Indoor Gardening

By Kristen Castillo

July 2, 2012 5 min read

Houseplants are a great way to bring the outdoors inside. Whether or not it has flowers, a plant can add a cozy touch to any home.

*Going Green

"Many houseplants actually improve the air quality of your home by removing toxins and allergens from the air, so go ahead and enjoy them," says Julie Day-Jones of "Today's Homeowner With Danny Lipford."

A new plant delivery service in New York City, called The Sill, is helping city dwellers "incorporate greenery into our living spaces," says the company's Eliza Blank.

The Sill aims to match people with the right plants. "We know that becoming a plant owner can be intimidating, and we wanted to eliminate a lot of the common stressors that go along with caring for a houseplant," says Blank, noting they offer instructions and customer service to answer plant owners' questions.

*Easy Plants

While you're in charge of all the conditions in your indoor garden, including water, light, soil conditions and temperature, you can still cultivate pretty plants.

"Even homeowners who don't have a green thumb can have success with houseplants," says Day-Jones. "I'd start with plants that don't need a whole lot of light or maintenance, such as pothos, spider plant, snake plant or peace lily."

She also suggests foliage plants, which don't have flowers.

"Most of them are very forgiving and can usually bounce back from all sorts of neglect," Day-Jones explains. "Blooming plants, like orchids and African violets, are more challenging to grow, as are cacti and succulents. These plants need specialized growing conditions that aren't particularly difficult, but they just aren't as forgiving if you let things slide."

If you travel a lot or simply don't have lots of time to care for plants, you definitely want ones that are low-maintenance.

Blank recommends the ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), which she says is "very tolerant of a wide range of conditions," including "long stretches without water, dark rooms, dry air and is more or less pest-free."

*Sunlight

Getting enough sunlight is one of the biggest challenges for houseplants.

"Most indoor conditions, while sufficient, do not offer the kind of sunlight that a plant would naturally get outdoors," says Blank. "Most apartments have windows on one or two walls only - whereas, outside, the plant would get sun from all directions."

The way to meet this sunlight challenge is to move the plants to different locations in your home, until you can determine where they grow best.

"In general, with foliage plants, light-colored leaves will tolerate more sunlight, and plants with dark green leaves can tolerate lower light conditions," says Day-Jones. "When in doubt, locate your houseplants in bright rooms and windows that get direct sun only part of the day."

*Water and Fertilizer

When and how to water houseplants is another concern.

"People tend to overwater plants in an effort to care for them -- while typically, under watering is better for a plant, than overwatering," says Blank.

Day-Jones advises watering "most tropical houseplants" once a week from spring to fall and then watering them once every two weeks during the winter. She says it's best to water your houseplants "when the top half-inch of dirt feels dry to the touch. Gently add room-temperature water until a little bit runs out into the drainage tray."

Make sure the drainage tray doesn't fill up or else your plants could rot. Fertilize your plants once a month during the spring to fall growing season.

*How Many Plants?

Houseplants tend to be small and cute, but how many are too many?

"It's definitely possible to overdo it," says Day-Jones, who warns that too many houseplants can cause increased humidity, "which can lead to mold, fungi and bacteria growth, both in the moist plant soil and elsewhere in your home."

For that reason, she recommends one 6-inch plant for every 100 square feet.

*Indoor Gardening Resources

http://www.thesill.com, http://www.dannylipford.com/category/diy-home-improvement/lawn-and-garden and http://www.garden.org

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