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Aralia plant kept on office table

Beginner’s guide for buying outdoor & indoor plants

What do you do when you are a self-confessed-clueless person around plants, who has made up his or her mind to finally bring home some for your outdoor or indoor plants?

I bet most people will make a weekend drive to the nearest plants nursery and announce that ‘I want to buy some plants for my house which look good, easy to maintain and difficult to kill, could you show me some, please?’.

PRO ADVICE FOR BUYING PLANTS

Unfortunately this approach is not the most effective way of buying nursery plants (unless you are an experienced gardener) as you are totally dependent on skill level of the salesperson assisting you. With all due respects to nursery salespersons, they are undoubtedly knowledgeable about plants, but usually they lack design knowledge for an urban setting.

So being a person who has spent good part of last 7 years of running a plants nursery and designing green spaces for small residential spaces for clients based in urban cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi, here is my ‘Beginner’s guide to buying nursery plants’.

 

Plants for Bathroom

 (Lucky bamboo plant kept in bathroom)

Select proper location for your plants

Firstly, instead of straightaway heading to a plants nursery for buying outdoor or indoor plants, I suggest that you start by identifying the target areas in and around your house. Places for your indoor plants can be like window sill, side table, working table, bathroom counter, bookshelves, kitchen counter, staircases, main entrance, lift lobby, or even the space above the toilet flush tank. Place for the outdoor plants are like balcony or terraces. When selecting indoor plants, always remember that most plants love areas which get good natural light and but won’t do so well under direct flow of AC’s or fan air which tends to dry out their leaves.

Seeking design décor inspiration

Next step is to seek some visual inspiration. For this I suggest that you go to Pinterest or Instagram and look up search words like indoor plants, home garden, flowering plants, etc. This will not only give ideas on how to pair the simplest of household stuff like books, fruit bowl, trays with a plants, but will also help in understanding the shape, size and form of the plant that you should be selecting.

Cement planter on the window sill with succulent

(Cement planter on the window sill with succulent)

 

Cement planter on book shelf with pothos plant

(Cement planter on book shelf with pothos plant)

Selecting the right pot or planter

Now that you have got the look figured out, the next step is to think about what kind of Planter or Pot you will want to select. Gone are the days when only earthen pots or cheap plastic nursery pots were available. Nowadays there are so many different materials to choose from, right from brightly coloured plastic pots, to fabric bags, fibre planters, ceramic and cement pots, that often the problem becomes of too many choices. I’ve mentioned cement planters at the end because they are the hottest and latest trend and look super cute when paired with a small indoor plants like money-plant, aralia, pothos or succulents.

You must also try to mix and match different sizes of pots planters in a group or give different height by using metal stands.  In case you have limited space on floor, you can get ‘airborne’ by getting a hanging planter or a balcony railing planter?

Ceramic pot on a metal stand containing Raphis palm

(Ceramic pot on a metal stand containing Raphis palm)

Selecting the best outdoor or indoor plant

Getting on to the final challenge i.e. selecting the plant, technically there are tons of outdoor or indoor plant options which are further dependent on equally large number of selection criterias. But for sake of simplicity, I am going to mention only the most important factors, which are sunlight, temperature and moisture levels. One more thing that I have noticed is that first time buyers at a plant nursery tend to focus only on buying flowering plants. Don’t do that! You are missing out on so many options. Remember that non flowering plants can look equally beautiful with their green or multicoloured foliage.

To get you started, following is a list of outdoor, semi indoor and indoor plants which should be easy to maintain plants for beginners.

 

Group of succulent plants in a wooden tray

(Group of succulent plants in a wooden tray)

Typical indoor areas have low light levels, medium temperatures and dry air. So the indoor plants of choice are Money plant, Syngonium, Aralia, Lucky bamboo, Oxycardium, Pachira (money tree), etc.

Semi outdoor areas have medium levels of light, temperature and moisture, so you should choose from Philodendron varieties, Dracaena varieties, Raphis palm, Croton varieties, Song of India, Ferns, Succulents,  Peperomia etc.

Plants for full outdoor are Hibiscus, Ixora, Euphorbia milli, Roses, Ficus, Cycus and flowering seasonal plants etc. In cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai and Kolkata, because of the especially favourable weather, both semi outdoor and indoor plants can be kept outside without any problem.

A common question

One question that people frequently ask is – what to do if I like an outdoor plant, but want to place it indoor? The answer is simple – Not recommended, as the plant won’t get enough light to photosynthesize it’s food (i.e. chlorophyll) and it’s will gradually die! But there is a work around possible. If you can manage to shift the plant to outdoor in late evening when it’s cool and less bright ( say around 5 or 6 pm) and bring it back indoors the next morning (around 8 am) before it starts getting hot and bright, and you manage to do this once every 5-6 days, then you can keep an outdoor plant inside for an extended period. A word of caution, if you suddenly move a plant which was kept indoor for a while to a brightly lit and warmer outdoor, it can cause the plant to wilt and die because of sudden shock. The proper way to move indoor plant to outdoor location is to first shift it to outdoor location under shade where it is not immediately exposed to bright light and high temperature. Thereafter you can gradually move it to more exposed location.

Care instruction for plants

So now that you have got your plant, how do you ensure that it stays healthy? The basic answer is - by ensuring adequate sunlight and water. Most plants will start showing yellowed leaves if they are not getting enough sunlight. But regarding watering, there is no single rule. Different plants have different requirements. The best agency to guide you is the plant nursery where you purchased your plant from. But if still in doubt, just poke your finger into soil and water only if it feels dry to touch. More plants are lost by over-watering rather than lack of watering. You should also avoid giving RO filtered water to plants as it’s totally devoid of essential minerals. Water them using the regular tap water.

Conclusion

Finally, remember that most nursery plants are not that delicate that they cannot take little bit of neglect. If your plant is not doing well, then it can surely regenerate if conditions around it improve. But just in case it doesn’t survive, don’t give up or lose heart. Get a replacement and try again and in no time plants will love you back!

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