WITH the Christmas tree and tinsel banished for another few months your home may be left feeling rather bare and gloomy.

Houseplants are an ideal way of bringing your house back to life and bring their very own season of good cheer and tranquillity.

Just a handful of flowering pot plants will work wonders if placed throughout the house, in return for a very modest investment.

Primulas, including the much loved primrose hybrids are ideal for the post-Christmas blues if you can't wait for springtime.

Their dazzling blooms, in just about every colour and shade imaginable, will complement any décor and will last for many weeks if kept cool.

At only a few pence each these plants will never threaten that overworked January bank account.

The many potted bulbs available can provide another welcome breath of fresh springtime air at this time of year.

Hyacinths are perhaps the most acclaimed for their value as a living air-freshener, and after flowering can be planted outdoors for future years.

Chrysanthemums, cyclamen and begonia will also prove valuable for providing some versatile short-term colour.

All will reliably bloom their hearts out for weeks on end, far better value than any bunch of cut flowers, and again can almost be matched to any colour scheme.

Choosing the longer-lived houseplants, mainly valued for their decorative foliage, to take up permanent residency in your home does require a little forethought and planning.

Before making the trip to the garden centre decide on the exact position of the plant and make a careful note of what's needed.

Do you need a plant that has to survive poor light? Is there a radiator nearby? Do you want something tall and upright or something that trails?

This is all essential information for the garden centre staff who will be only too pleased to assist you in choosing the perfect plant for your spot.

There are more and more plants available with colourful foliage now as our sense of adventure in the decorating department gets bolder.

Calatheas, crotons and dieffenbachia can all bring much warmth and excitement to a room and should be placed sparingly in a well-lit position.

These days the containers make just as much impact as the plants themselves.

Never underestimate the power of a pot and be sure to keep each in scale with each other.

Don't be afraid to use outdoor planters in the home as long as your floor is suitably protected.

When arriving home with your new companion resist the urge that many gardening books promote in immediately moving your plant into a bigger pot.

If purchased from a reputable source your new plant should already be in perfect condition, and any movement into a large pot can invite such problems as over-watering.

The best approach is to leave any thoughts of repotting houseplants until the spring, when plants should only be moved into a very slightly bigger pot with the rest of the growing season ahead left to fill it.