How to grow and care for indoor plants

Indoor plants not only bring a touch of the outdoors inside, they also improve air quality and the overall wellbeing of those surrounded by them. For people unable to garden outdoors, growing indoor plants allows them to indulge in a hobby that gives great pleasure.

What you need to know about indoor plants:

Plants: foliage and flowering plants that happily grow in pots you can easily carry.

Height: variable, but should not exceed ceiling height.

Foliage: evergreen.

Climate: temperature range that is comfortable for people.

Soil: premium-quality potting mixes appropriate to the types of plants being grown; free-draining.

Position: good ambient light; avoid draughts and direct sun through glass.

Flowering: some indoor plants are grown just for their leaves, others for their flowers, such as cyclamen, African violets.

Feeding: apply a controlled-release fertiliser every six months; supplement with a water-soluble or liquid fertiliser.

Watering: understand what each plant needs and don't overwater; allow excess to drain freely; empty saucers after 30 minutes.

Humidity: mist plants to improve humidity, especially in fully air-conditioned/heated spaces; place bowls of water among pots.

Which plants to grow indoors

Almost any plant that can be grown successfully in a pot could become an indoor plant. Large shrubs and trees are not usually considered, but some expansive interior spaces even include mature trees in very large containers!

Indoor plants, or house plants, as they are sometimes called, are mostly warmth-loving plants that prefer a temperature range that is also comfortably warm for us—around 20°C. They include monsteras, philodendrons, ficus, dracaenas and mother-in-law’s tongue (among many), with a few flowering types thrown in—cyclamen in season, tuberous begonias and African violets. We've picked 13 of the best to get you started.

plant pots

Choosing pots for indoor plants

Indoor plants rely completely on the potting mix and pots you choose for them. After choosing the plant, the second most important decision is the pot. There are thousands to choose from!  Check out our collection, starting with plain plastic through to lightweight-but-strong fibreglass to the top-of-the-range imported ceramics.

It’s important to pick a pot that complements the plant in colour and shape.  It should also suit your personal style—but don’t let that overshadow its functionality.

The ideal pot should be light enough to carry, stable on its base, sealed/non-porous so it won’t leak, and should come with a matching saucer. Check that there are plenty of drainage holes—most indoor plants hate wet feet!

Sometimes a decorative “outer” pot is all that’s necessary to dress up an indoor plant growing in an ordinary nursery pot. For people who love a bit of greenery in their living space but forget to give plants regular attention, self-watering pots are a terrific solution!

Indoor plant potting mixes

Always use a premium-quality potting mix—the best you can afford. There are specialty mixes available for particular types of plants. For example, a cactus and succulent mix for succulents and other plants needing a coarse, sandy soil that drains very well, an African Violet mix for these flowering plants and their relatives (“gesneriads”) as well as cyclamen or a bonsai mix for these delightful miniature shrubs.

If in doubt, choose a terracotta and pot mix, which will suit most plants.

Re-pot indoor plants every two to three years in spring to keep them strong and healthy.

Position

Wondering where to put your indoor plants? Read the labels of all your plants—there’s usually plenty of information about where to place your plants for best results. Most like good ambient light. Don't put them on windowsills or tables where they will cop direct sun through the glass—they will almost certainly burn.

When it comes to temperature, if you are comfortable, then your plants will be too. Don’t be tempted to put warmth-loving plants in your bathroom. It might be warm and humid while you’re in there showering, but an hour or so later the room will be cold and damp.

Keep plants away from heating or cooling vents where the temperature will fluctuate. and keep them out of draughts.

Watering and feeding indoor plants

Indoor plants often die when they receive too much attention! Again, read the labels to see whether your plants like being kept moist or if they prefer to dry out between waterings.

As a rule, water only when the top 5cm or so of potting mix feels quite dry to the touch, then give enough water that the excess flows freely out through the drainage holes. Empty the saucers about 30 minutes after watering, or stand the pots (without saucers) on the sink to water them, and then leave them there for a few minutes to drain before replacing them on the saucers.

A premium potting mix will contain enough food for the plant for up to six months. Reapply a controlled-release fertiliser twice yearly after that, in late summer and early spring.

From spring to autumn, use a water-soluble or liquid plant food every four weeks or so for an extra boost (make sure it has the right nutrients for your plant).

Diseases and pests affecting indoor plants

Indoor plants are more protected from pests than those in our gardens, but they may still be attacked by insects from time to time. If necessary, take plants outside to a shady spot and spray lightly with a natural insecticidal soap or pyrethrum.

Keep leaves clean by wiping occasionally with a soft damp cloth—don't use detergents! If the air is too humid, mildew may be a problem. Make sure pots are well spaced, and that the room is ventilated.

If you like indoor plants with flowers, then try:

African violet: velvety leaves in rosettes and with clusters of flowers from white to deep purple; loves a warm, well-lit room.

Moth orchid: a popular indoor plant that flowers for months and enjoys warmth and light.

Peace lily (spathiphyllum): glossy green leaves and white flowers; very hardy and does well in medium to well lit areas.

Start planting today!

Check out our huge range of indoor plants now and get your garden growing!

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