Now is a great time to start or expand your indoor garden.
Fight the winter blues, brighten your indoor décor and get your gardening fix with the help of indoor green plants. Follow these tips for low maintenance indoor gardening success.
Start with the Right Plant
Select indoor plants that match the growing conditions such as light and humidity as well as your schedule. Cacti and succulents are good choices for busy people with homes filled with bright light. Pothos, ZZ, and snake plants are perfect for low light situations and people who like to provide minimal care. Check the plant tags for the preferred growing conditions and select those plants that compliment your décor, match your maintenance schedule and will thrive in your growing conditions.
Let in the Light
Evaluate the natural sunlight your indoor plants will receive. Consider the size of the windows and the direction they face. Large windows allow the most light into the home so plants can be set several feet back into the room. South facing windows provide the longest period of bright light, especially in the winter. They are the best permanent location for those plants that require bright light year round. East and west facing windows usually provide sufficient light for plants requiring medium light while a north- facing window will usually work for low light plants.
Keep in mind trees, awnings and sheers decrease the light your indoor plants receive no matter what direction the widow faces. And turn plants regularly so all sides have equal exposure to the light, encouraging even growth.
Dealing with Low Light
Select plants suited to lower light conditions. Pothos, philodendron, ZZ, cast iron plant, Chinese evergreens and snake plants are a few to consider. Try rotating plants between low and bright light conditions every few weeks to expand your decorating options.
Consider supplementing natural light with artificial lights when plants are stunted or show signs of poor growth. Check out the more efficient bulbs in newer styles that clip onto pots or can be mounted on the wall making them attractive and easier to use.
Water for Health and Longevity
Adjust your watering schedule to fit the conditions in your home. The short gray days of winter mean our indoor plants are growing much slower. Growth picks up in spring and summer as the days grow longer and brighter. The indoor humidity and temperatures further impact the growth rate and moisture needs of our plants.
Water thoroughly and as needed for the plants you are growing. Most tropical plants should be watered thoroughly whenever the top few inches of the potting mix is slightly damp. Cacti and succulents like it a bit drier. Use your finger to check the soil moisture before watering.
Oops – too dry
Most houseplants are grown in an organic soilless mix. Once these dry out, they’re hard to rewet. You may have noticed the water running over the surface and down the side of the pot.
Fix this by gently loosening the soil surface with a fork or chopstick. Then place the pot in a bucket or sink of warm water. Allow the soilless mix to absorb the water. The potting mix will feel moist and there will be no more bubbles once it is thoroughly moistened. Remove the plant from the warm water bath and water normally in the future.
Feed them a Proper Diet
Only fertilize actively growing plants in need of a nutrient boost. Pale leaves and stunted growth may mean your plants need to be fertilized. It can also mean they need repotting or more light. Evaluate all options before fertilizing your plants.
Most actively growing plants can be fertilized from spring through fall. Let the plants not the calendar be your guide. Consider a dilute solution of fertilizer to start with and do not exceed the recommended rate on the label directions. Over fertilizing can stress and even kill your plants.
Grow at Room Temperature
Most indoor plants tolerate the same range of temperatures we do. In fact many do best when we keep our homes a bit cooler. They don’t tolerate drafts of hot air from heating vents or cold air from doors and patio windows. And never trap houseplants between the curtain and window. The temperature can be significantly colder resulting in injury and even death of some plants. Place plants on a table near the window or windowsill extension, leaving room to close the curtains or blinds.
Increase the Humidity
Place tropical plants on a gravel tray to increase humidity, avoid root rot and decrease your workload. Place pebbles in a saucer or other shallow container. Set the plants on top of the pebbles above any water that collects in the pebbles. As the water evaporates, it increases humidity around the plant.
Group your plants together for easier maintenance and increased humidity. As one plant transpires (loses moisture from its leaves) its neighbors will benefit from the increase in humidity.
Keep them Clean
Cleaning dust from the leaves of houseplants not only makes them look good, it allows more light to reach the leaves and that means healthier plants.
Use a damp sponge or cloth to wipe dust off smooth leaves. Use a cosmetic or other soft brush to remove dust from fuzzy leaved plants like African violets. Or use a blow dryer set on cool and the very lowest power setting.
Written by, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!