Sandton Real Estate

For the love of property

Work out what bond you as a Purchaser should qualify for

The loan amount you can qualify for is limited by your monthly income and by your total disposable income. Only 30% of your income can be used to pay towards a home loan.

The National Credit Act has taken this one step further and banks are now required to ensure you have enough disposable income to support a bond repayment.  Thus the way in which purchasers are assessed has changed.

To work out how much you qualify for:

Calculate 30% of your monthly income:

ie: R30 000.00 per month will be R10 000.00 – the bond amount would be limited to a maximum of R10 000.00. You will then have to list ALL your current expenses, including fuel, petrol, school fees, etc and prove that you can in fact actually afford to repay R10 000.00 per month back.

 If after ALL expenses are deducted, you are only left with R6 000.00 then a bond with a repayment of R6 000.00 is all you will qualify for even though it is less than their 30%.  Also remember that the bank looks at your credit record – do you pay your accounts on time? Are you black listed etc.

The good news is that if you are currently paying rent – this amount is added to your disposable income.

This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Masilo Freimond Inc.
Tel : 011 958 0488
Fax : 086 610 0276
E-mail :

February 9, 2011 Posted by | Economy & Markets | Leave a comment

Positive Feeling for Property 2011

The residential property market has several factors in its favour going into 2011:

  1. exceptionally low interest rates
  2. slower-than-expected consumer price inflation
  3. decreasing levels of household debt

Where you aware that the interest rate is the lowest it has been in 36 years?

With decreasing household debt couples can now consider purchasing a home of their own. Banks will be more favourable to granting a higher percentage bond. Low interest rates are already helping the property market by putting extra money into household piggybanks and boosting the demand for credit such as home loans.

Economists are predicting another rate cut early in the year, which can only be good news to consumers.

Standard Bank has estimated that inflation will average 4.6% y/y in 2011, so even if house prices only grow at 7% – which we think is what we can reasonably expect – these will still beat inflation in most cases.

Experts predict there will be a noticeable growth in the “small house” segment sales. All in All there is an atmosphere of positivity for the property market. Although property won’t boom, there will definitely be growth.  Purchase Price will still remain a strong factor. The general feeling is that buyers. Similarly, while access to shops, schools and major transport routes is still important, these are also secondary considerations to price and running costs in almost every case.

There is a general feeling of positivity and growth for the property market for 2011, although there consensus that we cannot at this stage expect a property boom.

This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Masilo Freimond Inc.
Tel : 011 958 0488
Fax : 086 610 0276
E-mail :

January 12, 2011 Posted by | Economy & Markets, Sandton Local News, The Real Estate Market | Leave a comment

‘Greener Grass’ and Relocation Costs

“The general stagnation in the residential property market has also affected the phenomenon of families throwing in the towel of city life and moving to rural areas, in spite of the inherent disadvantages in terms of services – schools being a major consideration.”

‘Greener grass’ and relocation costs – Latest News, News.

January 7, 2011 Posted by | Economy & Markets, Sandton Local News | | Leave a comment

It is a Great Time to Buy, but don’t Overspend

Homebuyers should never jump into the market with their eyes shut, even at times like these, when the combination of low interest rates and still-low property prices is creating some wonderful purchase opportunities.

Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group, says potential buyers – and especially those entering the market for the first time – should never lose sight of their own personal and financial circumstances, or of the fact that interest rates can go up just as easily and quickly as they come down.

“The low interest rates at the moment obviously do make it much easier to qualify for a home loan, to afford the monthly bond repayments and municipal charges, and to have money left over to keep the home in good condition.

“And as I’ve said elsewhere recently, prices in many areas are still below their pre-recession levels, which at the moment means that the sooner you buy, the better deal you are likely to get for your money.”

But it is extremely important, he says, for homebuyers not to purchase more home than they actually need just because it is “going cheap”, and vital that they leave themselves lots of leeway when working out what monthly bond instalment they can afford.

“Indeed, I think that buyers should always squeeze the price and not their budgets. What I mean by that is that rather than first finding a home to buy and then stretching the household budget to the limit to get the loan and afford the repayments every month, potential buyers should first take a hard look at what instalment they would feel comfortable paying, subtract some of that amount to allow for contingencies like the interest rate going up, and only then go shopping for the best house available in their price range.”

Everitt says good rule of thumb is that a new home should not cost more than 2,5 to three times the annual income of the family.

“So if your combined annual salary is R300 000, you should be looking at homes priced at R900 000 at most in order to keep up comfortably with the bond repayments once you have paid a deposit of at least 10%.”

