How houseplants can make you feel like you are abroad

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How Houseplants Can Make You Feel Like You Are Abroad
You can transform any space with plants, no matter how big or small. Photo: alamy/PA
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By Hannah Stephenson, PA

If you’re planning a staycation this summer, there are ways to enjoy a taste of the tropics without any thoughts of getting on a plane.

So say houseplant enthusiasts and social media influencers Igor Josifovic-Kemper and Judith de Graaff of Urban Jungle Bloggers, offering inspiration and ideas to their 1.2m Instagram followers.

In partnership with The Joy Of Plants, an initiative from the Flower Council of Holland, they have come up with ideas as to how you can be transported to the Mediterranean, Morocco and even Japan by filling your home with plants commonly found in foreign climes.

Here Josifovic-Kemper and de Graaff answer all our questions about how to use houseplants to conjure up a holiday, and help your specimens thrive.

How big a space do you need?

You really can transform any space, no matter how big or small, as long as there’s room to sit, relax and embrace feeling good. It could be your living room or home office, or simply a bright corner of your kitchen or a balcony if you live in a flat. Just wherever you feel good and where you can relax like you would on holiday, surrounded by plants.

Are there rules for where you place your plants?

Plants love light and require it for photosynthesis. However, the amount of light they need to thrive is particular to each plant. For example, cacti and succulents generally love the bright sun on the windowsill.

Which plants are likely to give you least trouble?

Calathea zebrina, aloe, sansevieria, spider plants, pothos and peace lily.

How do you match your plants to your décor?

Find your plants some beautiful pots and baskets. Perhaps you could go for a handwoven basket that matches the colour palette and style of your interior. This may be custom-designed, a classic terracotta pot, a vintage planter, or you can even make your own ceramic pots at a workshop.

Which houseplants are trickier to grow?

Usually, plants that grow in very different native conditions such as high humidity can pose some challenges when growing them indoors. This includes alocasia, the banana palm and some philodendrons. Others such as the date palm require specific temperatures and lots of space to grow, which can also present challenges indoors.

Which houseplants prefer shadier conditions?

For shadier conditions we recommend the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), epipremnum, the Philodendron Brasil, as well as colocasia and azalea.

Which houseplants can be moved to a sunny patio or balcony and can be left out in summer?

As long as temperatures don’t drop too much (below 10-12°C) during the warmer months, plants like the banana palm, kentia palm, agaves, opuntia,  kalanchoe, crassula, haworthia and chamaerops palm can be kept outside at night.

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Some, like the palms and certain succulents, can even be kept outdoors all year long, but need to be protected from frost. Also ensure the soil and pot are well drained to prevent root rot due to heavy rainfall.

How can the plants be cared for when the weather cools?

Before bringing your plants inside, check them for pests that they picked up outside. Make sure you find them a spot in your home where they get a similar amount of daylight as on your balcony or patio.

Expect some leaf drop from the adjustment to new light conditions, which is normal, and help your plant by removing the dead leaves.

Avoid any extreme changes in temperature and don’t put your plants near or on top of the radiator, or next to a front door that opens frequently, as sudden hot and cold draughts can cause the plants stress.

When you bring your plants inside, or when you start heating your home again during the colder months, adjust your watering schedule. Most plants require less water during hibernation, but if your apartment is very dry, use a humidifier to keep your plants happy.

Also, foliage growth slows down considerably during autumn and winter so you can stop fertilising until spring.

Which houseplants will match your chosen destination?

Moroccan riad: Banana palm, papyrus plant, colocasia, Phoenix canariensis (date palm), bougainvillea, oleander, agave.

Mediterranean haven: Lavender, Opuntia cacti, eucalyptus, olive tree, any kind of citrus tree, Chamaerops palm.

Australian rainforest: Kentia palm, Schefflera actinophyla, umbrella tree, Epipremnum pinnatum, Alocasia brisbanensis, Hoya australis, Staghorn fern.

South African safari: Strelitzia nicolai, kalanchoe, Zamioculcas zamiifolia, string of pearls, crassula, Euphorbia ingens, haworthia, protea.

Japanese garden: Azalea, Japanese spindle, moss balls (kokedama), bonsai trees, a mini zen garden, Japanese painted fern.

Amazonian jungle: Philodendrons of all sorts including monsteras, Thaumatophyllum xanadu, Calathea Burle Marxii, Calathea ornata, Begonia maculata, orchids, airplants, heliconia, dieffenbachia.

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