WHETHER you have a villa or a flat, there are many places for different types of potted plants - small trees lining your entrance, flowering bougainvillea to shade a window or soften the look of your walls, or fragrant jasmine for your balcony.
Because a plant in a pot doesn't have the same advantages as one planted in the ground, it's essential to provide an environment that makes your plant feel at home.
When choosing your plants at the nursery, look at the leaves for signs of any infestation. Chances are that if some of the plants there have bugs or other parasites, the ones you bring home will too. White patches on the roots are a sign of fungal growth. Once a fungus has found its way into the soil, it won't be going away.
Once you've chosen your plants, you will need equal amounts potting soil, sand and some organic material such as coconut husks, which slowly break down, enriching the soil. Nurseries don't typically carry sand, but you can find it at a local brick and cement seller's shop.
Once everything is at your house, mix one teaspoon of bleach in 4 litres of room-temperature water. Wash out the insides of the pots to kill any fungus or parasites.
Because clean potting soil is not readily available in Cambodia, you will have to pasteurise it yourself to kill harmful organisms and weed seeds before they multiply and feed on your plant. You also need to pasteurise the coconut husks. I'll cover this in another column.
Next, mix one part soil, one part sand and one part thoroughly chopped coconut husks. For every 12 litres of mix, add 0.33 litres of Epsom salts, which can be found at most pharmacies, and a one-litre bag of fertiliser, which they'll have at the nursery. It's best to wear a dust mask.
Your pot needs to have some holes in the bottom, one or two centimetres in diameter, for drainage. Cover these with a light piece of cloth to keep dirt from seeping out.
Fill the bottom of the pot with enough soil mix so that there will be 5 to 10 centimetres between the top of the roots and the lip of the pot. Some people like to put down a layer of rocks or foam packing peanuts to give the pot more drainage, but this is unnecessary if the pot has drainage holes already.
Unwrap the roots of your plant and gently shake them out. Spray off the dirt and lightly wash with a mild detergent such as St Andrews Vegetable & Fruit Washing Liquid. Place the plant in the pot and add soil mix until its about 3 centimetres above the highest roots. Tamp it down with your hands until snug, not packed. Water thoroughly, refilling any spots that settle below the roots.
For a decorative effect, you can put a layer of rocks on top. This also keeps the earth from splashing around when the plant is watered. You can buy 20 kilogram bags of white rocks at the Central Market for $8.
Pot plates primarily keep excess water from running on your floor, and they help stop ants from building a nest in the pot. But they can also be hatcheries for mosquitoes.
In the city there are a few scattered plant shops, the best known being on the east side of the Central Market.
For a bigger selection, as well as larger plants, there are nurseries along every national road heading out of the city, usually between 1 and 5 kilometres outside the city limits.
There are many shops that specialize in pots and pot plates on Street 163 near Olympic Market.
Most shops will deliver your plants, pots and soil to your house, and even up the stairs to your flat.
If you have any questions about keeping your house in order, email Jet at [email protected]