Create a bit of happiness at your front door with these tips from BAFM Contributor Renee from About The Garden Magazine.
I adore a lush pot plant situated at the front door, it always makes me smile. However, my many attempts to create a similar oasis have been a dismal failure. But I know why I fail, I simply forget to water. It’ s that old saying ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, being situated at the front door puts the pot plant at a disadvantage, I cannot see it when I’m watering my vegetable garden so it gets forgotten.
This year I decided to have another attempt and try a few things I had previously neglected to consider as ‘important’ factors to success;
1. Plant selection. I had previously opted for lush looking indoor plants as the front door spot is covered and shaded for most of the day. These plants require frequent watering, in Summer at least daily. Not the right choice given my neglectful watering practices. So I went and spoke with a horticulturalist, and believe it or not, there are plants that actually do quite well with very little love; succulents, some bromeliads, aloe and silbersee. I opted for silbersee (Sansevieria trifasciata), this plant has lovely lush silver-grey foliage which will clump and grow to approximately 50cm in height, perfect colour and contrasting with my beige walls and red door. Best of all silbersee likes a full sun to part shade location, likes a well drained soil and tolerates periods of dry (perfect!).
2. Pot selection. Bigger is better when it comes to pots. I’ll be honest and admit that previously I’d tried to cheap out on the pot by going for something small. Big glazed pots always seem a bit expensive, however, they hold far more potting mix and this gives them a much higher moisture holding capacity, which means less watering. Avoid terracotta pots if possible, unless you are willing to seal them with a pot sealer spray or paint as they dry out quickly. I selected a glazed pot that was approximately 45cm diameter x 60cm high.
3. Potting Mix. It’s true, there is a significant difference in quality from a $4 bag of potting mix to a more expensive bag worth anything from $10-$15. Don’t cheap out, you will only end up spending more on fertilisers, composts and plant foods to boost the potting mix quality and improve the water holding capacity.I really like using Searles Premium Potting Mix, it is well priced and has SO MUCH added to the mix, including water crystals for water retention.
Here are my steps for potting up:
Step 1: Filling the pot
The secret with potting up is not to fill the empty pot all the way to the top, you will only end up making a mess as you move potting mix around to fit the plant in. Instead, fill your pot to approximately 3/4 full or alternatively the depth of the plant ‘root ball’ (the height of the plastic pot the plant comes in from the nursery) with sufficient room for mulch, in this case pebbles.
Step 2: Planting
The first thing you need to do when planting is remove the plant from the plastic nursery pot. Whilst silbersee (Sansevieria trifasciata) is a really hardy plant, it is easy to damage more delicate plants during this process. It’s a good idea to just get into the habit of gently squeezing the outside of the plastic pot to loosen the soil and roots, if roots are sticking out the bottom of the pot give the base a good tap. Once this is complete, gently ease the plant out of the pot holding plant at the base, never from the stem or foliage. It’s a good idea to ‘tease’ the root ball, especially the bottom, before planting into the pot. Just stick your fingers in and wiggle the soil and roots around.
Once the roots are teased out, position plant in the desired location in the pot, then top up with potting mix so that the root ball is covered with soil. Gently pat the potting mix down to assist in positioning the plant.
Step 3: Mulching
Mulching is important as it assists with water retention. I’m a big fan of sugar cane mulch in my vegetable garden, but as this was a front door feature I opted for beautiful glossy black pebbles to contrast with the red pot. When using pebbles as a mulch remember that they are heavier then bark or sugar cane mulch and can add a lot of weight to the pot. Refrain from over filling, 0.5cm to 1cm thickness is more then enough.
Once you’ve finished mulching, give your new pot plant a BIG drink, you should see water running out the bottom of the pot.
Now the big question, how often do you need to water the silbersee (Sansevieria trifasciata)?
Would you believe, I’ve had my little green oasis for almost 12 months now and in that time I have remembered to water about 5 times! Best of all the plant is looking great, it’s actually clumping and growing new foliage. The potting mix has dropped a little in the pot, but it’s usually good practice to repot your pot plants every 12-24 months anyway.
So to all you black thumbs out there…… it is possible!