Potential buyers, he says, should also bear in mind that the banks do not look at home loan debt in isolation. “Since the introduction of the National Credit Act, they have also been obliged to look at your overall financial situation – including debts such as car and credit card repayments as well as your regular monthly expenses such as school fees, insurance, food and transport costs and water and electricity accounts – before granting a home loan.

“And before you rush out to buy a home, I suggest this is what you should do, too, to ensure that all your debt commitments together will be manageable, even if interest rates rise. For peace of mind in this case, I would suggest that your total monthly debt repayments, including your bond instalment, should not exceed 40 percent of your income – which means they should add up to R10 000/ month or less if your combined monthly income is R25 000.”

This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Chas Everitt International.
Barry Davies
011 801 2500, or visit
Page Link:

December 8, 2010 Posted by | Chas Everitt, Economy & Markets | Leave a comment

Tentative recovery likely, Bank warns

The leading indicator of business activity in SA dipped slightly in August after a strong rise in July, adding to evidence that the recovery is tentative and may slow down over the rest of the year.

The leading indicator, which points to trends six to 12 months ahead, declined 0,1% in August, after a robust 1,3% rise during the month before, figures from the Reserve Bank showed.

The Bank’s economist, Iaan Venter, said that while it was dangerous to look at one month in isolation, the monthly dip was part of a sideways trend, suggesting that growth remained subdued.

“I still believe it’s indicating a moderate growth trend,” he said.

Other figures yesterday showed that company failures rose 2,1% last month compared with September last year, after a fall of 8% in August.

“Business is still struggling,” Investec economist Kgotso Radira said. The data from Statistics SA did not bode well for household finances and consumption going into the festive season, he said.

Consumer spending is the economy’s main growth engine, accounting for 60% of demand.

“This is a further indication that more jobs were lost in the third quarter of this year,” Mr Radira said in a research note.

“Employment growth is only expected to start emerging in the latter part of 2011 when growth starts gathering momentum.”

SA’s economy shed more than 1-million jobs since the start of last year, making it one of the hardest- hit emerging markets during last year’s recession, in terms of jobs.

Last week, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the economy would expand faster this year than the 2,3% predicted in the national budget last February.

Updates to official forecasts are due in the Treasury’s medium- term budget policy statement tomorrow, with market consensus betting the economy will grow about 3% this year. The Treasury’s estimate will probably be lower, reflecting its traditional caution.

The “basically unchanged” leading indicator pointed towards “stability and recovery” in the economy, said Brait ’s Colen Garrow.

But no one should be “wildly optimistic” that growth would be more than 3% this year.

Mr. Garrow sees the economy expanding just 2,3% next year — well below market consensus.

The Reserve Bank’s data showed that six of the leading indicator’s 11 components were negative during August.

This included the average number of hours worked by factory employees, probably due to strikes in the vehicle industry.

Building plans approved also had a negative effect.

The value of plans passed by municipalities between January and August this year fell 7, 8%, or by R3, 3bn, compared with the corresponding period last year, official data showed last week.

The weak performance of the leading indicator was in step with SA’s main trade partners, according to the Bank’s data yesterday.

Compared with the same month last year, the index rose 18,8%, but this reflects the “base effects” of last year’s recession.

It was also lower than the 20, 4% increase seen in July.

This suggested that although growth in the economy would slow in the months ahead, it might not be as severe as expected given strength in the rand, Stanlib economist Kevin Lings said.

The rand scaled a 33-month peak at R6, 76 to the dollar earlier this month, but has since relinquished some of its gains, trading at R6, 90/ yesterday.

“There is a reasonably good relationship between the leading indicator and overall economic activity,” Mr. Lings said.

“This suggests that the South African economy should show solid growth in 2010, with some loss of momentum into the second half of this year … but not a very significant slowdown,” he said.

Last month’s rise in liquidations was driven by failures in finance, insurance, real estate and the business services industry. Most were voluntary.

Other data from Statistics SA yesterday showed that the number of individuals and partnerships that were declared insolvent dived 47,2% in August compared to the same month last year.

That was the ninth successive year-on-year decline.

This was “further evidence that the number of individuals and partnerships that cannot pay their debt is declining relative to last year”, Mr. Radira said.

Household finances would take some time to improve due to high debt levels — which are still hovering at 87% of disposable income — and the rising cost of living, which was outstripping growth in income, he said.

