The Basics to Healthy Houseplants

Maintaining Healthy houseplants is not extremely difficult and in fact many houseplants will provide you with big returns on a very small investment. In fact sometimes a little too much care is applied yielding negative results. Plants have developed naturally to survive under inherently poor conditions and sometimes too much of a good thing is in fact not good. Keep it simple but provide the basics.

What Are a Plant’s Basic Needs?

Similar to any living thing, a plant needs water, food, environment and occasional grooming. That is basically the program in a nutshell. Learn how to best satisfy these needs for your particular plant and by routinely satisfying those basic needs you should be rewarded with healthy plants.

Potting and soil mix: To permit adequate drainage, it is recommended that you grow houseplants in either clay or plastic pots with drainage holes.

You can place the growing pots inside attractive outer pots but do not let extra water accumulate in the bottom.

Most houseplants do not require frequent transplanting. Transplant when you see the plant being forced out of its container or you see roots showing at the drainage hole. Use houseplant potting mix, and replant into a container that is just a little larger than the roots.

Light: Flowering houseplants and those with colored leaves need more light than green-leafed plants. These houseplants may require supplemental plant lighting supplied by either a specialty grow light or a common fluorescent light.

Water: Over watering is the most common mistake of new gardeners. Wait for the soil to become almost dry, but do not allow the plant to become wilted. Water until the water just begins to appear at the drainage holes. Test for moisture by touch or by using a moisture meter every five days. If it feels dry or meter registers dry, it is time to add water.

When watering your houseplants look at the top and underside of leaves. If you see bugs, try washing them away with water and a mild dish detergent solution. Test the water and soap mixture on a small part of the plant first, to be sure there will be no damage to leaves. If you find that is not successful, you will need to apply a chemical insecticide.

Throw away dead plant matter and discard the soil to prevent diseases spreading to your other houseplants.

Humidity: Place a layer of marbles in bottom of saucers; fill with water and place plant pot on top to capture evaporation. Consider a room humidifier if you notice your house humidity levels are to low for your houseplants.

Temperature: Daytime temperatures of 64 to 73°F (18 to 23°C) and a little cooler at night are ideal. Avoid placing houseplants near heating ducts or drafty areas.

Fertilizing: A great deal of fertilizing is not necessary. Fertilizing of houseplants should be further reduced during slowed winter growth. Begin fertilizing about February with all-purpose fertilizer diluted to half strength. All-purpose fertilizer has nutrient ratios that are balanced or in equal concentrations, e.g. 15-15-15 or 20-20-20.

Trimming

Remove leaves that turn off color or yellow yellow and dead leaves. If more than half the leaf is affected, remove the entire leaf. If only a small portion of the leaf is discolored, trim that portion to the natural shape of the leaf. Use sharp scissors for best results. The leaves of some houseplants may continue to grow at the leaf base. Remove both the flower and the stem. Remove faded and discoloured flowers.

Pests and Diseases: Healthy houseplants are less susceptible to disease and less than ideal conditions. For the best success, only purchase healthy vibrant plants. Plants purchased at reduced prices are have often deteriorated badly and will require a lot of care to return them to health.

Grooming: Dust plant leaves on a regular basis to keep breathing pores open. Remove dead or dying leaves and flowers. Dust and dirt that collects on plant leaves will act as a filter to the ambient light. A clean plant converts energy from the sun more efficiently for photosynthesis to produce food. Cleaning also keeps leaves free of insects and diseases. When you wipe leaves, you often wipe away unwanted pests as well.

Use a feather duster to remove light dust. Dampen paper towels, cloths or sponges with water to wipe leaf surfaces. Carefully wipe both upper and lower surfaces of the leaf at the same time. Although they provide a nice appearance, leaf shine products tend to inhibit leaf transpiration and are not recommended for good houseplant health.

That basically concludes the practices required to maintain nice healthy plants inside your house. The principles are not difficult to apply. Simply develop a routine and follow it.

Pollen Allergy? How You Can Enjoy Houseplants Without Suffering

So does having pollen allergies mean you’re doomed to using plastic flowers or worse…a household without plants? No. You can keep real houseplants as part of your decorating scheme. Read on to discover how you can easily resolve this conflict between your allergies and fresh plants within the comfort of your own home.

First, there are some houseplants that have a low pollen count, and are less likely to set your eyes to watering and your nose to running. These include:

  • begonias
  • croton
  • passionflower
  • nasturtium
  • miniature roses
  • peace lilies
  • Swedish ivy
  • peperomia
  • bay
  • thyme
  • parsley

These and other low-pollen houseplants will make your home look and smell beautiful, but won’t trigger your itchy eyes, runny nose or sneezing. Ask around at your local florist or garden center for others.

Just as with artificial plants and flowers, dust will settle on plants and contribute to your allergy symptoms. When you are doing your cleaning routine, make sure you give your plants a wipe with a damp cloth to remove any dust that has accumulated on the leaves. Of course, don’t use a cleaning solution… just a bit of water will do. You can also mist your houseplants regularly to wash away any dust that has accumulated on them.

