The practice of growing plants indoors goes back to ancient times. Researchers have found remnants of flowers and other plants inside Pompeiian terra cotta pots. While our ancestors have been growing plants indoors for centuries, it can still be a daunting task. Even the best gardeners have managed to kill a simple houseplant in their time.
So how exactly do you choose the right plant for your home? And how do you manage to keep it alive for more than a month? Knowing the right tips and tricks can make growing plants indoors a breeze!
Why You Should Be Growing Plants Indoors
Growing plants indoors is a great way to add color and life to your home's interior. If you live in an apartment or condo, growing plants indoors may be the only access you have to a "garden," even if it is a makeshift one.
Some houseplants are also air-filtering powerhouses. Just keeping these plants in your home will help increase the oxygen and reduce the impurities in your home's air.
Choose the Right Plants
When growing plants indoors, choosing the right plant is almost as important as how you care for it. Many plants are not suited to indoor environments, while others will thrive in your normal household conditions.
The Best Indoor Plants
The most important factors when choosing indoor plants are their light and moisture needs. Hardier plants that need little of these are much easier to keep alive indoors.
Peace lilies are a popular indoor plant choice because they thrive in low light. Philodendrons are also fans of low light conditions, and they prefer staying dry. Another drought resistant choice is the pothos, which loves dimly lit rooms and infrequent watering. An even more resilient houseplant is the cast-iron plant, which can survive in almost any home condition you can imagine.
The Worst Indoor Plants
Roses and their miniature counterparts are notoriously hard to keep alive indoors. Azaleas also struggle in most homes, preferring temperatures at or below 65 degrees. Tropicals like calathea and banana plants can be grown indoors, but require immense amounts of sunlight, water, and humidity in order to survive. If you plan to bring any of these plants into your home, make sure you know what you're getting into!
One more factor to keep in mind when shopping for houseplants is whether or not any pets or children will have access to these plants. Some common plants can be poisonous when ingested, so make sure to double-check any plants that you are unfamiliar with.
Provide Adequate Light
Natural sunlight is probably the hardest factor to control. You can't change the number of windows in your home or the direction they face relative to the sun. But if your home gets poor natural light, what can you do?
There are tons of artificial plant lights on the market. With the help of some of these supplemental grow lamps you can keep plants in almost any room in your home!
South-facing windows offer the best natural sunlight for growing plants indoors, followed by east- and west-facing windows in second place and north-facing ones coming in last. Keep this in mind when choosing the best windows in your home for growing indoor plants.
Plants soak up UV light that is invisible to our human eyes. This means that even though, to us, a room might be filled with bright light, the usable light for a plant only extends a couple feet past the light source. If you place a plant several feet away from a south- or east/west-facing window, they will really only be getting indirect light. Many plants survive in or even prefer indirect lighting, but those with greater light needs will suffer if placed too far from a window.
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If your home doesn't get enough natural sunlight, you can supplement it with artificial lights. There are many lights on the market made specifically for growing plants indoors, but any full spectrum fluorescent light will do! In order for these lights to be effective, though, you must place them very close to your plants. Generally, they will need to be 6 to 15 inches away in order to give your plants the right amount of light.
A great tool that can be used in conjunction with these grow lamps is an outlet timer. These timers make it easy to give your plants the exact amount of light they need per day.
While not every plant needs sunlight, natural lighting is ideal for flowering plants. If your plants aren't getting enough light you'll probably notice that they stop flowering, turn yellow, or are growing uncharacteristically tall and lanky. This means you need to re-evaluate your light source - natural or artificial.
Keep Them Hydrated, But Not Too Much
Unlike sunlight, you have almost total control over the amount of water your plants get. But when growing plants indoors, you will also need to take into account your home's humidity and the risk of overwatering your houseplants.
Up the humidity
If you plan to bring outdoor plants inside, one thing you might not think of is your home's humidity levels. Even some common houseplants don't do well in dry climates. This can be an issue during winter months when your home's air is particularly dry.
Signs of dehydration to watch out for include:
If your home's air humidity is the issue, you may see these symptoms even if the soil is kept moist. In fact, many indoor gardeners end up overwatering their plants in an attempt to re-hydrate them (more on this in a minute!)
Avoid placing your plants too close to heating vents or radiators. These heat sources can burn your plants, causing them to dry out even further. Placing bowls or pans of water near your plants will slightly increase the humidity in the surrounding air.
If you want to grow tropical plants indoors, such as palms, bromeliads, and some ferns, you might need to supplement the air with extra moisture. Spraying the entire plant with water can help, but might not stop all symptoms of dehydration. Home humidifiers are also a cheap and easy way to give your houseplants a little extra humidity.
One of the most common issues when growing plants indoors is root rot. Indoor plants typically get less direct sunlight than their outdoor counterparts. This means that their soil does not dry out as quickly after watering. Soil that is too wet too often leads to fungal growth and oxygen deprivation. These factors can lead to a common plant death known as root rot.
Most popular houseplants don't need water more than once a week. It is best to let your plants' soil almost completely dry out than to water it when it is still moist.
Be wary of tap water
While hardier houseplants won't be bothered much by tap water, it is a good idea to use rain or bottled water as often as possible. Added chemicals in tap water, like the salt in softened water, can build up in your plants' soil over time and damage their roots.
When growing plants indoors, you can easily collect rainwater by placing a bucket or jug at the bottom of a drainage spout. Unsoftened well water, bottled water, and purified water are other alternatives if you don't have convenient access to a drain spout.
Watch Out for Pests
Spider mites love indoor plants that are in dry and warm environments. These pests can take over a plant surprisingly fast, so vigilance is key when growing plants indoors.
The best way to prevent a full-blown infestation is to regularly check for webs, eggs, or actual mites crawling around on your plants' foliage. The earlier you catch their presence, the easier they are to get rid of. Regularly spritzing the leaves of your plants with water or a mild pesticide can also help keep spider mites from taking over.
Give Them Space
When growing plants indoors, it's pretty much a given that you will need to use pots. Since your plants don't have the freedom of stretching their roots out in the ground, you need to keep an eye on the size of their planters. Make sure to use pots that are big enough for your plants' root systems and to regularly upgrade them as your plants grow. Failing to give your plants enough space could stunt their growth or even end up killing them in the long run.
Fill Your Home with Plants
Houseplants are an excellent way to elevate your interior design and bring life to your home. By following our tips and tricks, you can easily fill your living space with lush, beautiful plants!
While your choice of plant can be the most important decision, providing the proper lighting, moisture, and space will ultimately determine whether or not your plants thrive. Growing plants indoors is a great way to master your green thumb, even if you don't have access to your own garden!