Success With Houseplants

We have enjoyed growing plants, both indoor and outdoor for many many years. During that time we have heard people say, “Oh I can’t grow anything. Give me a plant and I will surely kill it.” Why do some people seem to have a ‘green thumb’ and others don’t?  Why do some people  have success with houseplants and others do not? We think it might have to do with several things.

First it has to do with a person’s mindset. Whether you are attempting to grow indoor plants or a large garden of herbs or vegetables outside, you must take care of them. They all have simple needs that can be easily met. Caring for plants is a responsibility, just like caring for pets, livestock and our children. They all need proper nourishment, good water, proper light, and a hospitable environment where they can grow and thrive. Just remember, while inside your house, they cannot depend on Abba to provide for their needs – that is your responsibility. If you can make time to feed, water and care for your pets and children you can easily include the care of a few houseplants.

The next reason is lack of knowledge. Many people haven’t grown up in families that had houseplants or gardens. It’s understandable that you wouldn’t learn the basics of caring for plants. But not to worry, there are wonderful reference books available at bookstores, garden centers and online. Choose one that appeals to you and give a read. Learn about the various types of plants and choose a few that will work best in your situation. Keep in mind the watering needs and don’t choose a plant that requires daily watering when you know that you must be out of town during the week and only home on weekends. Consider the light and space requirement as well. Don’t forget to think about the possibility of ingestion by pets and children and choose plants that won’t harm them, if they do try a bite. If you are new to houseplants choose varieties that are super easy to grow and only start with a few, no more than 5 or six. Once you have gained confidence and success with those you can move on to other more challenging and exotic plants or increase the number of house plants that you keep.

Some Tips for Growing Healthy Air Cleaning Plants
Here are a few suggestions to help you be success when growing houseplants:

  • Most plants do well with moderate to bright indirect sunlight or under full spectrum lighting. Avoid placing plants that prefer indirect light next to windows or glass doors where bright sunlight could shine directly on them.
  • As much as possible, locate plants away from heating and cooling vents. Hot dry air blowing on a plant will dry it out too quickly and can create the environment for insect infestations. Chilly or cold air can damage plant leaves and reduce growth.We recommend that you place the pots on trays or water proof saucers with high lips. Fill the saucers with small pebbles, pea gravel or large natural aquarium gravel. This will catch any extra liquid from watering, protect your surfaces, and allow air to circulate under the pot, and with a little water in the tray – provide needed moisture and humidity in your home and around your plants.
  • Read about your plants and know the best way to care for them. Most house plants require similar care but there are exceptions.
  • Only use un-chlorinated, tepid water for your plants. If your home has chlorinated water, allow it to sit, uncapped, for at least 24 hours so the chlorine can evaporate or use water from a filtering device.
  • Never use distilled (de-mineralized) water for watering plants.
  • Beware of over watering any plant, as this the most common cause of houseplant death. The second is not watering them at all.
  • When watering, try to avoid splashing water on the leaves. Some plants, like African Violets and Snake Plant don’t do well when this happens. Instead, point your watering can or pitcher at the soil, under the leaves
  • At least a few times a week, mist your houseplants with a spray trigger bottle that holds un-chlorinated, room temperature water. This helps to hydrate the leaves, creates much loved humidity, and helps the leaves to stay clean.
  • Because houseplants are grown in containers and pots the soil can get depleted over time. We recommend that you fertilize or feed any indoor plant with plant food specifically developed for these types of plants. Most garden centers will have a variety of plant foods available. How often you feed your plants depends on the type of food you use. Follow the instructions on the plant food container.
  • At least once a year or as often as necessary, give your houseplants a bath. You can wipe the leaves (top & bottom) with clean ‘plant water’ and a damp rag or paper towel. For larger plants, you might want to try giving them a shower in the bathroom or outside in warmer weather. After spraying them, use your hands to wipe across as many leaves as possible to help clear away any residual dust and debris. Then give them one more quick spray and allow them to drain before moving back to their usual place in your home.
  • As plants grow and become larger, so do their root balls. If kept in too small of a container the roots can become compacted and completely fill the pot or container. I suggest that you check the root ball once a year during the dormant season – usually during the winter. Simply remove the plant from the pot and examine it. If the roots are very visible, have completely filled the pot, and the root ball is retaining the pots shape – it is time to replant into a larger container using fresh potting soil. Choose a new container that is at least twice the size of the current pot. This will give the roots room to grow and expand and it will give them fresh nutrients that are vital to healthy growth.
  • House plants can fall prey to destructive insects. Some of the most common are scale, aphids, spider mites, and mealy bugs. You can remove and kill most of these by using a strong solution of soap (such as Dr. Bronners) Place several tablespoons of liquid soap in a spray bottle and fill with water. Give the bottle a shake and spray the leaves, stems and other plant surfaces. Make sure you get up under the leaves and saturate the whole plant. For stubborn pests such as mealy bugs and scale you may have to use a paper towel to wipe over the surfaces and remove these insects. Scale is difficult to remove and may require a second application, or a product from your local garden center. The best defense against houseplant pests is to provide them with consistent light and water.

If you are able to provide an ideal living situation for your plants, they will be healthier and less prone to insect infestations. If you do encounter problems, check with a good indoor house plant reference book for instructions on how to rid the plants of these unwanted visitors. Most books will provide diagrams or photographs of a number of insect pests and give instructions for how to remedy your houseplant.

To learn more about using house plants to remove toxins in your home we suggest your read the following:

The Air At Home  – How to Improve it with Plants

15 Plants to Remove Toxins in Your Home

Planting Poem

Here’s to greener plants,

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