Fall season presents a unique challenge when it comes to gardening — colder weather can make it difficult to plant. One route many plant lovers turn to are growing house plants.
Indoor plants and greenery are ideal for the novice gardener. They are relatively easy to take care of, provide health benefits and mood-boosting qualities and can be used to bring the outdoors in in a variety of indoor décor. Indoor plants are a great option for those who have limited or zero yard space for an outdoor garden or for those who live in climates with severely cold winters.
Linda Taube at Twin Oaks Landscape and Nursery said the key element is water management.
“One of the biggest issues with growing houseplants is people tend to want to water them,” Taube said. “People will kill more house plants by over watering them. It’s an issue people really have to watch.
When watering your plants, wet the entire root ball and let the excess water run out the bottom of the pot. Don’t leave standing water in the catch-tray for more than a day or two, as doing so can promote root diseases. Allow the soil to partially dry before watering again. To check soil moisture, stick your finger into the top two inches of soil. If it is dry, that’s your cue to water. You can also tell how dry a plant is by lifting the pot; it will be heavy after watering and lighter as it dries out.
Taube said house plants are good because they help detoxify the air by pulling contaminants into the soil. Adding plants to interior spaces can also increase oxygen levels and release moisture vapor, which increases humidity of the air around them. Some popular common plants and some of the best plants suited for indoors include English Ivy, rubber plants, peace lilies, Philodendron, Boston Fern, Gerbera Daisies and aloe vera, among others.
In addition to over watering Taube said to look out for drainage issues. Water pools can lead to mold forming and can attract insects. To control insects, it is best to ensure plant health and avoid using pesticides on the plants. Also be sure to visually inspect plants each time you water.
Changes in leaf color or texture can signal an insect problem. Leaves may become spotted, speckled or yellowed when insects are present. Leaves might also become distorted or misshapen. Some insects secrete a substance called honeydew, which makes leaves unusually shiny and sticky.
Good potting soil is another way to give your houseplants a healthy advantage. Quality potting soil promotes healthy roots by providing a balance of proper aeration, nutrition and moisture-holding capability.
House plants also make for good gifts. With the holiday shopping season coming up, Taube recommends the Christmas Cactus as a great indoor plant as well as the Norfolk Pine, which can be used for miniature Christmas trees.
Light is another area to keep an eye on when it comes to caring for your indoor plants. Taube said most house plants want a little light but do not need direct sunlight, though they do vary in their light requirements, depending on the plant. Also important to note is that light intensity varies with the seasons, though all houseplants thrive with some light from outdoors. Though some need less than others, the better you match your plants with the light conditions best suited for their growth, the happier they will be.
Plants will also tell you by their appearance if they are getting too much or too little light. Too much light usually turns the foliage dull green to yellowish, and the leaves may also wilt even if the plant has plenty of water.
Herbs are another type of plant that can be grown indoors for the gardener with limited outdoor space. Taube suggests parsley, chives and mint as great indoor options. However, she warned that vegetables are not ideal to be grown indoors, as they often need more soil and sunlight than can be offered in an indoor setting.
When selecting a plant, Taube suggests starting with a plant that is already grown. Hoya and aloe vera are two types of succulents that she notes make good house plants, as they are easy to grow and don’t require a lot of care.
“As a general rule most houseplants do not like full sun,” Taube said. “They like a lot of bright light but not direct sunlight. House plants also do not like it to be super cold. The most optimal temperatures are in the area between 65 and 85 degrees.”
Another helpful and often overlooked tip is to keep your foliage clean. Dust that accumulates on the leaves of houseplants will block light and harbor insects. Clean leaves by wiping them with a moist towel or take plants outdoors and gently hose them off.