Indoor gardening? Just Add Flowers | gardening tips

IIt is fascinating to note that in recent years the cultures of indoor and outdoor gardening have evolved in different directions, not only in terms of aesthetics, but also in horticultural practice. As a new generation takes up gardening, inspired by the recreation of indoor paradises on Instagram, many traditions of outdoor gardening are being circumvented, leading to a kind of parallel horticulture. That diversity is part of the fun, but there are approaches one side can learn from the other – and two big tips indoor growers can take from those outdoors.

One of the biggest trends you see on social media is the collection of dozens of plants, all in individual pots, taken against the obligatory white industrial wall. I can only imagine this is because houseplant collections tend to start with one or two cautious specimens, and quickly spiral out of control when the horticultural insect stings. But there are downsides to this. Small pots have a higher surface area to volume ratio, so they dry out much faster. This means more watering effort and a much higher risk of plant failure. Then there’s the nightmare of dusting and cleaning the nooks and crannies between containers and, let’s face it, the cost of all those individual pots can add up.

Simply grouping plants together in larger containers, such as planters, not only means they’ll be easier to care for, but they’ll create naturalistic communities, like miniature garden borders all their own. This creates a less cluttered look and will ultimately save you money as one or two large pots are usually less expensive than lots of small ones. Finally, if one of your collections fails, in the community plantings other residents will quickly fill the space, so you will hardly notice it.

The second thing is not to forget the flowers. I think Western outdoor garden design can be too reliant on masses of floral color for interest – to me, it’s the horticultural equivalent of throwing lots of salt and sugar into any recipe. But in the world of indoor gardening, there’s such a trend for foliage right now that flowers are almost forgotten. Yet even amidst a jungle of giant leaves and architectural forms, a few floral accents add complexity, catching the eye and enticing the viewer to pause to examine more subtle details.

I am currently in love with the Vietnamese violet chirita tamiana. This is a more elegant and wild looking African violet that produces endless successions of white flowers with delicately painted purple throats. Smaller orchids, like paphiopedilums and dwarf phalaenopsis, will burst a flower from an undergrowth of tropical leaves when you least expect it. Jewel orchids, such as macodes and ludisia, are the best of both worlds. Their amazing leaves seem to be embroidered with gold thread, and then from time to time they will shed a spike of tiny white flowers. Indoor gardeners shouldn’t miss out on some outdoor joys.

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