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How to Choose and Care for House Plants

Pick a house plant for the place where you are going to put it in your house. Do not plan to put plants in a dark corner of the home. If it is not a very bright spot pick a plant that will grow in low light. This is often noted on the label, or talk to the greenhouse attendant. If you have a sunny window you may choose plants that grow best in bright light. If you are still unsure about which plant to pick, go to an indoor shopping mall to see what is growing there. I can assure you these plants are TOUGH. They were chosen to survive under neglect. Get out your plant identification book or google ‘house plants’ on your phone until you find the name. Now you are ready to visit your local greenhouse and pick a plant guaranteed to grow in your home.

Choose a plant. Some tough indoor plants for a sunny window might be cactus, hens and chicks, or spider plant. For low light spaces you could choose philodendron, cast iron plant, or parlor palm. When you go shopping you will find many more.

Chinese evergreen Spider plant Christmas cactus

Watering is not that difficult. You want to adapt your watering to each plant. Different plants require different amounts of water. The more light a plant receives, the more water it uses. The warmer temperatures and low humidity in the house, means your plants will need more water. Also, keep in mind that too much water can rot the roots, and too little water can cause the plant to wilt.

Some general watering rules: 1) water when the soil is dry to the touch; 2)water thoroughly so water runs out the bottom of pot; 3)do not let the plant sit in the water, dump out the extra water. 4)if your plants are tropical, you can increase humidity by placing stones and water in a pan and set the potted plant on the stones, not in the water. 5)water more during spring and summer days when plants are showing new growth; water less in winter when plants are resting.

Should I fertilize? A growing houseplant needs some nutrients. Your new houseplant has been sufficiently fertilized for a few months while growing in the greenhouse. After a few months, you may want to fertilize it. Use a fertilizer formulated for house plants. Follow the instructions on the label for strength and frequency of treatments. More is not better. I never fertilize as strong or as frequent as the label recommends. Too much fertilizer can ‘burn’ the roots.

You may want to groom the plant occasionally. If you have a vining plant you can clip it back. It will most likely continue to grow. Put your clippings in moist soil, it may grow roots. Remove yellow and dry leaves. Keep broad smooth leaves from collecting dust by gently wiping them with a wet cloth.

Repot your plant when it becomes root bound. When roots start coming out the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot, it is time to move it to a larger pot. Some plants may be divided at this time to make new plants.

windowsill trio pot of herbs

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