“The deleveraging process will take some time … the rapidity will largely depend on the pace of employment growth.”

The indicator has a good correlation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) leading indicator, which tracks the global economic cycle, with a short lag.

The OECD leading indicator has moderated downwards slightly on an annual basis over the last few months, suggesting that SA’s leading indicator would also move lower in the months ahead, Mr. Lings said.

Written by Alistair Anderson
This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Betterbond
Tel: 011 516 5500
Fax: 086 677 1162

October 28, 2010 Posted by | Economy & Markets | Leave a comment

Things just got a whole lot Better

We are heading into the end straight of 2010, a year that has held hope for a recovery from the doldrums of 2008 and 2009. While the outlook does not look terribly rosy for consumers as far as their debt-to-income ratios are concerned, the hope for improved market conditions has been vindicated to a degree, particularly for the property industry, with estate agents around the country reporting an increase in sales volumes.

However, affordability will continue to feature strongly as the National Credit Regulator’s first quarter report indicated that credit bureaus had records for 18.21 million credit-active consumers as at the end of March 2010. Of these credit-active consumers, only 54% were classified as in good standing while the number of consumers with impaired records continued to increase reaching 8.37 million. This h indicated a deterioration in the credit records of 191 000 consumers quarter-on-quarter and 915 000 year-on-year.

However, while consumer’s debt issues have not shown much of an improvement, the continual steady increase in market activity has restored faith in property as an investment and as a career option. But it is only those forward thinking, solution-oriented people who need apply – real estate is no longer merely an order-taking business, but rather one where agents need to be motivated, professional, innovative and involved in order to make their mark. There are those individuals who excel at this, who go above and beyond to elevate their communities, the industry and their careers in real estate as was evident at this year’s annual Nedbank Property Professional of the Year awards.

For the past 11 years the winners of the coveted Nedbank Property Professional title have raised the bar, and this year was no different. Congratulations to the overall winner, all 16 finalists whose incredibly high standards made the competition tougher than ever, as well as the Young Lions, Movers & Shakers and other award recipients. At the end of the day, achieving success comes down to how you create and establish your own personal brand.

If you live up to your brand promise, your brand can be a strong marketing tool that will ensure loyalty, repeat customers, and ultimately, success. This is one of the reasons that the PA Group has embarked on a rebranding campaign that is currently being rolled out. Up until this point in time, the PA Group and its subsidiary companies followed a multi-branding strategy. This means that none of the names are related and all the different companies function independently of each other in the market place.

However, as the storms of the recent recession set in, it became evident that a multi-branding strategy is more costly to support and didn’t allow for the optimisation of synergies that exist between the different subsidiaries of the PA Group. After much deliberation it was decided to move from a multi-branding strategy to a single-branding strategy, where the subsidiaries of the PA Group will become interlinked. As South Africa’s leading mortgage originator, the Betterbond brand was the best known in the Group, so we decided to leverage off the name by adding “Better” as an adjective to both the Group and its subsidiaries. This means that the PA Group has changed to BetterGroup, Betterbond has changed to BetterBond, Paforma has changed to BetterBridge and Aspire has changed to BetterCredit.

The Group’s new slogan, “Getting you Ahead”, is central to its value proposition of getting you ahead by streamlining the home loan application process, organising quick access to funds in terms of bridging finance and all in all providing a better service than ever before.

They say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link – now the PA Group’s link will be as strong as the brand that it is building up. In line with our new brand identity, we have also introduced a new icon of two interlinked circles. The icon will ‘link’ all the companies in the Group together and also represents what we do in linking clients to their home by facilitating the home loan. In the same way we bridge or link clients with funds through providing bridging finance. The same holds for BetterSure and BetterCredit. No experience, prestigious award or qualification will ever make a lasting impression if you don’t proactively and consistently build and manage your personal brand and reputation with integrity. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Character is like a tree, and reputation is like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”

Written by Rudi Botha
This article has been reprinted with the kind permission of Betterbond
Tel: 011 516 5500
Fax: 086 677 1162

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Economy & Markets | 2 Comments


Articles by Betterbond to be added soon!

September 27, 2010 Posted by | Economy & Markets | Leave a comment

Houseplant Tutorial

The winter has reached it’s end and now Spring is here! In celebration of Spring Day 2010, here’s a fun article on keeping a healthy and happy houseplant and how to go about doing just that. Covering the essentials on how to take proper care of your plant:

Nothing is more impressive than walking into a home or office that is full of healthy, lush, green plants and trees. The environment is more peaceful, the foliage softens the hard edges, and the greenery gives a warm sense of welcome. And caring for these houseplants is not as complicated as one may think. It’s all about knowing what is important, and ignoring the rest of the information that is constantly being thrown at you.

