Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

I have seen homes that look like botanical jokes and I have seen houses so banal all they need is a coffin to confirm their deaths.

The truth is that indoor plants, if used wisely and well taken care of, can do a house and its occupants loads of good. We like them for their distinct stand against everything about the house. They are also good for purifying the air inside the house. And house plants are favoured for their ability to liven up dull rooms.

Lizeka Ntintili, a sales assistant at the Schaffer's Nursery in Lyndhurst, says that while most nurseries tend to specialise in outdoor plants, some like hers carry a variety of plants for the indoors as well.

"Most people are growing a trend of buying these plants for more than just their patios and lounges. They are placed in the kitchens, the bathrooms and, yes, some corners of lounges, just not the way our aunts used to place them."

Also, indoor plants follow decor trends. The only good place for such old-styled plants as the fern and Aloe prinslooi these days is in the garden.

"You need to buy plants whose structure and appearance complement your furniture and decor design." If in doubt as to what plants to take home and how to place them, the places to take your cues from are local soapies and lifestyle television programmes.

"Upmarket furniture shops and pamphlets are also a good place to check," says television set designer Urma Kriel.

Further, there's a move towards Oriental plants and pots, you might consider, adds Kriel.

There are three things to consider when choosing indoor plants - choosing plants which are tolerant of variable conditions, giving them the optimum growing conditions your house will allow, and adopting simple strategies which will make it easy for you to maintain them.

Tips on how to maintain indoor plants:

l Overwatering is a common cause of plant mortality. It's worse than giving too little water to the plant. Most indoor plants need soil that's a little moist but not soggy. Don't let a plant stand in water or the roots might rot. Watering twice a week lets the plant dry out a bit before the next soaking.

l Put aside a one- or two-litre bottle of tap water just for your plant. Letting tap water sit allows it to reach room temperature and dry off the harmful chlorine from the water;

l If the pot has a drainage hole, use a drainage dish. Water won't collect at the bottom of the pot, and the dish will keep errant water from destroying your computer. If the pot doesn't have a drainage hole, put the plant in a plastic pot that fits inside the larger non-draining pot so the roots won't suffocate;

l Remove dead leaves and withered flowers and wash the dust off the leaves as the flower accumulates dust over time;

l Never throw cigarette butts, rubbish and toxic fluids like hot water, tea and alcohol into the pot plant;

l Always read the maintenance slip that comes with the plant, it has all the do's and don'ts for each plant.