There is much to be said about bringing a bit of the outdoors in. There are many direct benefits to bringing plants into our homes and offices.
Not only do houseplants bring in some beauty and color to brighten up your space, NASA studies have proven that certain houseplants are even useful at cleaning the air inside your home or office.
Caring for houseplants can often seem like guesswork. Perhaps you've had a hand in some houseplants meeting an untimely demise, or you simply feel ill-prepared to care for houseplants. It can definitely seem like a lot of work.
We're here to assure you that while there is work involved, you can most certainly grow and maintain houseplants in your office or in your home.
All you need to do is continue reading as we help you to learn how to care for houseplants the easy way.
1. I have bad luck with houseplants – should i try again?
You might think you can simply walk into a garden center or a nursery, grab a pretty plant and take it home, water it and give it sunshine, and all will go well.
Unfortunately, this is not how it works at all. Many people are under this assumption and they are understandable disappointed when things don't end well with their houseplants. They wind up believing they have a “black thumb” or are simply incapable of caring for plants – and that is likely not the case at all!
If this has been your experience, don't give up! You can grow houseplants, you just need to have a better understanding of all that factors that come into play when caring for the plant.
The plants that can be purchased from online stores, big box retail garden centers and nurseries are often coming from greenhouses where they were grown in ideal conditions. The people operating these greenhouses know just how to get the best results from these plants, but when you buy them you likely don't have the same knowledge.
Taking these plants to their new home in your office or house can be quite a shock to them, and they might not respond well to the transition.
Today we are going to learn more about how to properly care for houseplants, and this starts with learning more about what your plants need.
2. Get to know your houseplants
Different plants are going to have different needs. Sure, they all need water and light, but even those will have variations. Before you dive into more in depth plant care, you should know exactly what your plant needs.
If you live in an area that is cold and snowy for most of the year, you might have a difficult time growing a tropical plant in your home without special equipment.
Likewise, if you live in a small apartment that has three north facing windows, you are not likely to have a good experience with houseplants.
One of the most important things to know about caring for your houseplant is how much light your plants need, and how to make sure they get it. Secondary to lighting is the temperature and humidity the houseplant you are growing needs to survive. Water is also a vital piece of knowledge when it comes to caring for houseplants, and today we will be discussing all of these points and more.
a. Lighting needs and how to supply them
Think about the lighting in the room. Let's look at different lighting levels and what effect they have on houseplants.
- Direct Sun
The majority of houseplants are not fans of direct sunlight.
Many houseplants will fail to thrive and eventually die in this situation. Additionally, the leaves of several species of houseplants will become burned when exposed to this full sun.
Very few plants will tolerate this full sun, among them are desert cacti and some succulents.
If your room has south facing windows, this is likely where the full sun will stream into the room; you should avoid placing your plants here.
- Partial Sun
Several different types of houseplants enjoy being seated near a window that receives just a few hours of sunlight during the day.
Flowering plants especially enjoy being exposed to partial sun and shade in these locations. In this spot, your plants will be exposed to some sun in the mornings or evenings but will be safe from the harsh midday sun.
Windows facing west, or east are likely to be the best location for this lighting condition.
- Low Light
Very few plants will do well in a low lighting area. This is especially true for flowering plants.
This is not true for all plants, however. Some houseplants like the Mother In Law's Tongue, Cast Iron Plant, and Dragon Tree even thrive in these darkened conditions.
If a plant can thrive in low lighting, it is likely quite easy to care for in other regards.
A north facing window is most likely to receive full shade, so if you've got one you should opt for a plant that does best there.
- Bright Indirect Sun
Most houseplants of all varieties (flowering and foliage) do well when exposed to bright indirect sunlight.
You can achieve this lighting in almost any situation, with a little work.
If you've got a window that faces south, set the plant a few feet back from the window.
If your windows face east or west, set your plant back far enough that it won't be exposed to the harsh midday sun while still being able to indirectly soak in the bright light.
b. Temperature and humidity
Variations in climates can cause problems in houseplants. As much as you want a tropical plant in your cold Minnesota home, you might have to settle for something different – or be willing to fork out some cash for special equipment.
Temperature is another vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to choosing the best plant for your home.
You have probably noticed that most houseplants are native to tropical and sub-tropical areas of the globe. Because of this, they prefer warmth and humidity. This can be tricky to achieve in some instances, and easy in others. Let's take a look.
The vast majority of houseplants do well when they are kept within a normal temperature range of 60°F/15°C to 75°F/24°C.
