How to keep house plants alive in a dark flat

Is your succulent not quite so succulent? Is your fern is shedding leaves faster than you can say ‘millennial stereotype’?

We love plants – but keeping them alive in a dark and cramped city flat is quite far removed from the features in glossy magazines.

How can you become a gardener with a balcony, tiny patio or when you’re 17 floors up in a tower block with windows you can’t open?

Let’s start with house plants. No matter how limited your outside space is you can grow a few house plants and they can live all year round.

If you aren’t lucky enough to have floor to ceiling windows, you’ll probably struggle with light. But there are lots that can grow even in the darkest basement flats.

Freddie Blackett, Co-Founder of plant delivery service Patch, explains: ‘One of the most common questions we get asked is how much light house plants should be getting.

‘The really short answer is that all plants need some natural sunlight to survive and thrive, but the level of light depends on the plant.

‘It’s important to think of its natural habitat, is the plant accustomed to bright light or more shadowy settings.’

How do you know how much light there is in your house?

Firstly, you need to figure out which direction the windows face – use the compass on your phone to get an idea.

Freddie adds: ‘Because we’re in the Northern Hemisphere, South-facing will get the most light each day whereas North-facing windows get significantly less.

‘East and West facing windows fall somewhere in the middle. Remember to turn off the lights to get a measure for how the natural light fills the room, as house plants can’t feed off light bulbs.’

Once you know what direction you are facing, you can figure out a little more about how much light your plants will get.

If you look out the window at the buildings around you, you can estimate how much of the day you will be in the shadow of another building as the sun will move East to West over the course of the day.

Buildings that are higher up will of course get more light than basement or ground floor flats that sit in the shadows on built up streets.

What plants should you choose?

After figuring out how much light your flat or house actually gets every day, you can choose plants that suit different light levels.

Avoid aloe vera, ficus plants, hibiscus Meyer’s lemon and polka-dot plants as they all need higher levels of light.

If you do want plants that need lots of light, place them in the window that gets the most light during the day.

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