Helpful Tips for Houseplants: Bringing Nature Indoors

2602-19With the chilly temperatures finally settling in and the holiday season upon us, you might not have the time that you would like to work in your yard. Bring your love for the outdoors and garden inside this winter by decorating your home with indoor foliage plants.

Houseplants can instantly add color, life, and variety to your home with little to no effort. Growing houseplants in fact is an easy feat, and anyone can be successful with them when providing the proper environment and care.

Tips for Growing Houseplants

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that plants growing in the garden rely heavily on nature for their needs. Likewise, all indoor foliage plants depend entirely upon you to provide them with their essential requirements. Remember that if you leave your plants in deep shade or forget to water them, they will die, and without food, they will steadily deteriorate. Success with houseplants calls for neither hard work nor experienced skill. Rather, it is simply a matter of fulfilling the basic needs of each individual plant and trying not to treat all plants in the same fashion. The most important things to consider when caring for your indoor foliage plants include light, water, warmth, humidity, and fertilizer. Keep in mind that excesses can be fatal as well, so don’t overdo the recommended amounts of sunlight, water, and fertilizer.

Light

Foliage houseplants require bright light without direct sunlight, meaning they perform best when placed in close proximity to a sunlit window. Most indoor plants however, can adapt to semi-shade (a moderately lit area within five to eight feet of a sunlit window or near a sunless window). Correct lighting involves both the duration and the intensity of the light. Indoor plants need twelve to sixteen hours of natural light or strong artificial illumination in order to maintain active growth; less light yields a slowing down in food production and ultimately plant development. As far as intensity is concerned, some plants will flourish on a sunny windowsill, but will quickly deteriorate in a shady corner; others cannot withstand constant exposure to sunlight. As a rule of thumb, plants with variegated leaves need more light than all-green ones, and flowering plants like cyclamen and African violets usually prefer some direct sunlight. Cacti and succulents have the highest light requirement of all.

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Remember that the leaves and stems of plants placed near windows will bend toward the glass, so to prevent lopsided growth, make sure to turn the pot occasionally. During the winter, move pots closer to the window so as to increase both the duration and the intensity of the light falling on the leaves.

Water

Each plant has its own basic need for water. Unfortunately, the proper frequency of watering is not a constant feature; it depends on the plant size, the size of the pot, the environment, and the time of year. The standard recommendation for most houseplants is to water thoroughly and frequently in spring, summer, and autumn, but sparingly in winter, allowing the top half-inch of soil to dry out between waterings. Any flowering houseplants, however, should be kept moist (but not wet) at all times. In other words, water when the soil surface is dry.

Temperature

Indoor plants require a fairly steady and moderate temperature during the growing season, and prefer a slightly lower temperature during the resting (winter) season. Most will flourish if the temperature is kept within the 55 to 75 degree F range (you would be surprised to find the number of houseplants that will readily grow in rooms that are too cool for human comfort). They are remarkably tolerant and will survive temperatures just above or below the preferred range for short periods. The real adversary is temperature fluctuation, a sudden cooling or heating by twenty degrees. This winter, try to minimize falling night temperatures by sealing window cracks and moving pots off windowsills in frosty weather.

Humidity

Although the air’s humidity does not significantly affect the growth and development of foliage plants quite as much as light and water, it does play a role in your plants’ well being. Keep in mind that most houseplants originate in the tropics, where the relative humidity ranges between 70 and 90 percent. While I am not suggesting that you keep your living room this humid, be aware that the more you run your heater, the drier the air becomes in your home.

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Houseplants prefer moist air and thrive in conditions where the relative humidity ranges from 40 to 60 percent. One simple way to increase the humidity around your plants is to move them to a moist area like the kitchen, bathroom, or even a terrarium; during the winter, a permanent repose in the living room may prove too dry for some foliage plants. Other methods of increasing moisture include misting and using a humidifier.

Fertilizer

All plants require an adequate supply of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, along with other minor nutrients as well. The method of fertilization depends largely upon preference; what matters is that you feed them regularly. While the most popular method is to use a liquid fertilizer each time you water, you can also feed with longer lasting powders, granules, or stakes. Whatever method you choose, remember to read the directions for application rates and times.

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