Gardening: Don’t grow houseplants in peat experts warn – ‘serious’ issue

Peat: Expert discusses damage it can cause to houseplants

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Houseplants that you buy in shops are usually sold in pots full of peat. However, horticulturists have found that the use of this compost is unsustainable and harmful to the environment. What should you use instead?

Jane Perrone is a gardening journalist and host of the podcast On the Ledge, which offers tips and advice to listeners about indoor gardening.

Jane appeared on Sky News this morning to contribute to discussions around the subject of peat causing damage to houseplants.

Peat, sometimes known as turf, is a nutritious soil-like substance formed from decayed organic matter over time.

Despite horticulturists, including TV gardener Monty Don, already calling out the use of peat and warning against it, the compost is still used to grow houseplants.

Peat causes damage to the environment because it releases huge amounts of stored carbon dioxide when it is harvested, which contributes to greenhouse gas levels.

Peat mining is unsustainable as it grows back at just 1mm every year.

Horticulturists are encouraging plant lovers to buy houseplants grown in peat-free composts, but unfortunately these can be difficult to find in shops.

However, there are some alternative solutions to opt for, such as growing plants yourself from seed.

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Jane spoke about the use of peat on Sky News today and offered tips to viewers.

She said: “I think it’s a really serious issue that every part of horticulture needs to be engaged with.

“You don’t need to grow houseplants in peat – I grow all my houseplants in peat-free potting mix.”

Jane went on to explain: “It’s [peat] not necessary but unfortunately lots of the plants that we buy are still grown in peat.

“So, it’s a question of educating yourself about why peat is not a good thing to use as a medium for houseplants, from an environmental point of view, and looking at the alternatives.

“There are lots of alternatives.”

Jane mentioned that sustainability is not only about using peat-free compost – it has extended to things like “learning to propagate your own houseplants so you can swap with friends” and “growing houseplants from seed”.

The gardening expert also recommended buying pots from charity shops rather than buying new pots.

When buying pots, Jane advised cutting down on plastic by using terracotta pots.

“There’s lots of different ways that you can make your houseplant hobby sustainable,” she said.

As well as growing your own houseplants from seed, you can also grow them from stem cuttings.

All you need to do is cut a stem, dry it for a few days, strip the lower leaves, and then plant the base in peat-free compost.

It is important to water your plants regularly and give them plenty of sunlight.

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