Make sure you don’t over-water your houseplants, as this will encourage mold to grow on the soil and mold can trigger allergies. Keep an eye on the surface of the soil for mold growth and, if you see any, remove the top layer of soil or re-pot your plant.

When you are re-potting your houseplants, always use fresh, sterile potting soil. It is tempting, especially in this age of reusing and recycling, to use the same soil, but if you have allergies then you may be exposing yourself to mold or other irritants. If you have a yard, or know someone with an outdoor garden or composter, you can pass on your used soil to them.

Also, consider using an air purifier that has a filter for trapping pollen and other fine particulates. This will help keep any pollen in the air from drifting around and landing on other surfaces, which will trigger allergies. If you decide to get an air purifier, make sure to pick one that goes beyond resolving your allergies and provides you with a clean and healthy lifestyle.

Pollen allergies don’t mean you have to avoid houseplants forever! Just follow these tips, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the beauty of houseplants around your home…sniffle-free.

Easy To Grow Houseplants Clean the Air

A houseplant, usually native to tropical climates, is grown indoors for decorative purposes. Houseplants also provide a natural and cost effective way to clean indoor air. According to Dr. Wolverton’s NASA study, it is suggested that at least one potted plant per 100 square feet of home or office space is needed to be effective air cleaners.

The major factors to consider when growing and caring for a houseplant are water, soil, light, temperature, humidity, fertilizers, and pots. Most plants come with a description tag that will guide you on how to care for that specific plant. Below are some basic guidelines for houseplant care.

Water:

  • Both under-watering and over-watering, can be harmful to houseplants.
  • Check the soil moisture to determine whether a plant needs to be watered.
  • Typically, a houseplant needs to be watered about once a week. Avoid rigid watering schedules and only water when needed.
  • Be sure to completely saturate the soil when watering.

Soil:

  • Use a good potting soil mixture. Good potting soil mixture provides the houseplant with nutrients, adequate drainage, and proper aeration. Most potting soil mixtures contain a combination of dirt, peat moss, and perlite or vermiculite.
  • A good potting soil mixture can usually be purchased wherever potted and garden plants are sold.

Light:

  • Plants use light to make energy through the process of photosynthesis.
  • Windows are the most common light source for houseplants. Southern facing windows provide the most sun and light exposure. Western and eastern windows have much less sun and light exposure.
  • Artificial light, such as fluorescent lighting, also provides excellent light quality for houseplants.
  • 8-16 hours of quality light is ideal for most houseplants.

Temperature:

  • Most houseplants grow in a tropical climate which ranges from 60-80 degrees.
  • The majority of homes are kept around this temperature; therefore, houseplants can thrive inside the home.
  • Night temperatures should be 10 degrees lower to duplicate nature.

Humidity:

  • Nearly all plants thrive in 80% relative humidity. Generally, most homes are kept around 20%-60% relative humidity.
  • One of the most popular methods to increase relative humidity is to use a pebble tray beneath a houseplant. To make a pebble tray, fill the drainage tray with small pebbles or rocks. Then fill the tray with water as high as the pebbles or rocks are and then set the potted houseplant on the pebble or rock tray. Be sure to keep the pebble or rock tray full of water.
  • Another way to increase relative humidity is to purchase and use an indoor humidifier.
  • Other simple ways to increase humidity are to group plants together and avoid placing them in drafty areas.

Fertilizers:

  • Adding fertilizer to houseplants provides nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium that the plants need to enhance growth.
  • Fertilizers are usually marked with a number such as 20-20-20. These numbers represent the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.
  • A 20-20-20 mixture is good for green foliating plants.
  • A 10-20-10 mixture is ideal for blooming plants.
  • Be sure to carefully read the instructions on the fertilizer container because too much fertilizer can be harmful to plants.

Pots:

  • Proper pot size is an important fact to consider. A pot that is too small may halt a plant’s growth while a pot that is too large may cause root disease because of the excess moisture retained in the soil.
  • Generally a pot can stay in the same pot for about two years.
  • Porous pots (usually clay) provide better aeration because air passes laterally through the sides of the pot.
  • Non-porous pots (glazed or plastic) tend to hold moisture for a longer period of time and can restrict airflow.
  • Be sure all pots have drainage holes. If a pot does not have adequate drainage the plant may end up with root rot. A substitute drainage mechanism can be made for pots without drainage holes by placing clay shards or pebbles in the bottom of the pot before filling it with soil. This will allow the excess water to pool in the bottom of the pot instead of the soil.

Ten Easy Houseplants to Grow:

1. Orchids

2. Spider Plant

3. English Ivy

4. Philodendron

5. Fishtail Palm

6. Rubber Plant

7. Calla Lily

8. Christmas Cactus

9. Butterfly Palm

10. Baby’s Tears

Many species of plants are suitable to grow indoors. To learn more about caring for houseplants and finding the right houseplants for your home, visit the Better Homes and Garden website.