Houseplants tend to fare well in this temperature range, and that is good because this range is what most of our home and office thermostats are set at throughout the year.
Too Hot: If the temperature rises above 75°F/24°C, your plants might start to show some problems. The leaves will begin to turn yellow and fall off the plant, or the edges of the leaves might begin to turn brown and wilt.
Also, heat levels will affect humidity levels. When the temperature rises, your plants might need some help retaining moisture. You can mist the leaves of your plant or place it in a pebble tray filled with water.
Too Cold: When the temperatures fall below the plant's recommended range, this can almost always lead to plant death. Not only will the leaves curl and turn brown before falling off, there can be irreparable damage to the root system.
Tips: Be mindful of where your houseplant is placed. Keep it out of chilly draft in windowsills, and away from the dry heated air blowing from the heat registers and vents.
Plants can tolerate a small shift in temperature, but too much of a variation can shock your houseplant and result in its demise.
It doesn't matter what type of plants you choose to grow in your home, they will all need to be watered.
Some houseplants are incredibly forgiving and can go long stretches of time without being watered, but most cannot tolerate this.
You should know, though, that the number one cause of death for houseplants is inadequate watering. This can be not watering your plants enough or giving them too much. Different plants have different needs, however, so let's learn a bit about that now.
Flowering Houseplants: The blooms given by these flowering beauties are worth all the work they need. Some are adaptable and can thrive with little care, but most flowering plants will need a lot of TLC. When it comes to watering, flowering houseplants like their soil to be moist, but not wet. When you think your plant needs a drink, check the soil with your finger to see if the soil is damp. If it is, then your houseplant is good for now. If the soil feels dry, then give your flowering houseplant a bit of water – but do not soak it.
Foliage Houseplants: Featuring an interesting variety of leaf shapes, designs and colors, foliage plants are great to keep around the home or office. These plants like to be well-watered during the growing seasons of spring, summer and fall, but prefer to be left to dry out a bit during the winter dormant period. Let the top inch of the soil dry out before watering again, and when you do water these plants, be sure to water on the soil directly.
Cacti and Succulents: While these plants are native to dry climates and need less watering than most, they do still need a drink every now and then. During the growing season of spring through fall, check the soil to see if it is moist or dry. If moist, they don't need watered. If dry, give them a big drink. Through the winter you might want to just leave these houseplants alone for the most part. Remember that cacti and succulents store water in their leaves and can go long periods of time without getting watered.
d. How to water
When watering your houseplants, there are a few different ways you can do it.
Immersion – Some plants do best when the entire plant, container and all, are immersed in standing water for a period of time. Watering your plants in this way gives them the chance to get the amount of water they need just be sure you allow them to drain the excess water for a while after their bath.
Top to Bottom – Most houseplants do best when watered in the traditional way, with the water being poured over the soil onto the plant's root system. Make sure you don't allow the water to collect on the leaves of the plant however, as this can lead to fungus.
Bottom's Up – If the houseplant you are growing has a root system that grows lower in the container, the method of watering from the bottom will be the best option for your plant. Simply fill a tray or saucer with water and place it beneath the plant. Allow the plant to drink up as much water as it needs before pouring the excess water from the tray or saucer.
- Don't water your houseplants with cold water as this can shock their roots. Instead use warm or room temperature water
- Many plants are sensitive to chemicals found in tap water. To protect your houseplant from things like fluoride, don't use tap water for watering, instead use distilled water
- Do not overwater! Most houseplants can tolerate a little under watering, but over watering will lead to root death which will quickly kill your plant from the bottom up
- Drainage is as vital to watering as the watering itself. Ensure that your container has an adequate method of drainage so that your plant's roots don't become waterlogged
Most houseplants, when cared for properly do not need additional fertilization. In fact, many chemicals in fertilizers can cause harm to houseplants and their delicate leaves and systems.
If you do choose to fertilize your houseplants, make sure to use a fertilizer that is made especially for indoor plants, and try to find one for your specific plant (especially if you are growing orchids).
Look out for brown spots on leaves or leaves that look like they've been burned on the edges. Misshapen or wilting leaves are also a sign of too much fertilizer, as is a crusty white film on the soil's surface.
Be careful with fertilizer so you don't burn your houseplant.
4. Final word
There are many variables that go into caring for your houseplants.
As long as you give your houseplants the proper amount of lighting, keep them at the right temperature and humidity levels and water them properly, you are sure to have good luck growing your houseplants.
Don't give up, you do have a green thumb…
You just have to learn how to use it!