Houseplants which have fragrant flowers can lift moods and transform even the barest of four walls into places of delight to visit.
Species of jasmine, rose and citrus are prized for their essential oils which are squeezed in tiny quantities from their flowers and used in perfumes and aromatherapy.
My favourite are the citrus. These orange and lemon plants have bushy green leaves, bunches of colourful fruit and delicate white flowers.
Although these can be grown from the pips of commercial fruit, specially cultivated houseplant varieties are available from garden centres and occasionally supermarkets stock them.
The two most important ingredients for success are light and correct watering. Although space is at a premium in towns most of us have a windowsill which catches some sunlight at least in the summer months.
Over the winter I placed my lemon tree under artificial light no more complicated than a 50 watt halogen spot lamp. The heat from the bulb helped it during the cold snap and it’s flowering already. The use of an electricity timer to turn the light on and off at set intervals is money well spent.
Correct watering is essential for success. If a citrus is allowed to stand in water its roots will become saturated and start to rot. It will quickly die. Equally dire is if it is placed near a radiator and has to contend with dry heat equivalent to an arid desert.
The solution is a humidity monitor, available from hardware shops and kitchen suppliers, which enables us to compare indoors with the exterior humidity given for Brighton on the BBC weather website.
Stand the plant on a brick in a waterproof container. A big plastic food box is ideal. Fill with water to just below the bottom of the pot. When the soil is completely dry drench it from above with warm water and let it run off.
Feed it with one of the specially prepared little plastic bottles of liquid fertiliser which are placed inverted into soil.
Mist the plant regularly. Buy a small sprayer and if rain water isn’t available use bottled or filtered. Place the water in a bowl and microwave until hand warm. Put the plant in the sink and remember that outdoors, rain can fall for several hours, so a series of good Amazonian showers is ideal.
I know the plant is being spoilt but they love the attention and will show it.