Caring for house plants and exotics
It seems that everywhere has been invaded by hordes of exotic plants and succulents. While the ‘#urbanjungle’ hashtag has become ubiquitous with social media, there’s one special place in Devon that started embracing this trend over 100 years before Instagram. Overbeck’s has been home to plants from all corners of the globe since the 19th century.
Why does Overbeck’s have so many exotic plants?
Overbeck’s has a long history of growing plants that you wouldn’t expect to find in the UK. Back in the early 1900s, there were even banana trees planted outside and more impressively, fruiting. This is all thanks to Salcombe’s microclimate means which creates particularly mild winters. This means the garden team can overwinter many plants outdoors that would die in other parts of the of the UK.
The secret to overwintering outdoors
The garden team overwinter many exotics and succulents outdoors but they always have a backup. Chris Groves, Head Gardener at Overbeck’s, recommends propagating extra plants and keeping these indoors or in a greenhouse. 'While we try to overwinter as many plants outdoors as possible, we always propagate some backup plants that are stored indoors. This way all is not lost if a particularly bitter winter takes its toll.'
If you’re interested in moving warm-weather plants outdoors, Chris suggests opting for tender geraniums or citrus 'Limes, lemons and oranges are a great place to start. The advantage is you can keep small plants potted. Take them out into your garden over the summer, and if come winter the forecast predicts a particularly chilly period, you can pop them inside. If you want to start planting succulents outdoors, then houseleeks (Sempervivum) are particularly hardy and make a good place to start.'
Getting started with exotics and succulents indoors
If you’re new to plant care and looking to take your first steps into the ‘urban jungle’ trend, Chris says start with cacti and shade-loving jungle plants such as ferns and palms.
'You can’t really go wrong with a cactus indoors, the only mistake people tend to make is overwatering them. Keep cacti on a sunny windowsill, and water in the summer once a week, but only if when you dip your finger into the compost it feels completely dry. In the winter, they’ll only need an occasional water as the plants will survive off of their natural reservoir, stored inside their fleshy stems.'
Jungle plants thrive in shady and humid environments. Remember, they originate from the jungle floor where the canopy blocks out most of the light. So, a great place to keep these kinds of plants is the bathroom or kitchen. Chris’ top tip for keeping jungle plants in other parts of the home is to invest in a mister 'These inexpensive spray bottles allow you to spritz the leaves of the plants creating an environment more like the jungles and rainforests where they evolved.
Saving a poorly houseplant
Sometimes even the hardiest of houseplants can begin to look sorry for themselves. Chris says this can usually be broken down to two possible causes: water, either too much or too little, or it’s down to poor placement in the home.
'Singed tips or scorch marks on a plant are a telltale sign of too much sun. While lots of plants flourish with plenty of light, very few, apart from cacti, like intense bright light all day. If you see any of these signs move your plants away from any windows. On the other hand, yellowing or dropping of the leaves often means a plant is not getting enough light.' He adds 'Avoid keeping any plants near a radiator. While central heating keeps us warm it creates a very dry heat which not many plants enjoy.'
The symptoms of over and under watering are very similar in many plants 'Drooping is a common sign. Again, stick your finger a few inches into the compost, if it’s bone dry the plant probably isn’t getting enough water, if it feels moist it may be too much.' The wilted and dead leaves of plants that are getting too much water may feel limp and damp, whereas dehydrated plants will have fallen leaves that feel dry and crispy.
After a year or two in the same pot, a plant may have used up all the nutrients and will benefit from being planted in a slightly bigger pot with fresh compost.