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How to Take Care of Indoor Plants

Foliage plants have decorative leaves, but all such plants, like for example, Coleus, Croton need ample sunlight and hence are unsuitable for indoor use. But,
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It was a monsoon gathering over hilsa. A happy assembly of like minded green fingers. Amarnathda has been invited this time, in spite of not being an ardent flower grower. Kanchan has already dropped in. Meanwhile Debdas rang up, “Babuda, so sorry, I got stuck up, cannot attend today.”
— “It’s okay, but you will certainly miss the hilsa.”
— “My bad luck. One more thing, I have kept some succulents in my window sill, Haworthia, Echeveria, Jade plant. They get sunlight for about 3 hours from 8 to 11 am. Is that okay?”
— “That will do but you must know that the soil mix is important for succulents. Take care of that. I must admit that your choice of succulents is correct for the window sill. Most succulents need a fair amount of sunlight.”
Debdas’s father was in the police department. During his service tenure they lived in a residential quarter with a large spacious terrace. Debdas grew roses at his heart’s content and excelled in that. One notable example was a plant of Montezuma that bore about 200 blooms at a single go and that too in a pot of about 12 inches diameter. Now Debdas lives in a 800 sq. feet apartment with only one window sill at his disposal to grow plants.

Aglaonema commutatum

After hearing our conversation, Kanchan quipped, “He can grow foliage plants, they are so decorative.”
– “Foliage plants have decorative leaves, but all such plants, like for example, Coleus, Croton need ample sunlight and hence are unsuitable for indoor use. But, there are some other decorative plants which can be grown indoors. We call those ‘houseplants.”
– “You mean, they don’t need sunlight?
– “How can that be! All plants need sunlight for photosynthesis. But yes, the requirement varies. Sunlight stretching for 2 hours is enough for these houseplants. They can manage the rest from available subdued light.”
– “Wow! That’s great, and then I can also grow them.”
– “Ofcourse, you can. They will enhance the beauty of the surroundings. You can feel a touch of nature and above all, the children will get attached to them and grow a love for nature. You see, in this urban setup, most of us stay in apartments like Debdas and have access only to the window sills. The more fortunate ones get a verandah. You cannot deny that greenery has a calming effect and above all plays a major role in reducing pollution.”
– “Do houseplants need a separate soil mix?”
– “Sure enough. It’s better if you try to understand their natural habitat. They grow under the shade of trees bathed in filtered light. Their roots penetrate decomposed leaves gathered above the soil. You have to recreate and mimic that environment as far as possible. Considering these, you can try with compost composed of garden soil 50%, decomposed cow manure or vermicompost 20%, leaf mould 25%, charcoal dust 5%. Add bone dust 150 gm. to that soil compost which will fill a pot having 10 inches diameter.”

Aglaonama hybrid red

– “After how many days shall I repot?”
Arabindada entered the scene saying, “After 1 year.” He must have heard our previous exchanges.
– “Doctor, (he calls me by that name), I got stuck up, hence the delay. Oh yes, let me continue. As we are not adding fertilizer in the interim period, we need to repot every year so that they are not starved of nutrients.”
– “That means we shall not apply liquid manure? But why?
– “Application of excess nitrogen enhances rapid vegetative growth and that is unwanted in case of houseplants as they lose their beauty. Moreover, liquid manure of decomposed mustard oil cake will fill the room with an unpleasant odour. Of course, you can apply liquid manure when these plants are kept outdoors for a period of time.”
– “How much water do they need?”
— “The plants should be watered in the morning only when the top soil becomes dry. One more thing we should note in order to understand how to take care of indoor plants is that it is better to keep plants in a group. In nature plants get a humid surrounding due to the presence of neighbouring plants. That atmosphere is wanting inside a room. So we need to spray water from time to time.

