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Using Plants to Enhance Your Living Space

With the Fall just around the corner and Winter not completely out of your mind, you may want to think about how you can make your indoor space a little more like your outdoor space.

Houseplants are a great way to make your home cheerier, more colourful and healthier (particularly if the plants you select cut down on air pollutants, as philodendrons, peace lilies and Chinese evergreens are said to do). Flowering plants in particular can help you maintain the feel of summer all year round indoors -- even when outside temperatures plummets to sub-zero temperatures.

Plants are also a relatively inexpensive way to decorate and can help fill in difficult gaps and camouflage certain items, like radiators, or awkward, unusual areas where nothing else seems to fit. Conversely, plants can be used to highlight special areas of your home, like alcoves, large windows and landings. They can even be placed along the sides of stairs for a dramatic effect (this idea might not work as well if you have children or pets!).

A finished, heated solarium is the perfect place in which to create a tropical oasis -- even in the dead of winter. Almost any plant will thrive in this type of atmosphere and, with some wicker furniture and colourful cushions; you can create a special, tropical oasis in which to escape the harsh realities of winter.

If you already have a number of houseplants and merely want to augment your existing stock, take a good look at what you’ve got and what seems to thrive under certain conditions. Consider light factors, humidity levels and heat. Some plants love low light conditions, while others need a certain amount of direct daily sunlight.

If you're starting from scratch, think carefully about areas of your home where you'd like to put plants. If they seem totally impractical because of light conditions -- or simply too hard to reach for regular maintenance -- consider some artificial greenery as a viable alternative. Today's silk plants look so authentic; most people have to touch them to see if they're real or not. If you choose this route, shop around and compare prices.

A tree or grouping of tall plants can also serve as an attractive and effective room divider. For example, a ficus tree or group of peace lilies can look particularly appealing.

When choosing plants, look for colours, textures and shapes that appeal to you, and then check with the garden store to see what types of conditions these plants prefer. Many plants come with small cards, which describe the amount of light, water and fertilizer required.

When purchasing your plants, check the leaves for any signs of damage or insects. May shops carry guarantees with their plants, so hang onto your sales receipt. If you see roots shooting out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the plant pot, it's a good idea to transplant the plant into a larger container with more soil.

Most plant varieties require watering but the amount differs according to the individual plant's needs: cacti will require far less water, for example, than a philodendron and too much water can be as bad as too little.

Fertilizing can also give plants a boost. Check with your local gardening centre or consult a book to see what experts recommend. Be sure not to overdose your plants with fertilizer: as with water, too much is as bad as too little.

And, if you have little time to spend on your plants, ensure that the varieties you pick are low maintenance.

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