It’s simply about learning a few new basic sets of skills, and the more you use these new skills, the easier and more natural they become for you. Pay attention to the few basics that we are going to go over in detail, and all you have left is the joy in what you are growing.

So let’s have some fun, and by the end of this mini-course you will have a very clear idea of what to do, and how to grow stunning houseplants that people will envy when they step into your home or office. Let’s get started!

Getting to know your plant:

Don’t worry, we will try our best to make this section as brief as possible to spare you the high biology class lecture! These are just some facts about plants grow and survive, you may find this very helpful if you are in the process of caring for your own plants or planning on doing so.


Roots anchor the plant, but more importantly they are what absorb the water, minerals, and nutrients that feed it. Most absorption happens through the root tips and the tiny hairs on the roots.

This is very important, because it is critical that roots have optimum good growing conditions. They need plenty of AIR down there. It’s why you so often hear, “Use a light, well-drained soil mix.” It’s because that type of soil allows for optimum growing conditions for the roots.

If they sit in waterlogged soil day after day, the roots get no air to breathe, and will eventually start to die, which causes the plant to wilt. Why? Because with no roots, the plant can’t take up any water or nutrients and the leaves and stems start to dehydrate and wilt.

Many people react to a wilting plant by giving it more water. STOP! Think about normal soil outside. It gets watered, it drains. Same thing with houseplants, but its soil is in a pot, so we must simulate, as best we can, normal growing conditions for it.

Normal soil has air pockets. When you water, you fill those air pockets with water that is necessary for the plant, but only for a short period of time (Unless it is a bog plant and grows in water).

Normal plants need a good balance of moisture and air. We do too. We need a good drink now and again, but we also need to be able to breathe. Roots are exactly the same. They are their own living, breathing entities down there.

On the opposite side of this, if you never water, all the roots have is dry soil. They can’t take up any water or nutrients and so the plant wilts and then if stressed enough, will die.

Often, people leave plants to wilt and as soon as they do, they water the plant in order for it to perk up, without realising the amount of stress that they are placing the plant under. The plant, in a deep wilt, has to absorb the water, get the cells filled with moisture and nutrients again, get their leaves and stomata, and systems all working again, and then do it over, and over. Eventually, if this does persist, the plant will die.

So give those roots what they need. Nice even moisture, allow those air pockets to form, and give them some good food to chew on in the form of a good balanced fertilizer.

Soil/Growing Media

As we have mentioned previously, plant roots require both air and water for optimum health. So the soil mixture must be able to provide both. It must also have the ability to moderately retain nutrients for the plant’s use.

Soil from your yard is too heavy to use in containers, meaning it doesn’t provide good drainage or air pockets and circulation for healthy root growth. Regular garden soil compacts in the pot and stays waterlogged, and it can harbor diseases and pests, so we tend to use potting mixes for indoor plants, which, to be precise, are actually “soil-less.”

Soil-less just means that there is no real garden “dirt” or “soil” in the mix. Manufactures have made a mix of peat moss or decomposed bark with vermiculite or perlite.

There are several benefits to the soil-less mixes, the main ones being they are free of pests and disease, but they are also simple to use, and make a terrific growing media for just about all plants.

You can always mix your own potting soil if you want, but most of us don’t. So what should we look for when buying a bagged potting soil? What makes a good soil mix?

For general use, always look for a potting mix that is of medium weight, meaning a good mix of equal parts of peat moss, decomposed bark with perlite.

Try to keep things simple. The basic ingredients you need are:

  • Peat moss to provide water retention
  • Decomposed bark to provide some weight, improve drainage, and add some nutrition value
  • Perlite to provide water and nutrient retention and improve drainage and aeration

Avoid mixes that are too light, such as straight peat moss, that can’t anchor a plant in a pot and are too acidic for most houseplants

Avoid mixes that are too heavy, such as sterilized topsoil, that will have no drainage and that are too dense for most houseplants

So when you go to the garden center or nursery, read the ingredients label. It will tell you the proportions. Also, never hesitate to ask the sales person if you can see what the soil looks like. Be careful of buying a soil that you are not first able to see and feel in your hand, as you have no guarantees that it is the correct soil.

The nurseries often already have one of each bag open so you can see what you are buying.