Excited Kanchan quipped, “Anything more?”
— “Oh yes, amidst nature, plants also get face wash through rain and dew. So, it is better to clean the leaves now and then with wet cotton wool. That will make them glitter. Moreover, as we have a weekly day off from our place of work, the plants also wish to enjoy a change. As such, they need more holidays. Their schedule may be 7 days indoor and 21 days outdoor. But outdoors doesn’t mean strong sunshine; they are to be kept in subdued light.”
Chitrita meanwhile entered carrying a plate full of fried Hilsa. At once a captivating aroma spread inside the room and took over our nostrils. With the sweet smile of a perfect host she uttered, “A meeting without eating is nothing.”

Aglaonama hybrid

Amarnathda entered, reciting , “Oh, what a pleasant aroma of fried hilsa, draped in a tang of fresh mustard! Come monsoon, festival of hilsa.” This is quite typical of Amarnathda. Never he reaches early, and has made a habit of making a dramatic entry. “Why are you staring at me? I understand that you people are not poetry-lovers. This is a Bengali poem by Buddhadev Basu. I must admit that mine is a poor translation.” Before completing his sentence, he picked up a large piece of fried fish.
— “Amarnathda, we don’t mind you savouring, but why are you intruding into an unfamiliar domain?”
– “What! Do you mean to say that I am ignorant of house plants? Exclained Amarnathda. “Kanchan, note down the names of house plants which you can grow easily– Dieffenbachia, Aglaonema, Money plant, Areca palm … Will that suffice or shall I name some more?”
Here I intervened, “Yes, but all varieties of plants of this genus are not suitable…”

– “Babuda, please give me names of some varieties which can be grown easily,” Kanchan queried further.
– “Well, I’ll give you a list for your reference. I will also include names of plants that can be potted in hanging baskets; you can hang them from the ceiling of your box window.”
– “Amarnathda, since you are meeting Arabindada for the first time, a formal introduction is needed. He was the Superintendent of Parks and Gardens, and Amarnathda is …
– “There’s no need for this formal introduction. I have already assumed that he is a jovial food taster and an encyclopedia,” quipped Arabindada.

Diefenbachia amonea Tropic Snow

Amarnathda replied, “That’s nice of you. I presume you need to decorate your office rooms with plants. But it is not possible to take ample care of these plants in these places. Do you use the same varieties of plants?
– “It is a very relevant question. We use plants, sturdy in nature, for these places. Those can tolerate some degree of neglect. I will mark these plants in the list to be provided by Babuda. It’s true that rotating plants, which Babuda has mentioned, is easier to grow in office premises as ample space is available there. Hence, rotating plants are a must.
Biswajit was the last one to arrive. He was apologetic. “Sorry, I’m quite late and must’ve missed the chat. Babuda, you were possibly discussing houseplants. Don’t forget to include Syngonium and Sansievera.”
– “No one is going to fine you for being late, we know that you are a busy garden consultant. Do you have any suggestions for Kanchan?
– “Yes, I have. You have to support the Money plant and Monestera with sticks wrapped in moss or coconut husk. They will climb on it.”

Aglaonema Ernesto's favourite

– “I have Chinese bamboo at my home. Can other varieties of bamboo be kept indoors?”
– “Oh my God. It is not bamboo, it is a variety of Dracena, and Dracena is a houseplant.
– “Are these plants safe?”
– “It’s a pertinent question. Dieffenbachia is a nice house plant with decorative leaves, but it’s better to stay away from using it as an indoor plant. Its latex is toxic and may be harmful for infants and pets.
Chitrita gave a call, “Please hurry and come to the dining table. Consume the food while it is still warm, and I can assure you that it is not toxic and harmful.
We all nodded in approval and took our places at the table.

A comprehensive list of indoor plants

All images used in this article are by the author.

Ashok Kr Ghosh is a Gynecologist by profession. He is also a Mountaineer and Traveler and amateur photo artist. He is the recipient of several awards including Honourable Mention, Lalit Kala Academy Award, Excellence Honors from ‘Federation International de la Arte Photograhoque’. Dr Ghosh is also a Naturalist specialising in Ornamental Floriculture and appears as Judge in horticulture exhibitions. His articles are frequently published in leading Bengali periodicals and magazines.

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