3 November 2022

How to achieve happier, healthier plants – and people

| Dione David
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deflated office plants

Dead plants depress indoor spaces and hinder the potential health benefits of greenery. Photo: Region Media.

Nothing lifts a room like the lush leaves of a healthy plant.

Conversely, nothing depresses a space like the sad foliage of a sickly one.

Tempting as it is to credit plant growing successes to a green thumb or blame failures on a black one, Instyle Indoor Plant Hire general manager Aaron Woods says a plant’s outlook is decided only by the governing laws of the plant world.

“Light, water, food, upkeep [pruning and dusting] and pest and disease management,” he says.

“But first, you must pick the right plant for each location.”

An ailing plant is never stylish, so unless the light and size of your space are suitable for the large, bullate leaves of that fiddle leaf fig you’ve been eyeballing, consider which plants will thrive under your conditions.

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From soil preferences to humidity levels, plants can be particular, but Aaron reckons the need most people struggle with is one of the most fundamental – water.

“In terms of water, most people will either love their plant too much or neglect it,” he says.

“Particularly if the soil lacks adequate drainage and the roots are left to sit in water for prolonged periods, this can make the plant susceptible to disease and root rot.”

Aaron says aside from having a reservoir or wicking system to give a plant “free drainage”, the rule of thumb is to give your plants a small amount weekly or a large amount fortnightly.

“You should not be watering twice a week,” he says.

“Of course this can all vary depending on the location and variety of the plant and the season.”

The next key factor is fertilisation.

Instyle Indoor Plant Hire General Manager Aaron Woods

Instyle Indoor Plant Hire general manager Aaron Woods. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Aaron says there is sometimes a misconception plants derive most of their food from photosynthesis.

In reality, plants absorb far more of their necessary elements from soil.

While plants in the wild can count on nature to replenish these nutrients, indoor plants require fertilisers.

“Every living thing needs fuel, and most indoor plants need to be fed every three weeks during growing periods of spring and summer,” Aaron says.

“Soluble fertilisers are great for a quick-release feed, or you can put in a slow-release fertiliser and that’ll last two to three months.”

While most plants can survive without pruning, upkeep is required to encourage healthy new growth and keep things looking optimal.

“Depending on your plant species, you’re pruning for shape, size and growth,” Aaron says.

“If you have spent flowers or leaves or stems that are dying or in decline, cut them off so those nutrients are distributed towards encouraging new, healthy growth rather than wasted on dying growth.”

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Indoor plants also require frequent dusting; build-up can inhibit their ability to photosynthesise.

But you still might find yourself contending with yellowing or browning leaves.

It might be disease or a pest gorging on the fruits of your labour such as scale, mealy bug or spider mites.

Aaron says treatments range from good old-fashioned soap and water to pesticides, poisons and oils. The most effective treatment depends on the mechanics of the pest or disease.

“Scale, for example, is a sap-sucking insect with a hard shell. It actually breathes through its skin so you have to smother it using oil,” he says.

“For spider mites, it’s best to use a systemic insecticide and follow up with a contact spray, such as pyrethrum.

“Pyrethrum should generally be relegated to indoor use. Although a natural alternative to harsh chemicals, it can lead to unintended consequences when used outdoors – such as killing bees.”

Instyle Indoor Plant Hire General Manager Aaron Woods

Aaron surveys the impressive atrium at Rydges Canberra where Instyle Indoor Plant Hire technicians correct water levels, prune, dust, rotate, polish leaves and troubleshoot pests and diseases to keep plants optimal. Photo: Liv Cameron.

Given the sheer number of issues, it’s easy to see why Instyle Indoor Plant Hire is making a difference across Canberra. Offering free installation, its monthly fee includes expert upkeep and replacement of problematic plants.

“Our clients tell us people comment all the time on how transformative it can be to introduce healthy greenery to an indoor space,” Aaron says.

“It’s been proven plants make people happier and healthier.”

Contact Instyle Indoor Plant Hire for a free consultation and quote.

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