Specialty Mixes

If you do plan to grow something special, other than general foliage houseplants then, yes, you will need a specialized soil mix.

  • African violets
  • Orchids and Bromeliads
  • Cacti and Succulents

These are the types of plant that usually need something special, and we are lucky that there are bagged soils made up just for these.


The best compliment a plant can give you, is that it has outgrown its container! That means it is super happy and growing so well that it needs to be given a bigger, better home.

Ideally you will repot a plant before it gets root-bound, but let’s be honest; most of us wait too long. Not a problem; we can always fix it.

Telltale Signs of a Root-bound Plant

  1. The pot has been filled with roots and there is very little soil left
  2. Because there is very little soil left when you water, it goes right through and drains out, nothing is retained
  3. The plant wilts within a day or two of watering, because with very little soil, no moisture is retained
  4. The roots are growing out of the drainage holes
  5. The roots are cracking the pot
  6. The plant is top heavy or way too big for the size of the container

To determine the above, sometimes you will need to gently pop the plant out of its container and take a look at the roots.

Repotting (step by step)

  1. If you want to keep the plant the same size, take the plant out of its pot, and slice off about 1 inch all the way around the root ball. Also prune some of the top growth so there is less to support while the roots are smaller. Plant it back into its pot.
  2. If you are going to put it in a bigger container, choose one that is only about 1 or 2 inches larger in diameter (see picture to right). You don’t want to get too big a container, because the pot will hold more soil and more water than the plant can use, which can lead to rot.
  3. Water the plant well a few hours before repotting
  4. Take the plant out of its pot, knock off the old soil, if there is any, and tease out the roots and unwind circling roots and cut off any that look rotted or that need to be pruned back
  5. If the plant is totally root-bound, make cuts from the top to the bottom of the root ball
  6. Put some potting mix into the new pot
  7. Center the plant and plant it at a depth of ½ inch from the top of the pot
  8. Plant it no deeper than the top of the root ball. If you plant it too deep, it will rot, and too high, it will dry out
  9. Tamp the soil down as you work
  10. Finish filling in
  11. Allow to stand for 30 minutes
  12. Empty any residue water from the saucer

In a few weeks, give it some fertilizer and you’re done!

Stems, Leaves and Flowers

Stems support the plant, and they transport water, minerals and food to the leaves, and flowers, but they can also help manufacture food. In some plants the stem forms as a rhizome and can help store food during dormant periods. This is why good stem health is a must.

The leaves make the food with photosynthesis, but they also perform respiration and transpiration of gases and water vapor. This is important and why you need to wash your plants leaves once in a while. It not only makes the plant look better but helps it breathe and manufacture food more efficiently.

Lastly, flowers are the reproductive organs, and many plants can flower indoors, but sometimes it can take a little different fertilizer to help the plant do this. Producing flowers can take an enormous amount of energy from a plant. Also we need to remember, this plant is being grown outside of its natural, native environment, so you might need to give it a little extra specialized food.

Your Growing Environment

Because you spend a lot of time there, you know your house or office environmental fluctuations better than anyone, so before you buy a plant, pay attention to a plant’s origin. What are the ideal growing conditions it needs, and what are the areas of your space that matches them as closely as possible?

Your ability to give the proper growing requirements is so important to your success. You will only be disappointed if you keep trying to grow plants in the wrong spot.

So now is the time to ask yourself some questions:

  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of my space?
  • Do I have lots of open room, or more nooks and crannies?
  • What is the light like throughout the day?
  • Is my space always dark or does it have bright indirect light?
  • Do some areas get more heat because they are located near a heating vent?
  • Do some areas get colder because they are near windows or air conditioner vents?
  • Is the temperature going to fluctuate a lot near doors or drafty areas?
  • Is there little to no air circulation?
  • Do some areas get more foot traffic?

With the above in mind, let’s take a closer look at growing environments and then see what we can do to match plants to your actual growing conditions.


Most of our houses and offices have a year-round average temperature of 60 to 75 degrees F (16 – 24 C). This is generally OK for houseplants, although most plants like it when they are a bit cooler at night by at least 5 degrees F (.15 C). For instance, some plants like orchids or flowering plants need a 10 degree (13 C) drop at night to trigger flowering.

So pay attention to the microclimates inside your home that can change with the seasons and the weather. Some plants might be in the perfect location in the summer, but need to be moved in the winter, and even though indoor temperatures are more stable than outdoors, they still do vary, not only from season to season, but from room to room.

