Doesn’t like wet feet ( A guide to growing indoor plants in Finland)

People often tell me they can’t keep plants alive, but it’s really not too hard. Like children and pets they do need a bit of attention now and then to keep them healthy and sustained but seriously, anyone can do it.

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When moving to a new climate it does take a bit of learning about what plants do best and it helps to know a few basic steps on how to care for them. Here’s my beginners guide to keeping your apartment looking green in Finland.

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Look for Clues

In homes and offices, as well as in plant shops, you’ll start to notice the same kinds of plants over and over again. This is a good way to ascertain what grows well here and also the time of year it becomes available.

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This plant is really common here in Finland and is growing well in a bedroom with only two small windows. As winter approaches you’ll need to find plants that survive well with very little light so take clues from those you see doing well around you.

Move it, move it

This plant has been hanging near a window in our bedroom, up against the glass.

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He was sagging and drooping like limp wet washing until I moved him last week, just around the corner and out of direct sunlight. He immediately sprung to attention like some crazy guy looking for a party and so here he will stay. Take hints from your plants and if they’re not happy, try moving them. Mix up things like direct sun, shade, window positions and shelter.

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This guy is very happy in his usual window spot but I may move him in winter

Lest we Forget

My favourite kind of plants (after palms) are succulents and cacti – and you don’t need to overlook them in Finland. We don’t have the same kind of heatwaves but we do live in a cold, dry climate – much like a desert in winter.

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If you think about it, cacti can withstand cold temperatures. Just don’t over water them when it’s cold and remember they don’t like wet feet (who does?) so put them in cactus soil that drains water away. With good heating and triple-glazed windows, Helsinki apartments are warm over winter so bring your cacti indoors during the colder months.

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Invest in your babies

I paid 80 euro for this huge monstera, which is a good incentive for me to keep it alive.

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You also need to invest your time – but I don’t mean loads of it. I take a glass of water to bed every night and hardly ever drink it, so in the morning I tip it on to a different plant each day. That’s it. A regular little drink to the one who looks like they most need it tends to keep everyone happy.

Read the signs

When you buy plants they tend to come with a plastic sign with some basic care instructions on the back. Does it like sun, shade, direct light? How often should it be watered? Sometimes that’s all you need to know to keep your plant alive.

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‘Tis the season

Don’t be afraid to buy something just for winter. These heathers do really well in Finland and survive even in snow.

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You can also buy small trees in pots that will survive the cold. I used to buy plants for life (mine). Now I buy them for the plant’s life, doing my best to keep them going over winter but adapting to new varieties if they don’t make it through.

Keep trying

I’ve yet to master growing something really well in these glass bulbs but will persevere because I really like them.

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The trick is they need just a little water and often, because the water drips straight out. A spray bottle is a good way to wet them and my monstera loves a spray on his trunk so he gets one too on the way past.

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So, there you have it. You can grow plants and you can do it well – and it has nothing to do with luck. With just a little bit of loving they’ll keep you happy and healthy all year round, just as you do for them. (Otherwise – faking it is also okay).

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Winter love in late summer

On a recent trip to Malta I felt so happy seeing the wildly spilling bougainvillea and rows of prickly pears.  I had forgotten how much I love being around plants and I had the same feeling yesterday at Helsinki’s Winter Garden.

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It’s funny to visit the Winter Gardens when we are having a lovely late summer, but it was well worth a visit to the stunning glasshouses.

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Built in 1893, the gardens were recently renovated and are home to over 200 plants.

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To my delight there is a room dedicated to succulents and cacti, many of which are currently in bloom.

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I just love these plants, they really make my heart sing. I felt so happy wandering around and would love to have some of them growing at home.

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There is also a display of puppets on at the moment, which gives the place a really magical feel.

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In another wing there are beautiful palms and tables set out where you can sit and read or enjoy a picnic with friends.

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Outside there is a beautiful rose garden with views across Töölönlahti.

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I look forward to returning in winter when Helsinki is no longer so green and keeping warm amongst the plants. There’s enough there to warm even the prickliest of hearts.

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Helsinki’s Winter Gardens (Talvipuutarha) are at Hammarskjöldintie 1 & entry is free.