathe. My top three maintenance free and double use houseplants are-
Spider plant (which can absorb 90 percent of the toxins inside the house by absorbing mold and other allergens, small traces of formaldehyde and carbon monoxide; and best of all, live on practically nothing and yet produce ‘little babies’ that can be detached and given away as gifts!)
Aloe vera (the juice of which can be used for burns and insect bites)
Peace Lily (which improves the indoor air quality by as much as 60 percent by reducing the levels of mold spores, keeping bathrooms free from mildew and absorbing harmful vapors from alcohol and acetone. The peace lily also produces beautiful white or pale flowers- bonus! And after reducing my watering, it has finally produced a beautiful flower after many years of being flowerless.
Over the years, I have drastically reduced the numbers of houseplants but I was still overpowering them with water. But simply keeping water levels low or watering them every 2-3 weeks works well. A tip I got about watering houseplants when going away was to leave an ice cube in the pot- this has also worked well. This time was the first time I didn’t find my houseplants nearly dead from overwatering after I returned from a three-week holiday (previously I used to sit my houseplants knee deep in water!). My nearly dead poinsettia has even come back to life with glorious red leaves as you see below. I am now working on the orchid on which I will report later.
These days when anything can be bought from royal titles to a bit of the Moon, making something to give to someone appears very unique. When I was young, my Uncle used to give us the best presents- they were always the same and they brought me and my sisters so much delight. They were shoes boxes filled with the things we liked- crepe paper, scissors, glue, tape, tinsel, string and paint. From those things we created a lot more things- I remember those shoe boxes with such pleasure. A box that made me do something creative! Times have changed now- shoe boxes filled with such things won’t be accepted with such joyous innocence!
This year, I made something for my son alongside a ‘bought present’. Plants are very easy to propagate and make great presents. So here is my homemade Bonsai starter pot for my son.
I grew that little tree out of another bonsai tree that I was pruning, the moss was found growing on another pot that needing cleaning out and I had the sedum plants. I had found that little pot as well. There are many Youtube videos on soil composition needed for Bonsai, so I won’t be going into that. That said, the main things I learnt from the videos were that the soil needs to drain easily and that composition of the loose soil to that of the compost or hot soil is 75% to 25%. Some of the sandy soil I found in an old pot and mixed it with some fresh sand that I found when a local basement was been built (talk about sourcing locally!) I mixed everything by hand and instead of sieving as shown in the videos, I took out bigger bits of rocks and gravel by feeling with my hands. The rocks and shells have been collected during our holidays, so they will have memories and familiarity. It will take a few years for that tree to look like a bonsai tree (it is only 6 months old). Until then, he is going to have learn to take care of it as Bonsai needs a lot of looking after. So this is my version of our childhood shoe box presents- something creative that will encourage my son do something creative.