Caring for Your Houseplants


A house is not a home until it contains at least one houseplant. Bringing plants into your home is a great way to infuse your indoor space with vitality and color. Not only do houseplants make your home more inviting, but they also naturally improve indoor air quality and your mood. However, you can only reap the rewards of a houseplant by taking proper care of it.



Why Have Houseplants?

Besides the fact that houseplants are pretty and smell good, there are a number of reasons why people choose to bring houseplants into their homes and workplace. Recent studies reveal houseplants to have the potential to make you and your home healthier. Here are a few health benefits that you can gain by caring for a houseplant.


Houseplants help you fight colds.
Indoor plants have been proven to reduce cold-related illnesses by more than 30%. Houseplants act as natural humidifiers that add humidity to the air, reducing the number of airborne dust particles and allergens. By filling your home with plants, you can decrease headaches and sinus pressure because you will no longer be breathing in musty air.


Houseplants clean the air in your home.
A houseplant's main purpose is to keep your home's air clean. Through the process of photosynthesis, plants rid the air of excess carbon dioxide and a variety of toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Trichloroethylene are three harmful VOCs that are emitted from household objects, like paint or cleaning supplies. Although these gases only cause temporary headaches, nausea and fatigue, overexposure to these VOCs may cause multiple forms of cancer. Houseplants ensure your health and happiness by providing clean air and protection from airborne contaminants.


Houseplants improve your state of mind.
Not only do houseplants help you fight colds and clean the air, but they can also improve your mental state. For those who are tense or just lost in life, houseplants can reduce stress and restore motivation. Potted flowers and plants also improve productivity, produce tranquility and instill optimism. With the aid of houseplants, you can be a healthier and happier person.



How to Care for Your Houseplants

Most houseplants are easy-to-maintain but every houseplant is different; some plants can endure high temperatures with little water while others need water and fertilizer on a weekly basis.
In order to create an ideal living condition for your houseplant, you need to adjust your home environment to meet the needs of your potted plant.


Watering
The easiest way to kill a houseplant is by overwatering it. Most houseplants don't need a lot of water and don't require a scheduled watering. Simply put: Don't water your plant unless it needs it. You can tell a plant is thirsty when the surface of the soil lightens in color and begins to split. When watering houseplants, be sure that you are getting the water into the planting medium. Using a water can (277-4260) will help you get the water to the planting medium without getting it on the foliage. If your plant's container has drainage holes and is in a plastic water tray, put the water into the tray. The plant will take the water up from the tray. If your pot doesn't have drainage holes, water the planting medium at the top of the pot but be careful not to overwater. The planting medium should be moist, not soaking wet. If this is done properly, you will not have to water your houseplant for another month.



Fertilizing
Fertilizing a houseplant is easy, as long as you do it in moderation. In fact, you won't have to start fertilizing your houseplant until about 2 to 3 weeks after you get it. Begin every fertilizing session by sprinkling water on your plant to strengthen its roots and stem. Feed the plant on a regular monthly basis with a water-soluble or granular fertilizer mix high in iron and calcium. Houseplant spikes provide a continuous supply of nutrients to your plant so you can have/care for your houseplant even if you have a hectic schedule. During fall and spring, you will need to fertilize your plant every couple of weeks so it can undergo new growth. Your potted plant will let you know if you are underfeeding it through its physical appearance. If any leaves begin to brown or wilt, the plant is in desperate need of fertilizer.



Lighting
A plant needs to basic things in order to survive any environment: water and light. However, the amount of light needed varies with each type of plant. What may be acceptable lighting for a foliage plant may cause death for a flowering plant.


Foliage plants
The foliage plant family consists of an even division of plants which flourish in low-light, moderate-light, and bright-light areas. Some plants, like the Cast-Iron plant and the Pathos, can subsist on next to no light while others need at least 10 hours of light. Most foliage plants do well when facing near a north window. If you wish to move a foliage plant, do it gradually. Plants become accustomed to a location because of its consistent temperature and amount of light. Any abrupt movement may cause severe damage.



Flowering plants
Unlike foliage plants, flowering plants need moderate to high amounts of bring light. Typically, a plant needs 12 to 16 hours of light per day. Flowering plants should be kept out of direct sunlight but near south, east or west windows. This type of plant also does better with florescent light than with natural light. When using artificial light, place it about 1 foot above the plant and keep it on for at least 16 hours a day. If your plant doesn't appear to be getting enough sun, you can cure this problem by adding extra water or fertilizer.


Temperature
Proper temperatures for plants can be hard to find in your house. During the day, plants require the temperature to be between 70 and 80 degrees F. To meet your plant's expectations, you can place it near a radiator (621-7312) or hot air register so you won't have to adjust your thermostat. Most plants grow at night, requiring a cooler temperature in the range of 55 to 60 degrees F. The decrease in temperature allows plants to recover from moisture loss and begin new growth. If you can't meet your plant's standards inside, move it outside. Make sure there is enough light and the temperature meets your plant's requirements.




Humidity
In most instances, a relative humidity of 40% or 60% is best for plants; however, it is difficult to manage humidity indoors. If you cannot tell what the humidity level is in your house, invest in a hygrometer (621-4291). A hygrometer is a device that constantly monitors your home's humidity in the air while keeping your nearby plants hydrated. Adding a Warm Mist Humidifier (621-4264) to a room will also help continue your plant's growth. In the winter, it can become very difficult to maintain a high humidity so group struggling plants together in a cluster. As each plant releases moisture, the other plants draw it in, sustaining a balanced humidity level.




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