House plants need lots of love (Picture: Getty)Is your succulent not quite so succulent? Is your fern is shedding leaves faster than you can say ‘millennial stereotype’?
We love plants – but keeping them alive in a dark and cramped city flat is quite far removed from the features in glossy magazines.
How can you become a gardener with a balcony, tiny patio or when you’re 17 floors up in a tower block with windows you can’t open?
Let’s start with house plants. No matter how limited your outside space is you can grow a few house plants and they can live all year round.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have floor to ceiling windows, you’ll probably struggle with light. But there are lots that can grow even in the darkest basement flats.
Freddie Blackett, Co-Founder of plant delivery service Patch, explains: ‘One of the most common questions we get asked is how much light house plants should be getting.
‘The really short answer is that all plants need some natural sunlight to survive and thrive, but the level of light depends on the plant.
‘It’s important to think of its natural habitat, is the plant accustomed to bright light or more shadowy settings.’
Buy plants that work for dark areas (Picture: Getty)How do you know how much light there is in your house?
Firstly, you need to figure out which direction the windows face – use the compass on your phone to get an idea.
Freddie adds: ‘Because we’re in the Northern Hemisphere, South-facing will get the most light each day whereas North-facing windows get significantly less.
‘East and West facing windows fall somewhere in the middle. Remember to turn off the lights to get a measure for how the natural light fills the room, as house plants can’t feed off light bulbs.’
Once you know what direction you are facing, you can figure out a little more about how much light your plants will get.
If you look out the window at the buildings around you, you can estimate how much of the day you will be in the shadow of another building as the sun will move East to West over the course of the day.
Buildings that are higher up will of course get more light than basement or ground floor flats that sit in the shadows on built up streets.
What plants should you choose?
After figuring out how much light your flat or house actually gets every day, you can choose plants that suit different light levels.
Avoid aloe vera, ficus plants, hibiscus Meyer’s lemon and polka-dot plants as they all need higher levels of light.
If you do want plants that need lots of light, place them in the window that gets the most light during the day.
Patch co-founder Freddie’s plant recommendations for low light conditions
Aspidistras are a seriously tough. Nicknamed the ‘cast iron plant’, this super-plant is nearly indestructible and can handle reasonable neglect and low-level light.
An Aspidistra (Picture: Patch)
Hailing from South America, Philodendron scandens is a winner for three reasons: easy to care for, has beautiful heart-shaped leaves and is perfectly fine in a dim part of your home.
A Philodendron(Picture: Patch)
Corn plants (or ‘Dracaena fragrans’) are a beautiful, low maintenance plant with gorgeous foliage and an easy going disposition. They thrive in shady spots, and — if you’re very lucky — will even sprout lovely white flowers.
Dracaena fragrans (Picture: Patch)
How should you care for your plants in a dark flat?
When you pick the perfect plant for you, be aware that it still needs some light, love and care.
Freddie adds: ‘The closer you put the plant to the window, the more light it will get – so you can always put shade lovers at the back of the room and sun lovers by the windows.’
‘If your plant is drooping, growing pale leaves, or shedding leaves altogether it may need more light. Move it to a bright spot and give the leaves a wipe to get rid of any dust (and maybe clean your windows while you’re at it to let in more light).’
Plants can suffer from having too much sun too – they could have soil that is baked dry and their leaves may be crisp, bleached, or have brown spots or tips.
If you spot those signs, don’t suddenly move them away from the sunlight altogether – they may just need the sunlight to be a little less direct.
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