CHENNAI: Looking at fresh green leaves, softly caressing colourful blooms, smelling the soil as the water seeps in — people with a green thumb can spend hours on end amid pots and planters. If you love plants and are looking for a hobby to fill these neverending quasi-lockdown days, gardening is a good option. If you are blessed with a balcony or a small backyard, all you need is some equipment and you are good to go. Chennai’s weather and water scarcity often hold people back from treading greener pastures.
Fret not. There are several varieties of plants that can thrive even in these conditions. “Typically, the hot and humid climate of Chennai is good for every house plant like money plant or monstera. If you keep these away from direct sunlight, they will grow well,” says Vinayak Garg, founder of Lazy Gardener. Plants such as snake plant, ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), aloe vera and syngonium are great to have, since they require less water and well-suited for this climate.
“It’s also advisable to grow local seasonal vegetables, since they anyway thrive well in that particular area,” he adds. Most people are familiar with growing new plants from seeds, but new plants can also be raised by cutting off a portion of an established plant. This ‘cutting’ is placed in an environment that encourages it to produce new roots and/ or stems, thus forming a new, independent plant. Cuttings can be made from any part of the plant, mostly stems or leaves. A stem cutting includes a piece of stem plus any attached leaves or buds. A leaf cutting uses just the leaf.
HERE ARE A FEW PLANTS THAT DO WELL IN CHENNAI
Opt for variants of philodendron like Philodendron selloum, split leaf philodendron, Xanadu, etc. This plant loves bright indirect light but can also tolerate medium to low light. Give the soil, which has to be light and porous, some time to dry out before watering.
Curry leaf plants are excellent balcony plants. They look beautiful and its leaves can be used for garnishing. They require direct sunlight and grow well under bright light conditions. Give the soil time to dry out before watering. Trim the plant when it gets leggy to promote new growth.
You can let money plants climb or put it in hanging planters. It can tolerate low light to bright indirect light. Give the soil time to dry before watering. You can also grow a new plant from cuttings.
Jade is a plant you can raise in hanging baskets or as a bonsai. It can grow through stem cuttings. It grows
well under direct sunlight. Give the soil time to dry out before watering.
GARDENING IN SMALL SPACES ON A BUDGET
Choose plants that are cheap, easy to care for, can be easily propagated and grow rapidly. Wandering Jew, purple hearts, turtle vine money plant and syngonium cost less than `50 and are easy to maintain. They love bright light and grow rapidly in hanging planters.
Hanging planters occupy less space and look pretty. You can make your bottle planter for water propagations with scrap glass/plastic bottles and twine. If you don’t have glass bottles, you can purchase the same from a scrap shop for `5 a piece. This is also an excellent way to recycle bottles.
Using planters as decor is the latest trend. You can use fruit crates as planters — available at any local fruit shop for not more than Rs 20 per piece.
Other budget-friendly, lowmaintenance plants that can instantly jazz up the decor are areca palm (Rs 100-Rs 150), songs of India (within Rs 50) , and crotons (Rs 100).
Bougainvillea is a climber plant that comes in various varieties. It adds a pop of colour to your balcony or even outside your gate. It can adjust to full sunlight or bright light conditions. It grows well in light, porous soil. You must fertilise the plant for better growth. Give the soil time to dry out before watering.
Aloe Vera is an easy plant to grow at home. It can survive in any condition — from full sunlight to indirect bright light conditions. Give the soil time to dry out before watering the plant. It starts growing aloe pups if it gets proper care. You can divide it and grow them as new plants.
Syngonium is an easy-growing vine that has many varieties. It grows well in porous, light soil. Give the soil time to dry out before watering; do not water excessively. The plant can survive in bright to low light conditions. You can also grow the plant through cuttings.
Marigolds can also add some colour to your balcony or backyard. All you have to do is sprinkle a few petals on the soil and see the magic unfold as it grows into a beautiful plant. This plant requires direct sunlight and flowers all around the year. Give the soil time to dry out before watering.
Many Indian households have tulsi. It requires direct sunlight. Give the soil time to dry out before watering. Make sure to trim the flowers so that the nutrients are received by the leaves and its taste remains intact. Give the plant a trim when it gets leggy to promote new growth.
If you want to grow vegetables on your balcony, then consider coriander, beans, spinach and okra in March. Make sure to plant them in a brightly lit area, give them proper nutrients, and water when the soil starts to get dry.