Kenya: Five Things They Don't Tell You About House Plants

opinion

Home stylists will never tire of pointing out just how important it is to have some live greenery in your space. '

'Bring the outdoors inside!' they will say. 'Allow them to uplift your mood!' 'Let them make your space look as good as they make you feel!'

They will write songs about houseplants, but there are some things they will not tell you about them. The unpleasant things. The off-putting ones. The ones that make you think twice about introducing them into your space.

Here are five of those things you need to know:

1. They are messy

Plants need to be watered at least once a week. Some plants need more water, more frequently, but they will all need to be watered at some point. Plant owners, especially the beginners, go gungho with the watering. You imagine that the thirstier a plant is; the more water it needs - so you pour bucketfuls instead of cupfuls.

The result is flooding and drowning: muddy water overflows the planter, down to the stand and all over your styled spaces. There will be a muddy puddle on the floor that will be evidence of your over-watering. I want to say it's an avoidable puddle but the mess, truly, isn't. Houseplants may also grow mould or fall sick--another mess to deal with.

2. They will die inside your house

All plants need sunlight - directly or indirectly - to thrive. Sunlight and water. They may get water inside your house, but they will very likely not get sufficient sunlight. You will notice this from your plant's stunted growth. And sad droopy mien.

Ultimately, because you genuinely love your plant, you will be forced to take it outdoors so it can get this much-needed basic need. Your houseplant will get sunlight in abundance. It will thrive. It will look its best. And because you love your plant and you are happy when it's happy, it will eventually make no sense for you to bring it back inside. So there goes your houseplant... outside.

3. They also require special nutrition

So you think that all you will do is water your houseplant, and it will grow into the plant it was destined to be, right? Wrong! Houseplants need extra nutrition; the same way you may sometimes supplement your diet with nutritional supplements. Fertilisers are a good option, but they are loaded with chemicals and make your plants grow unnaturally.

The better option is homemade plant food: a blend of eggshells and banana peels; a mix of baking soda and water; Epsom salts and water; ammonia and water. Feed your plants at least once a month. Oh, and while you are on that supplemental feeding, remember to wipe the leaves and sing them a song. You know, some tender loving care for your plant baby.

4. They are a small investment

You will not realise until you leave the floriculturist, and you have left behind thousands of shillings in exchange for your new houseplants. What no one ever told you is that the planters cost much more than the plant itself. (Planter, by the way, is the pot that holds the plant.) Ceramic and terracotta plants cost more than handcrafted clay planters.

A parent plant costs more than a baby plant. Floriculturists insist on selling you 'adolescent' plants because (a) you may not have the resources to care for a baby plant (b) parent plants will not give you the joy of seeing a plant grow. Doing the math then, an adolescent plant plus an eye-catching planter plus a basket to hold the planter in your home equates to a small investment.

5. They will break your heart

You will give your houseplant all the love and care and water and praise you believe it needs, but it may still die on you. This will break your heart. It will surprise you just how heartbroken you are because it is only just a houseplant, is it not?

Well, it is, but it is also a living thing you had under your care. One you had invited into your home. You gave to it, it gave back in return, you gave some more, but it didn't return in equal measure. So you feel a bit cheated that it would die on you before its time. The heartbreak would hurt the more if you had named your plant.

You could try to mend your broken heart with another houseplant. I strongly suggest you consider this option, or you could invest in a faux plant. Faux plants are made of plastic, and the only thing that will ever kill them is a fire. The only attention they require is to be wiped off the dust that will settle on their leaves and a planter. They cost much more but consider this the price of protecting your fragile heart.

fbett@ke.nati

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