How to find the perfect room for your indoor plant

Finding the right environment is essential for your indoor plants.

Few things are more disheartening than buying a plant only to watch it wilt and die because it’s getting too much sunlight. Or is it not enough? And how do you figure out the best place for a particular plant to flourish?

Colin Lewis has heaps of great gardening tips in his new book, Bonsai Basics. Here’s how to determine where your bonsai, and most common indoor plants, will flourish best.

Bright sunny rooms

Many modern homes have large picture-windows which allow in plenty of light. Windows that face the afternoon sun will also admit a lot of heat, the effect of which is amplified by the glass. Many species will suffer in these conditions, and should be kept away from the direct sun but close enough to the window to receive good light.   

Don’t keep your trees on the windowsill because at night the temperature close to the glass can fall dramatically, particularly in winter when the central heating is off. This constant extreme can be fatal to tropical and sub-tropical bonsai. Positioning trees some distance from the window will reduce the strength of the sunlight and broaden the range of species that you can grow successfully.

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Suitable species for a sunny room:

  • Bamboo
  • Bougainvillea
  • Chinese elm
  • Chinese yew
  • Jasmine orange
  • Lagerstroemia
  • Olive
  • Pistachio
  • Pomegranate
  • Privet
  • Serissa
A visual guide for the best placement in a dull room. Image: Bonsai Basics.

Dull rooms

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North- or east-facing rooms may appear quite dull, but in a position close to the window there will be sufficient light to keep several species perfectly happy.

One solution to the problem of low natural light is to install purpose-built artificial lighting for your bonsai collection. This is not as costly or impractical as it might at first seem.

Although there are a number of horticultural lighting systems on the market, ordinary blue-white fluorescent strip lighting provides the complete spectrum of light needed by most species, and is cheap to run. The drawback is that the light is of fairly low intensity. Ideally, the strips should be positioned 20-30cm (8-12 inches) from the foliage.

Use three strips, positioning two directly above the trees – one towards the front and another further back – and the third lower down, behind the trees. Keep the lights on for seven to 10 hours a day and rotate the trees through 90 degrees every few days to ensure that all parts receive adequate light.

The lights generate slight heat which can also benefit the trees, but the drying effect of this needs to be countered by regular spraying and extra vigilance when watering.

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Suitable species for a dull room:

  • Carmona
  • Cycad
  • Fig
  • Myrtle
  • Nandina
  • Sageretia

Bonsai Basics by Colin Lewis is available now from Hachette. Click here to find out more.  

Do you have trouble getting your indoor plants to thrive? 

Bonsai Basics by Colin Lewis, available from Hachette Australia.