Expert reveals all the tips and tricks you need to know about indoor plants

Indoor gardening expert Craig Miller-Randle reveals how to create a natural oasis of thriving, healthy houseplants.
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It’s a trend that was on the rise well before the pandemic, but when 2020 saw the world head home, indoor plants became the hottest thing in interiors – and they still are!

The chance to reconnect with nature while also taking up a mindful practice has boosted sales in nurseries around the nation, while debates over fiddle-leaf fig care or the best types of fern are now regular topics of conversation.

“Apart from looking beautiful and filling our homes with living things, there’s a ritual in looking after indoor plants which is very meditative and relaxing,” plant guru Craig Miller-Randle says of the cause of our current obsession.

“Plus, when you get something that is alive and you look after it and it responds positively to you, that’s rewarding – it’s a win/win.”

But while we’d all like to have an indoor oasis to be proud of, for many of us it’s a jungle out there in learning how best to care for our plants. Craig offers his top tips for making your indoor garden grow.

First things first

Before you load up on greenery, think about how you’ll display your plants. “I advise people to get the pot first,” Craig says. “Because while the jungle vibes are really in, people still want their homes to look beautiful and be comfortable to live in. So buy a beautiful pot, decide where it’ll sit and then choose the plant to go into it – that way you know it’s going to coordinate with your furniture as well.”

Take your plants to new heights

There are endless ways to display your plants outside of a pot on the floor or table. An open cupboard can become a greenhouse; any shelf or ledge can accommodate plants big or small. “Any plant that grows on the floor will grow in a hanging pot – they don’t have to only be trailing plants,” Craig points out.

Another fun way to display them? “Fasten your plants to the wall,” Craig says of one of his favourite methods. “I use plain white hooks for shelf brackets that you can buy at your local hardware store. I fasten them to the wall with screws, find a decorative plastic planter [find these at your hardware store too], drill three little holes in it and then hang them onto the screws using fishing wire. That way, it’s away from the wall a little, so when you water your plant it won’t damage your walls or furniture. Lastly, I put the pot on top of a plastic saucer to keep it out of the water.”

Find your light

Forget about certain rooms being better for certain plants – all that matters is how much sun they’ll receive. “All plants need light and none will do well for long in a very low- or no-light position,” Craig says. “As a general rule, approximately 2-4m from a north-facing window is the Goldilocks zone of bright, indirect light; and 50cm-2m from a south-facing window is filtered or shade light.

Craig’s tip: “Download a free plant light-meter app on your smartphone to help you locate the best position.”

Be water wise

Like humans, plants need water to survive – but watering them too much or too little is the quickest way to kill them. Craig has an easy hack to help you know when it’s time for your plant to drink. “You just need to use your finger,” he says. “Scratch the surface of the soil. If it’s dry 2cm down, that means it needs to be watered. If it’s still damp, it doesn’t. That trick will save you a lot of heartache.”

Craig’s tip: “I recommend taking plants to the sink to water them under a spray or with a watering can. That way, you’re also wetting down the leaves so there’s no need to dust them.”

Find your soil mate

“Soil is one of the most important aspects of indoor plant parenting,” Craig says. Invest in a premium potting mix and then add perlite, which you can buy at nurseries or hardware stores. “It adds air to the soil and makes it drain really well,” Craig says. “I add 20 percent perlite to potting mix to get the best results. Just remember to dampen it if you aren’t outside as it can generate dust.”

Healthy habits

Don’t think you can just pick up a wilting plant and transform it with a little TLC. “Look under the leaves to make sure you’re not bringing any pests into the home,” advises Craig. “Also, remember that you should re-pot your plant every couple of years.

Limitless options

“My motto is: any container is a pot,” Craig says. “An old candle holder, a beautiful salad bowl … You don’t need drainage holes, as long as you don’t pot the plant directly into it. If you cut a normal plastic pot down, plants can fit into anything.”

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