By William Mills
Closed doors and windows prevent movement of fresh air. An open fire was the traditional method of circulating room air, and certain houseplants will help clean the air.
NASA commissioned a survey of plants which help purify the air in space stations by producing oxygen from CO2 and absorbing harmful chemicals such as benzene. The list includes Chrysanthemums, Peace Ivy and the Spider plant.
The advantages of Dracena, of which there are over 80 varieties, is they are tolerant of lower lighting levels and don’t grow too big if space is at a premium. They are often used in offices and love warmed filtered water.
Be cautious of buying from large retailers which may have transported plants in refrigerated lorries along with the rest of their produce.
Autumn is the time to take indoors more delicate plants which will not survive frost. Although if an outside patio plant is established and it seems a shame to move it, some protection can be given by surrounding the pot in bubble wrap.
However once the night-time temperature falls below 4c it’s safer to bring house plants indoors for the winter. The first change it faces is the drop in light. Already the shorter days bring less light so a draft free spot giving access to direct daylight will be appreciated.
The main difference they face is the change in moisture. Central heating is often cited as a cause of plant failure, but we need to heat our homes! All to often plant pots are watered, but the leaves wilt so the pot is watered some more leaving it waterlogged which in turn causes the root base to rot.
Outside there is usually a heavy dew, particularly in autumn which immerses plants in moisture all night long until the sun burns it off the following day. In early September I brought a citrus tree inside my kitchen for three days. There was no heating and it’s the most damp indoor environment, yet its leaves started shrivelling up due to lack of water, or rather lack of dew.
Plants need misting every night and maybe in the early morning too, just as they would get outside in nature. Also try placing a plastic cup filled with water on top of the roots to help humidify the air.