SINCE the Christmas tree has either been packed away in the loft or, if a real one, hopefully recycled, the inside of your home has been left looking pretty bare and in need of some cheering up.

With the cold weather and the general lack of activity in the garden at the moment, you may well be in need of some cheering up yourself.

It's time therefore for you and your home to indulge in a little "horticultural therapy" with some houseplants.

As well as creating some fabulous effects and creating the icing on the cake to your interior decor, well-chosen houseplants will also give a much-needed calming and restful dimension to the atmosphere of your home.

This can be created either by one or two well-grown large specimens or a strategically placed selection of smaller flowering or foliage plants.

An ever-growing selection of plants are available to purchase, whether this be the latest form of variegated plant to complement your colour scheme or new improved forms of well-known plants that are slightly more forgiving of a little neglect or abuse.

When choosing houseplants it is well worth considering for a moment where in the home you want to site them, and what conditions are like in these positions.

It is very important to make the right choice — why let yourself in for an uphill struggle?

Always remember that well-informed staff are always available to assist you in a garden centre.

Looking around the house, the first port of call for a cheering up is usually the living room.

Conditions in the living room are normally well lit and fairly warm, resulting in a very dry heat with little humidity.

With the latter factor in mind it is wise to choose plants which can cope with lower humidity —those with thick and often spiky foliage do well here, for example Yuccas or Dracaenas.

These make exciting specimens, so are good candidates to replace the festive centrepiece.

Hallways, often being the first impression of the home, will make a very cheery welcome if decorated with plants.

Usually this room is not well lit, and space is tight so fairly upright shade-tolerant plants are needed.

The upright Devils Ivy (Scindapsus) or a well-shined Rubber Plant will serve very well, but don't forget compact flowering plants for a cheery greeting.

These will need replacing every few weeks - still much greater value than countless bunches of cut flowers.

Bathrooms and kitchens can be real havens for plants as they are generally warm, well lit and often humid.

Ferns are ideal for these conditions and create a very soft and peaceful effect — ideal for those relaxing baths.

Time for some important dos and don'ts.

Don't leave plants standing in water — empty out any surplus that has drained into a saucer or pot cover.

Don't water plants just because it is Sunday — feel how moist the compost is and if in doubt try again tomorrow. Water only when it needs it.

Do feed your plants — food in compost runs out quickly so the plants rely on you for that too.

Do remember that plants grow more in spring and summer, therefore require much less water and feed at other times.