Get Your Gardening Fix With Houseplants

— Written By

Growing houseplants is a great way for gardeners to get their fix when it’s too cold to grow much outside. Although caring for houseplants is tricky for some people, it doesn’t have to be. Following these guidelines will help keep houseplants healthy.

Everyone knows that plants need water. Just how much water and when to apply it can be the challenging part. Although watering on a weekly schedule may work for some plants, watering when the soil is dry is a better way to meet your plant’s water needs.

To test soil moisture, stick your finger in the soil to a depth two inches. If the soil is moist, then the plant doesn’t need to be watered. If it’s dry, add enough water evenly over the soil surface until water runs out the bottom of the pot.

Too much water can be just as bad for plants as not enough water. Keep in mind that succulents, like aloe and sedum, don’t require as much water as other houseplants.

Over time, salt from water and fertilizer can build up and interfere with water infiltration and kill roots. High salts may be evident as a white crust on top of the soil. The layer of soil with the crust should be removed and replaced with fresh potting mix.

Occasionally leaching the salts from houseplants is a good idea. To do so, water with an amount equal to twice the volume of the pot (avoid softened water), letting water run through the soil.

Fertilize houseplants sparingly, if at all, in the fall and winter months. A water-soluble fertilizer applied every two to three months should be sufficient. Plants should only be fertilized when they are actively growing and should never be fertilized when the soil is dry.

With heating systems going in the fall and winter, air in our homes is drier than it is in the spring and summer. Low humidity can cause leaves to turn brown and dry up. To combat low humidity, consider using a humidifier, placing pots on a tray of gravel and water, or misting them weekly (or more often).

Most indoor plants prefer temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees. Keep plants away from vents and drafts as much as possible.

Labels on indoor plants often refer to the amount of sun that a plant prefers, e.g. direct, indirect, or low light. To test how much sunlight an area receives, lay down a sheet of white paper and put your hand over it. If there is a clearly defined shadow, the area receives direct light. If there is a shadow with blurry borders, the area receives indirect light. If there is no shadow at all, the area receives low light.

Plants not receiving enough light can get tall and floppy, whereas plants getting too much light can develop a sort of sunburn, with brown spots on the leaves.

If you have questions about your garden or landscape, contact the Caldwell Extension office at 828-757-1290.