Living room blooms: Nigel Colborn shows how to bring life back into your home this winter with indoor flora
Rooding by the kitchen stove last week, I decided to check up on our houseplants. The job was soon done and I was unimpressed. Our star windowsill plant, a big orangeflowered Clivia, looks pretty enough. But the Streptocarpus near it appears as miserable as Scrooge before the ghosts came.
Elsewhere in the house there are various dusty succulents, an exhausted pelargonium and some comatose ferns.
Feeling ashamed, I sat down. Home interiors, I mused, can be an integral part of our gardens. Most have growing spaces and there are plants for almost any situation. Lush conservatories, well-stocked windowsills, even a rude-looking cactus in the loo can all be part of a beautiful indoor garden. If houseplants are not rich in foliage, colour and variety, then you’re missing a huge opportunity.
As in a garden, they too can provide a rich show. So if your indoor flora consist of a leggy rubber plant or dead geraniums, take heart. With modest changes, homes can be brought to life.
Prolific: Moth orchids such as Phalaenopsis elegant debora offer long-lasting colour proof half-shade, African violets are lovely
PLANTS FOR HEALTH
It has been known for years that being close to plants improves mental health. Many of us experience this when visiting the countryside or exploring gardens. Inside buildings, greenery can work in a similar way. But as gardeners, we can take those benefits further.
The range and diversity of indoor plants can be almost as rich as with a garden.
Wherever there is enough light, houseplants will flourish. In lowlit areas, there are forest-dwellers adapted to gloom. Ferns, spider-plants, peperomias and colourful-leaved Begonia rex all flourish in poor light.
For the hot, dry conditions of a south window, succulents will give a lovely and varied show. There are hundreds to choose, many as happy outside in summer as on a winter windowsill.
In good light but shielded from burning sun, there is a massive choice. Cyclamen and indoor primulas such as P.obconica are flowering now.
For cosy, draught- proof half-shade, African violets are lovely. Orchids, particularly Phalaenopsis, are another easyto-manage option and widely available. In the right place, they can flower up to three times.
Plant for seasons, ook. Spring bulbs, especially autumn-planted hyacinths, provide winter colour. For a big spring challenge, try growing vivid blue Chilean Blue Crocus, Tecophilaea, or Cape Cowslip, Lachenalia.
For late autumn flowers, fragrant Camellia sasanqua can be trundled inside in a container. Being hardy, it can return to the garden after flowering.
For summer conservatories, old-fashioned annuals are perfect. You can grow Schizanthus and trumpet-flowered Salpiglossis easily from seed. For foliage, Coleus or flame nettles also grow large and lovely. Seeds for those will be available now.
For conservatories that overheat or for hot, south-facing windows, succulents and cacti are ideal. The easiest is South African jade plant, Crassula ovata. It grows as a huge succulent shrub but can be trimmed to any size. When stressed, it produces little white flowers.
So let an array of indoor plants lighten your mood this winter.