Let's Go Inside

By Tom Roebuck

July 3, 2009 5 min read


Gardening moves to a new location as temperatures drop

Tom Roebuck

Creators News Service

As the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter, lawns become dormant and the mower hibernates for the winter. Gardens also notice the change of the seasons, with many plants unable to withstand the loss of light, not to mention frozen soil and blanketing snow. Gardeners who love to spend time in the sun sitting in the soil are driven inside, deprived of their connection with nature.

While you might not be able to plant a row of corn or carrots on your basement floor, there are many plants that thrive in an indoor environment. Not only do they have an uplifting effect on any room and serve as a natural air freshener, you can continue your gardening routine -- although it won't take nearly as much time as tending to your outdoor oasis.

Since keeping a collection of indoor plants alive and healthy requires less maintenance than an outdoor plot teeming with vegetables and exotic flowers, avid gardeners aren't the only ones that can enjoy a splash of green in their home. Instead of plowing the soil and planting a seed, you'll be going to a garden center and choosing a plant that's already thriving, taking it home and keeping it in the same pot -- at least for a while.

"Just bring it home and put it where you want it, but don't repot it quite yet," said Barbara Pleasant, author of "The Complete Houseplant Survival Manual" ($25, Storey Books). "Instead, have a container that's slightly bigger than the pot it's in and slip it in there. That way the plant can adjust to light and temperature and its new environment before you're asking it to do another big challenge, which is adjusting to a new root environment."

The biggest factor to consider when determining what plants will go in what room will be light. The rooms that have the most sunlight will be able to sustain a larger variety of plants than rooms with little or no sunlight.

A living room with plants has been a sign of civility since Victorian times, Pleasant noted, and it's usually a well-lit area perfect for growing, as is the kitchen. A blooming plant is a vibrant yet inexpensive choice for these sun-filled rooms.

"They're usually so inexpensive that so what if they don't last a long time. Some things just don't," Pleasant said. "But in the meantime you can enjoy, for example, a cyclamen in bloom, which will continue to bloom for three or four months."

Plants are a nice touch for any bathroom, helping to keep the air nice and fresh in what is a typically small space with higher humidity than the rest of the house. A hanging fern thrives in the moist environment without taking up any shelf or floor space, making it an ideal candidate.

Even a cave-like basement doesn't have to go without any green. Pleasant recommended using an aquarium with a fluorescent light on a timer to create a little eco-system that requires a little watering and not much else.

"It's a no-brainer thing. Once you get the water right, it becomes a self-perpetuating system, you don't have to remember to do anything," she said.

Getting the water right will determine whether or not indoor plants will survive. Many houseplants will require once-a-week watering, but it's a good idea to ask a salesperson as you're buying a plant for watering advice. Overwatering is the most common mistake plant owners make.

The Home Depot has a tagging system on all of their plants that lists information on how to care for that specific plant, according to Cathy Morrow, a live goods merchant for The Home Depot. "We also have it coded so you can go onto our website and you can plug in that plant-tag code and it will give you more information on that particular plant," Morrow said.

Common houseplants like dieffenbachia and aglaonema are popular because they can grow in low light and are durable. Morrow singled out Zamioculcas zamiifolia, known as the ZZ plant, as a particularly resilient plant, adaptable to very low light and dry or wet conditions.

"I have one sitting on my desk. It has long shoots, it will grow to about three feet high and has bright green foliage," Morrow said.

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