Keep in mind that cool air sinks, so temperatures nearer the floor will be cooler than up on a table. Also on the opposite side of that, hot air rises, so the top of bookshelves might be cooking hot.

Air Circulation

Most plants require some air circulation to do well. Air movement helps remove moisture from the leaves, so it prevents disease, and good air flow also helps keep insects from getting established. You can always increase air circulation by opening windows, or turning on a ceiling fan, or a small fan.


Think about it. So many plants are tropical. Obviously not cacti, but a majority of houseplants like a certain amount of humidity to do well. Humidity can be higher in the summer, but air-conditioning can lower humidity quite radically, and humidity that is already lower in the winter gets even lower and dryer with the heating turned on.

Keep in mind, most houseplants are from tropical or subtropical habitats with 80% humidity. Then we stick them in a house that averages 35% to 65% humidity, which can get even dryer depending upon the time of year and the plant’s location in your home.

Most plants can adapt and do well around 50% humidity, but low humidity will just get worse if you let the soil stay too dry, or if the location is drafty or in hot sun. Now you have compounded the problem.

The easiest way to increase humidity is to group plants together. While this can reduce some air circulation, it does increase the humidity around each plant.

List of Plants (Listed by areas)

Cool – Bright Light – Bedroom

  • Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum)
  • Ivy (Fatshedera lizei)
  • Fuchsia (Fuchsia hybrid)
  • Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum)
  • Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
  • Geranium (Pelargonium)
  • African Violet (Saintpaulia)
  • Peace Lily (Spathipyllum)

Cool – Sunny – Room

  • Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus)
  • Cactus
  • Christmas cactus
  • Clivia (Clivia miniata)
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus australis)

Cool – Moderate Light – Entryway

  • Japanese Aralia (Fatsia japonica)
  • Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)
  • Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
  • Cast-Iron Plant (Aspidistra)
  • Kangaroo Vine (Cissus antarctica)
  • English Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis)

Cool – Dark – Room

  • Cast-Iron Plant (Aspidistra)
  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema)
  • Dracaena
  • Snake Plant (Sansevieria)
  • Philodendron
  • Pothos (Epipremnum)

Warm – Bright Light – Steamy – Bathroom

  • Cape Primrose (Streptocarpus)
  • Coleus
  • Croton (Codiaeum variegatum)
  • Ferns
  • Rose of China (Hibiscus rosasinensis)
  • Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum)
  • Bird’s Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus)
  • Peacock Plant (Calathea)
  • Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea)
  • Kangaroo Vine (Cissus antarctica)
  • Umbrella Plant (Cyperus alternifolius)
  • Golden Pothos (Epipremnum)
  • Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila)
  • Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura)
  • Boston Fern (Nephrolepis)
  • Peperomia
  • Philodendron

Warm – Sunny – Room

  • Bromeliads
  • Cactus
  • Citrus
  • Crown-of-thorns (Euphorbia)
  • Grape Ivy (Hedera)
  • Wax Plant (Hoya carnosa)
  • Jade Plant (Crassula)
  • Nerve Plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii)
  • Ponytail Plant (Beaucarnea recurvata)
  • Fig (Ficus)

The amount of light a plant receives is the most important thing to think about when deciding where to put plants in your home or office. Plants need light for photosynthesis, which as we all know, produces the chlorophyll or food to live on, and it also stimulates hormone production for flowering.

It’s easy to think that just sunlight alone is it, but plants are affected by light in so many ways.

  • The amount of light (its intensity)
  • The color of light (its quality)
  • How long it lasts (its duration)
  • The direction it comes from (phototropism) are the top things to think about.

Phototropism occurs when plants grow toward a light source. Indoor plants bend toward a window or light source, so it is important to periodically turn your plants in order for them to grow evenly.

Since light is very important, today we are going to take a closer look, and see how it affects plants.

Light Requirements

Light Intensity

Contrary to what you may hear, yes, there are plants that can take very little light. But that doesn’t mean NO light at all!

A plant has to have enough light to give it energy to live and do its thing. So how do we know how much is enough? Try something like use a simple “shadow test” to see how much light my plants are getting. Use your hand and see how sharp a shadow it casts.

  • A sharp, hard shadow = Bright Intense Light
  • A soft, semi-hard shadow = Medium Light
  • A light, very soft shadow = Low light

That’s it! Pretty easy isn’t it?

Instead of worrying about foot candles and south facing windows or north facing windows, just put your hand out and see how intense the light is throughout the day in certain areas. It will give you a pretty accurate idea.

