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An easy way to brighten up your home

One of the easiest ways to brighten up and decorate gardens or interior spaces is by adding houseplants. They’re also cheap and hardy. They literally breathe life into any room they’re in and if designed properly, can transform an empty space into a majestic realm.

Houseplants come in an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and even colours, and it doesn’t take a person much imagination to decorate a given area quickly using houseplants.

Interesting specimens can make dramatic focal points in the patio or sitting area while bigger varieties fill in the corners or background wonderfully. The dark pastel colours of the leaves and bark are the interior decorator’s dream, while landscapers have an affinity for all species of palms. You can use plants to match colour schemes, furnishing, or certain styles in the home or you can use them to hide unsightly elements like your garbage chute.

Houseplants have been used for therapeutic purposes, for decoration, or simply to set a certain mood in any location.

Because houseplants are cheap and so inviting, they encourage impulse buying. How many times have you come across a regal looking plant and thought how nice it would look beside your settee? Or you saw an unusual flowering species and you just had to have it on top of your dining table for the scheduled party? Or you fancied a tiny bonsai tree, imaging how it would sit on your study table?

But more often than not, people mistake houseplants for furniture. Once again, remember that houseplants are living organisms that breathe and grow and propagate (reproduce). They need food and care. And if possible, they need somebody to talk to them. English, Malay, Mandarin, whatever. I’m not kidding! It’s not the language that matters. It is simply a way to train yourself to treat plants as living things.

If your plant starts to wither from improper care, don’t get frustrated as if it’s a car that won’t start or a computer that crashed. Chances are the solution is simply a little patience in understanding the needs of your plant.

For starters, you need to consider a plant’s three basic needs – how much sun it requires, how much water, and the right pot for it.

For lighting needs, here’s an easy tip. Pay attention to the lighting conditions at the place where you’re buying a particular plant. Now just replicate those conditions. For example, if you’re shopping at a nursery and saw a plant displayed in a shady and cool area, chances are it’s a shade-loving plant. Conversely, a plant displayed in full sunlight will grow sickly in the shade.

At home, give thought to the location you intend to place the plant. Is the area facing east? Does it get very hot and bright in the afternoon? Is there strong artificial lighting? Does the artificial light generate too much heat? Match the correct plant to the correct location and you’ll save yourself a ton of frustration and trouble.

Watering is an issue that, surprisingly, the most educated of Malaysians can’t seem to demystify. Over watering is still the biggest cause of plants dying. Here’s a rule of thumb – water a plant only when the topsoil in the pot is dry to the touch. For location ideas, it is generally prudent to place the plants within easy reach. For hanging baskets or places high above reach, choose plants that can go without water for a few days.

For special occasions, you can deck all areas of a room with plants, aiming for maximum display effect, but remember to return the plants to more suitable locations after the party.

Another thing to remember is not to shortchange yourself when you buy plants. Go to a reputable garden centre or nursery, instead of looking for bargain plants that are normally force-fed artificial growth stimulants. Talk to gardeners or growers who know about plants and can share with you invaluable tips.

At the end of the day, as much pleasure as the plants give you, remember that the plants need to enjoy themselves as well with the right care.

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