Bathrooms, with their warm, humid atmosphere, make an ideal place to keep a houseplant. It will help to remove some of the moisture in the air and subsequently need less frequent watering – a win-win situation! However, there can often be limited surface and floor space. The solution is to hang the plants from the walls or ceiling.
Choosing a Container
The 1970s trend for macrame (knotted string) potholders has recently been revived. Still, there are also plenty of other more minimalist designs of hanging pots available that can attach to walls or ceilings. Outdoor hanging baskets, when lined sufficiently, are an inexpensive option that can hold several specimens in one container.
What to Plant
Refer to my Plant Files for examples of plants that will thrive in a bathroom’s microclimate – primarily all those that originate from jungle habitats. Avoid any spiky or scratchy plants, for obvious reasons!
As with standing pots, hanging containers can be either planted into directly or used to house a plant that’s in a plastic pot. Take into account the weight of the plant and compost when wet, and avoid using heavy pots. Likewise, make sure that the wires or string and wall or ceiling fittings are up to the job and can take the strain.
Repetition and symmetry always look good, so consider having two identical planters and plants, such as spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum) hanging either side of a window.
A Natural Screen
Use several long trailing plants, such as species of ivy (Hedera) or hearts on a string (Ceropegia woodii), suspended in a line at the same height to create a screen, perhaps in place of a window blind.
A Hanging Forest
Suspend a collection of plants from the ceiling. Hang them close together but at different heights, considering the heights and trailing habits of each plant, to display them to their best advantage.
Hedera helix Goldchild
This colourful evergreen climber will light up a partially shaded corner, even on dull winter days. Olive green, lobed leaves sport broad gold margins which reflect the light beautifully. Hedera helix ‘Goldchild’ is an attractive self-clinging climber, scaling walls and fences without the need for extra support. Perfect for creating a low maintenance, evergreen background for other shrubs and perennials. Height and spread: 3m (118″).
Grow ivy in any moist, well-drained garden soil in a sheltered position, in full sun or partial shade. Ivy will perform exceptionally well on alkaline soils, although plants are also tolerant of a wide range of different soil conditions.
Prune your ivy plants to fit the space available. Plants can be trimmed at any time, although spring is the best for renovation pruning before the new growth starts. Caution; irritant to skin and eyes, harmful if eaten.
It is usually easier to leave a hanging plant where it is for watering, but if taking it down, stand the pot on an upturned bucket or put it on the edge of a work surface so that the trailing stems are not broken by being pushed horizontally.
Water thoroughly as usual, but pour on very slowly with plenty of pauses, to allow the water to seep in and avoid potential overflow onto the floor.
Grow Nine-Piece Zinc Planter Set
This 9-piece set of zinc planters is perfect for fulfilling all of your planting needs.
It is suitable for a range of different uses, from planting flowers, herbs and small plants to storage or as a desktop stationery holder.
Suitable for indoor or outdoor use, these planters have been designed without drainage holes so that they don’t leak water.
These durable planters are made from galvanised zinc for both durability and strength.
Kokedama and String Gardens
The Japanese art of kokedama (literally meaning “Moss ball”) involves no pots at all. Instead, plants grow from a ball of clay and moss formed around the roots, which can then be placed on a surface or suspended from the ceiling. This technique looks most effective when used on groups of the same plant – a display style called a “string garden”.
What to Plant
Almost any plant can be planted in a kokedama, but some work better than others. For temporary, easy-to-create displays, use flowering bulbs such as snowdrops and species of Muscari. More permanent plantings could be made from most perennials (although avoid those with large, leaves that will wilt quickly) and traditional houseplants. Many string Gardens are made using tree seedlings, which are ideal, as they are slow-growing.
Kokedama from Bulbs
Temporary plantings of bulbs (bare of any soil) need only be wrapped in a good-sized ball of moss and string, then misted thoroughly before hanging.
Take the plant out of its pot and carefully put to one side. Fill the pot with two-thirds peat moss and one-third akadama (a specialist bonsai soil, available online).
Then, tip the mixture into a bowl and mix thoroughly with enough water to stick it together.
Crumble away the potting compost from the plant’s roots, then mould the kokedama mix around the roots, to form a ball.
Wrap the ball tightly in sphagnum moss (available in bags from garden centres and online) so that none of the soil mix is visible.
Use string to wrap the whole thing in a crisscross fashion. If the plant is to be hung up, add another long loop of string, carefully secured to the plant, so that the plant’s stem is at the top of the ball when suspended.
Check if a kokedama plant needs water by weighing it – the lighter it feels, the less water it contains. To water, take the plant down and submerge in a bucket of water for an hour, remove and let it finish dripping (hang it over the bath or sink) before returning it to its usual spot. A half measure of liquid fertiliser can be added to the water in spring and summer.
Supports and Training
Growing a climbing plant is a great way to fill your house with foliage without taking up a lot of floor space, as it grows from a single pot. They can be trained over archways, around windows, up a stairwell or around a conservatory. Provided they get the light and conditions they need, they can adapt to most situations. If you are looking for advice on the best tall indoor house plants, there are some suggestions below.
Training a Climbing Plant
It is always easier to put in the support system for a climber before the plant reaches the point at which it will need it, rather than trying to fiddle around supporting it after it has started to grow. The easiest way to create a training system is to use strong wires, stretched taught between eyelet screws and attached to a wall, staircase or the wooden trim of a conservatory.
If the plant is naturally twining, it will wind itself around the wire, and little intervention will be needed other than to tuck in a wayward stem here and there. Others will need regualer tying in. How often you will need to do so depends on the plant, but, in general, ties should be placed at intervals so that the stem is not bowing significantly below the wire.
Use soft horticultural twine to tie in the stems using a figure-of-eight tie. Loop the twine around the stem, cross over the ends and loop around the wire, always tying off against the wire rather than the stem. Avoid tying the twine too tight; you should allow a little space for the stem to grow in thickness. Check ties regularly and replace them as necessary.
Once a climbing plant reaches the end of the support system (eg it has grown all the way over an archway or doorway), the growing tips will need regular pruning to stop it growing any further.
Less vigorous climbers can also be trained over a trellis, obelisk or other wire structure that is secured within their pot. Try wiring two hanging baskets together and placing them in the top of a large pot. Train the plant (ivy, perhaps) around the structure to create a dome shape.
Supports for Tall Plants
Many tall palms and other plants will happily grow up without the need for supports, but others will need something to lean on. A bamboo cane is the cheapest and easiest option, and some plants will come supplied with a mossy pole in the pot (such as Monstera deliciosa, Swiss cheese plant), into which the plant can root and thereby pull itself up.
Alternatively, a small metal or wooden obelisk could be put in the pot for the plant to grow up and through.