The best houseplants are those that
thrive well in the conditions of your indoor environment. That environment
is significantly different than that of your outdoor garden plants. Despite
being significantly different, the most popular of houseplants are those
whose needs a cooler, drier and and darker (far less light) conditions
of your home or office.
Due to conditions in the home, many indoor plants grow very slowly or even
go dormant during the long months from late fall t o early winter. And
there, needs are much different than your outdoor plants. In general, those
needs are far less demanding as a slow growing plant requires less of most
everything that you would normally provide your outdoor plants.
There is a saying in the gardening world that you can "kill your plant with
kindness". This saying is even more true indoors as the plants need less,
rather than more.
Indoor plants generally prefer a controlled temperature range. The ideal
range is usually 65 to 75 degree in the daytime and 60 to 65 degrees at
night. This range may vary by type of plant, but is the most common range.
Many indoor plants do not like to be placed in a drafty area. In addition,
while you may think you are helping your plants by placing them in a sunny
window, they can experience wide temperature extremes as the sun heats them
in the day and the cold comes through the window at night.
Not convinced? Place a thermometer next to your plant on a frigid evening.
Check the temperature just before you go to bed.
In general, houseplants need less sunlight than outdoor plants. This is
largely because the selection of indoor plant varieties is geared toward
plants which thrive in shady or indirect sunlight.
But, this does not mean that your plant does not need sunlight, or will not
benefit from sunlight during some portion of the day. And some varieties
will require more sunlight than others. A lot of us will chase the sunlight
as it moves from window to window on a sunny winter's day. Read up about the
type of plant you you have. And, if your plant shows signs of light
deficiency, join the rest of us and chase that sunlight!
You can also buy artificial gro-lights. These will help those plants that
require more sunlight than you can provide. And, you can use the gro-lights
when you sow your garden seedlings in the spring.
Tip: Rotate the container every few days so all sides of the plant get a
chance to "see the light!"
During the winter, your home or office is normally much drier than other
times of the year. Sometimes this gets a bit beyond the tolerance range of
your plants. Your plants will benefit by an occasional "sponge bath". Take a
damp cloth or sponge and wipe the leaves once a week or two. This has the
added advantage of removing dust buildup on the leaves.
You can also use misters to add humidity to your plants during the driest of
Important: A few plants like African Violets do not like to get their leaves
wet and water on them will cause damage.
Most houseplants like a balanced soil with a slightly acid pH level. Use
sterile potting soil from your garden supply store. It will contain a good
mix of nutrients to get your plants started in their indoor environment. It
will also be properly blended to provide good drainage, yet retain moisture.
Even if your plant does not grow much, it should be repotted every couple of
years with fresh potting soil. The old soil loses important minerals over
Over time the top layer of soil can become encrusted. Loosen it with a spoon
or fork. Remove the top layer and add some fresh, sterile potting soil.
Here is where you can really "kill your plant with kindness". Because your
plant is growing much slower than in an outdoor environment, it's needs are
less. It is using far less nutrients. So, those nutrients can build up to
harmful levels if your fertilize too frequently.
We recommend you buy a balanced, slow release indoor fertilizer. If you use
liquid fertilizers, use it once every two weeks...or less.
While many plants needs vary, in general, you should keep your soil moist,
but not wet. Here is where learning about your specific plant will really
Many houseplants like to get a good soaking of their soil. Apply water to
the point that it drains through the pot and out the openings in the bottom
of the pot. This helps to remove excess fertilizer and salt that can build
up in the soil. Outdoors, nature performs this task during a spring or
summer downpour. After giving the soil a good drenching, allow the soil to
almost completely dry out before the next watering.
Did you know? Your tap water likely has chemicals that your plant does not
like in any excess amount. Those chemicals are sodium (salt) and chlorine.
Use distilled water where possible or capture rainwater. If you leave the a
container of water out for a day or two, the chlorine will dissipate.
Courtesy: J. A.