If any gardener knows about the usefulness of mulching the soil for garden plants, it is not often used for potted crops. And purely indoor plants under protected soil grow and very rarely. And yet this unique method can improve and maintain the substrate, not only for colorful potted plants and balcony flowers. Mulching plays the same role for houseplants as it does for garden plants. And is just as easy to apply. It is true that you must take much more care about choosing the right mulch and its quality.
Why mulch the soil for house plants?
Mulching the substrate for house plants became fashionable only recently. But those who not only grow houseplants, but also take care of the plants on their plot, have long known about all its advantages. A smaller mulching area does not change its essence in the slightest: It is still the easiest procedure in the care of any plant. But for indoor crops there are some special rules that are better to strictly follow.
Mulching is the most effective method of preserving the properties and stabilizing the characteristics of any soil. It protects plants from many negative factors:
- from loss of air permeability and conductivity of soil with time - compaction, changes in texture, which usually can be compensated only by loosening;
- overheating and overcooling of soil;
- from rapid evaporation of moisture;
- uneven water distribution;
- from formation of thick crust on soil surface.
For houseplants mulching has a few more "bonuses":
- increasing or equalizing air humidity (consistently moist materials eliminate the risk of keeping plants in too dry air by slowly evaporating moisture and playing the same role as humidifiers);
- protecting the substrate from dirt, plant debris, salt accumulation over time, keeping the soil clean and reducing the risk of disease transmission;
- reducing soil particles from adjacent surfaces, trays and window sills, including during watering.
But one of the most important functions of mulch for indoor plants is purely decorative. It creates a wonderful aesthetic background for plants, emphasizes the style of the interior, its colors, helps to add new notes in gardening and emphasizes the advantages of the plants themselves.
Whether the plants are big or small, in what soil and in what containers they grow, correctly chosen mulch only improves the conditions of their keeping.
Mulch the substrate and the trays
Unlike in the case of garden plants, it is not only the soil that can be mulched. Soil and plant remedies are conventionally divided into two categories:
- Mulching the substrate.
- Mulching (or lining) pallets.
The first is the usual mulching of the soil surface. The substrate is covered with a layer of mulch completely, over the entire area of the pot and as evenly as possible. The layer of "room" mulch should be much thinner than "garden" mulch. For room plants, pour a layer of fine mulch from 0.5 to 1 cm, but coarse mulch - from 1 to 1.5 cm.
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The thickness of the layer is determined by the effect of complete hiding of soil under mulch. If the materials are fine-grained, to protect the layer from erosion and mixing with the substrate, a fine mesh mesh should be placed under it.
Mulching trays - creating a layer of moist, slowly evaporating water on wide trays or trays that are placed under the plant so that the bottom of the pot does not touch water or wet mulch. This is the simplest version of humidifiers.
The plants can be placed on a special grid or left in a compact regular tray, placing it on top of a layer of mulch. Several types of materials can be mixed in one humidifier tray.
What can mulch for houseplants be?
Materials for mulching houseplants:
- sphagnum moss and other types of decorative mosses;
- small rubble;
- strackstone of various fractions;
- decorative stones;
- decorative stone chips and aquarium grounds;
- pine and other bark, chips of bark;
- large-fragmented coconut soil;
- perlite and agroperlite;
- decorative glass, shells and other natural or artificial, neutral in reaction fillers.
Experiment with such types of mulch such as coffee grounds, grass clippings, hay, the remains of tea brew, crushed egg shells, etc. should not be: they are as undesirable as mulch for indoor plants as for fertilizer.
Mulch types can be divided into mulch for moisture loving plants and those cultures that are afraid of overwatering. Drying and moisture-absorbing materials - sand, pebbles, expanded clay, vermiculite and perlite - are suitable even for succulents. But moss and stone chips, on the contrary, increase humidity and help to grow moisture-loving cultures.
Selection of mulch by plant species
Each indoor plant requires individual care, selection of conditions and substrate. And exactly on peculiarities of every separate kind of plant it's necessary to orient when searching the ideal kind of mulch.
Finding a suitable variant out of dozens available it's not difficult at all: it's enough to consider preferable reaction of soil and limit available materials by the list of additives which are used for substrate of plants or for creating drainage at the bottom of capacity. Crops that love acidic soil will grow well with a mulch of materials that will keep the pH stable or slightly acidify the soil. For crops that prefer calcareous soils, the possible options are limited to neutral inert or loosening additives and gravel that increases alkaline reactions.
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For example, for indoor hydrangeas and rhododendrons, and for camellias too, the best option for mulch - crushed pine needles or peat. All cacti grow better with a mulch of fine stone chips, pebbles or coarse sand. The same materials are best used to create a thin layer over the substrate around the rosettes of violets and all kinds of Thistles.
Decorative chips of coniferous bark, as well as agroperlite, vermiculite, expanded clay, coconut mulch will suit all kinds of indoor plants without special requirements to the soil, including for indoor climbers, pelargonium, hibiscus, fruit-bearing trees, ficuses, etc.
Before using any mulch, make sure it is safe, clean, disinfected, free of toxins, other harmful substances. And also exclude the creation of a water- and air-tight barrier (for example, some types of sisal and other natural materials can have this effect).
Simple rules of mulch care
Even in the garden, the mulch layer must be renewed periodically. For indoor plants this procedure is similar, but usually we are talking about simple small "corrections" at signs of loss of decorative characteristics or poor state of materials.
Mulch is completely removed and replaced either when replanting a plant or when it is heavily contaminated and destroyed.
If mulch is eroded or slightly settles with time, the substrate starts to peep through it, it is simply renewed, adding to the previous level and filling voids. If there are signs of debris accumulation or partial spreading of mold, loss of aesthetic and practical characteristics along the edge of the pot, the damaged fragments of mulch are carefully removed, laying in its place a new one.
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