Light Duration

Most houseplants need 8 to 16 hours of light every day. If new growth is spindly and pale and is stretching toward the light source, your plant is not getting enough light, so move it to a place that is a bit brighter. If the plant tends to be yellowing or kind of white looking, the plant is getting too much light, so move it someplace a bit darker.

If, for some reason, your house or office is super dark, you may have to augment the amount of natural lighting you have with supplemental lighting. Best is to just stick with the plants that best match your environment.

Light Quality

The best source of light is natural sunlight, because it has the greatest color range from the spectrum and the best intensity. Plants like light in the blue/violet range and the red range of the light spectrum. They are not too concerned about the green or yellow wavelengths of light. The blue light produces nice, dark, green foliage, while the red stimulates flowering.

This is important to know if your space doesn’t get enough natural sunlight and you need to get some supplemental lighting. Remember, sometimes you only need to turn your supplemental lights on for a few hours a day. It depends upon what you are trying to achieve. Generally it’s just enough extra light to keep your plants healthy, so don’t think you have to have these lights on all day long.

  • Incandescent – Not too good
    These are regular light bulbs. They are not good for supplemental lighting, because they are too hot and can burn the foliage if placed too closely, and they only give out red-orange light, which is too narrow a spectrum for plants.
  • Halogen – Not too good
    These produce a better quality of light, but it is very narrow in its spectrum, and again they produce too much heat to be placed near foliage without burning it.
  • Fluorescent – Better
    These are good to use because they give a cool, bright light, so you can have your plants nearby without having to worry about burning. You could use both a cool white tube (which have a blue range), and a warm white tube (which have a red range). Using both gives you a wide enough spectrum that is good enough to meet most plant’s needs. The better choice, however, is to use full-spectrum fluorescent grow lights. These put out about 90% of the sun’s range of color. The drawback is they can be more expensive, but they last a long time. You need to place your plants fairly close to them to receive the benefits.
  • High-Intensity – Best
    These are the best supplemental lighting you can use. They work well in large areas and produce a lot of extra lighting. They are easier to use and do a great job. There are three types of High Intensity Lights you can buy:
  1. Metal halide
    These lamps give a good full spectrum, but with more concentration of the blue/violet range. You can get enhanced spectrum halide lamps which give off more red light, or even a lamp whose light is complete enough to grow fruit and vegetables.
  2. High-pressure sodium
    This one is best for flowering plants because it gives off more red-orange light
  3. Low-pressure sodium
    These are used only for commercial use, but I wanted to mention them so you know they are around

All supplemental lighting loses its effectiveness over time, so you will have to replace bulbs at least once a year. Between natural and supplemental lighting, however, you will easily be able to meet the plants’ daily requirement of 8 to 16 hours of light.

Buying Houseplants

These days you can buy houseplants just about anywhere. Even drug stores have parking lot and lobby displays of houseplants. As a general rule, if you really want quality, you are better off shopping for plants at a garden center or nursery.

The plants receive better care while they are waiting to be bought, there is usually a wider selection, and they have more reliable plant material, because the owners want you to have a successful outcome and come back to shop again.

Garden centers and nurseries are very responsible for what they sell, unlike supermarkets that have a “truckload sale” going and really don’t care about what happens after you make your purchase.

So set yourself up for success from the start and buy from a quality source.

Before you buy anything, however, you may want to consider one thing that can make a houseplant display truly stunning, and that is a point of view or basic design.

Do you have a specific point of view or design theme to your space? Is it modern, formal, informal? For instance, if you have a southwestern feel to your house or office, and your environment can support them, different kinds of cacti and succulents might be a better choice, because they help support the design you have going.

A more formal household might look better with plants with neat, tight growth habits, like dracaena, topiaries, snake plants (Sansiveria), and jade plants (Crassula). A more informal house or office might look better with loose trailing plants, like ivy, geranium, pothos or asparagus fern.

