By Sara El Halabi J.

Plants are gifts from heaven. You can smell and hear the Divine Mother through them,” my grandmother used to tell me when I would stay at her home in the mountains during the spring break. I still remember her gathering thyme, lavender and Jasmine, sometimes even sage, in a bundle and putting them amongst her clothes or under her pillow.

Now that I have my own home, well, it is an apartment in the middle of the city; I want to bring my grandmother’s natural fragrances into my space. For that, I bought five of the plants she used to keep on her patio and inside the house. Even in winter, they used to flourish indoors thanks to the excellent care my grandmother gave them, and in return, they provided our family with a heavenly aroma.

To help my new floral and herbal guests thrive and bloom all year round, I researched the essential tips to take good care of them. Here are my top five indoor plants which promise to freshen my house for a long time:

1. Arabian Jasmine

Its delicate flowers provide a unique fragrance that envelops me in a secret reverie, taking me back in time to the vast mountain fields. It blooms every month in sunny or humid environments and looks beautiful both in my kitchen and living room.

All I have to do is keep its soil moist, fertilised and keep it beside a window where it can catch plenty of daylight. But this plant doesn’t tolerate dryness or being near a wood-burning stove or radiator, especially in winter when we mostly use them. Warning: though lovely and delicate, Jasmine can be toxic to animals and children.

2. Gardenia

This plant’s flowers are divine, for they are the most fragrant flowers I have ever found. If they get good care, they can provide their exquisite blooms almost every day. However, they might need some extra maintenance during winter or if they are indoors.

As my Gardenia plant is indoors, I keep it in a sunny spot, near my hall window. It needs at least four hours of sunlight every day, but I avoid overexposing it to the scorching summer heat or to the stove. Its soil must always be moist.

A special tip to keep them blooming is to give them coffee. Yes! The Gardenia loves our morning drink. So, after I prepare coffee, I never throw the extra away; instead, I water my caffeine-addict plant with it!

3. Herbal Plants: Corsican Mint, Basil, Thyme, Cuban Oregano and Rosemary

I love to see my small clay pots filled with these delicate herbal leaves on my windowsill. They provide an exuberant, fresh and clean smell to the kitchen all year round. Besides, I use them to prepare healthy and tasteful dishes and aromatic teas. They also serve as an attractive garnish to decorate my dishes and sweets.

It has been easy for me to take care of them. Their soil must be moist, except the Rosemary, which is best if its surface dries before watering it again. They like a bit of sunlight and can tolerate some cold temperatures, but I keep them mostly in the shade where they still receive the sun’s warmth.

4. Lavender

This plant fills my days with many dear memories, and I love the purple of its flowers and its aroma. Its calming scent makes lavender an irreplaceable option for bedtime.

As its maintenance is a bit tricky when indoors because it requires plenty of sunlight, I keep my lavender in the sunniest or brightest spot of my bedroom, in an east-facing window. In winter, I use a plant or grow light to keep my light-demanding plants satisfied.

Before watering, I must make sure its soil is completely dry. Though it likes to be in a good air-circulating space, this plant must not be exposed to ventilators or air conditioners directly.

5. Heliotropes or Marino Blues

These deep purple flowers engulf my apartment with a heavenly vanilla scent. They are resistant to dry, hot weather, though they will need enough shade to contrast the heat. I give them at least six hours of sunlight, using the grow light in winter or on dull days. Their soil must always be moist, and they need a liquid fertiliser twice a week. 

Warning: You must also be aware that this plant is poisonous to humans and animals, so keep out of children and pets’ reach. 

These are my favourite five plants that act as great natural fresheners to my apartment. Every day, I can’t wait to return home after work and enjoy the aromatic symphony they provide me. Even in winter, I can have a bit of the summer, my home smells heavenly, and I feel closer to my grandmother!