The Purchase

  • When buying plants, try to pick a plant that looks robust and healthy and is the correct size for its container. You want to avoid plants that are too big (top heavy) or too small (undersized) for their containers, because you want to avoid root bound plants (too big) or plants that don’t have enough roots to do well (too small).
  • The foliage should be full and bushy and have few or no brown-edged leaves, leaves with spots or holes, and they should have no signs of having been trimmed on new growth. The foliage should not have big gaps between the new leaves, because that is a good sign it has been in a crowded space for too long, or hasn’t had enough light and is stretching.
  • The leaves should be nice and clean, not dirty or dusty. Look for any signs of disease or pest infestation like curled, yellowed, or distorted leaves, or leaves with holes or chew marks. Look for pests, or signs of pests like sticky honeydew, dark sooty mold (aphids, scale or mealybug), or signs of fine spider webbing on the foliage (spider mites). Overall, look for any obvious lack of vigor.
  • Pick the container up and see if there are any roots growing out of the drainage holes of the pot. Any roots coming out is a sign that is root bound and needs to be repotted.
  • Test the soil surface with your finger. The soil should be just moist, not water-sodden or bone-dry. The soil should not have any algae, slime, or dry white chalky crust or powder on the soil surface. All these are indicators of improper watering, and the plant is already stressed and not a good buy.
  • Flowering plants should have lots of developing buds, but not too many fully open flowers. This will give you a longer lasting bloom when you get your plant home. If the flowers are all open, they are just about done, and you won’t get as big a bang for your buck.
  • Lastly, never hesitate to ask a knowledgeable sales person (assuming you are buying in a garden center or nursery) if you have a question about the health or growth habit of a particular plant if you are just not sure.

Watering Techniques

Plants will always take more water when humidity is low. Think about when your skin feels dry, you usually need a drink, and so do plants. In the cooler, shorter days however, when plants are not growing as actively, they will usually need less water.

But the major question always is, “When do I water?”

First of all, look at your plant. A plant that has the right amount of water looks healthy. The plant tissues are firm and the leaves are nice and glossy. This is how your plants should look all the time, but we all get busy, and sometimes we don’t remember to check.

The good news is that most plants will show some signs of stress before it goes into complete wilt, so pay attention. Have the leaves lost their shine? Do the leaves show signs of flagging (the plant looking limp) or pale? If so, check the soil, because oddly enough, overwatering can give you some of the same symptoms as underwatering so you need to determine which it is!

There are two things you can do to check for moisture content.

  1. Pick up the Pot – How Heavy is the Container?
    If the plant isn’t too big, pick the container up. How does it feel? If it is as light as air, then you need to water. If the pot feels full and a little heavy, that means the soil has some moisture in it, and you probably don’t need to water.
  2. Check the Moisture with your Fingers
    To supplement the “picking up test” dig your finger down into the soil to the depth of your first or second knuckle. If the plant needs moist soil, the surface should be damp. If the plant needs to dry out a little bit between waterings, the top inch or two of soil can be dry, but if it’s dry below that point, you need to water.

Try not to ever let a plant completely dry out. If a plant is showing signs of wilting because of dry soil, water immediately because you don’t want the plant to go into a full wilt. A full wilt will cause permanent damage to the roots, and most plants have a hard time ever recovering fully.

It may look better and perk up after you water but it doesn’t always grow the same again.

Different Ways to Water

  • Top Watering

This is what most people do, they just water plants from the top until water comes out of the drainage holes. You keep doing this until the soil has absorbed enough moisture and is hydrated again. Letting the water run out also helps leach any salts from fertilizers or softened water from the soil.

The problem is that if the soil is too dry, the water will just run down the sides of the pot and won’t be absorbed by the soil. If that is happening, try bottom watering.

  • Bottom Watering

 If the soil has gotten so dry the it’s starting to pull away from the sides of the pot, or you have a plant like an African Violet that shouldn’t get its leaves wet, put the pot in a saucer or shallow sink full of room-temperature water. Let it sit there for 30 minutes, then take it out and let the container drain.

When you top water, sometimes the water can just run down the sides of the pot, and it doesn’t always soak all the way through the root ball, but with bottom watering it as wicked up, and there is no question that everything is moist.

The important thing is that no matter which method you use, make sure that the plant is NOT sitting in a saucer full of water when you are done. If any excess water drains out over the next 15 to 20 minutes after watering, make sure you empty the saucer!

Watering When You’re Away

Great, you’ve now figured out how to water everything perfectly, but you have to leave! The best trick to keep your plants happy while you are away, and this is temporary, you can’t do this forever, is to get a capillary mat. Soak the matting really well, and set the plants on it. The plants will draw up moisture as they need it.

Again, this is good for a long weekend, maybe up to a week or so, but this is not a long term solution.

Self-Watering Containers

Stay way from these. If you have plant material that can tolerate being moist all the time, these can work. But they way they are designed, to have water in the bottom of the pot all the time, is not good for most plants that need to dry out a bit between watering.

Chas Everitt Sandton Office
Tell: 011 463 2033

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