Indoor Plant Care 101
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With spending more time indoors than generations past, it is important to stay connected with the outdoors. One of the ways we can accomplish this is to decorate our interior spaces with plants! While there are no true “indoor” plants, because plants do not naturally grow inside, there are plants that will tolerate indoors if we mimic their native habitats successfully.
Most species that are sold as indoor plants are native to the many tropical regions of the world. This means these plants are accustomed to warm all year with average temperatures between 65°F to 80°F, high humidity, filtered light, ambient temperatures, and evenly moist potting mixes. Mimicking these conditions can sometimes be challenging. Whether we will admit it or not, we have all killed an indoor plant or two before.
Here are the most common ways we accidentally kill our indoor plants
- Inadequate lighting. When buying a plant, the tag will tell you how much sunlight it requires. For indoor plants like succulents and cacti, they require bright light. To find where your house receives the most amount of light, locate the south facing windows. For other house plants like African violets and ferns, they prefer indirect sunlight.
Note: If you still have inadequate lighting, you can supplement with artificial lighting. Fluorescent lights are commonly used lighting. Generic fluorescent lights produce mostly blue light, and are low in red light. Foliage plants grow well under these fluorescent lights, but blooming plants require extra infrared, which can be supplied by incandescent lights or special horticultural fluorescent lights.
- Overwatering. Overwatering is probably the most common way we kill our indoor plants. To know when you need to water your plant, check the soil moisture with your finger. Before watering it again, the soil should feel mildly dry. If the soil still feels damp, skip the watering for now. Along with overwatering, make sure you aren’t allowing your plants to sit in water. Drainage is key. Make sure your pots have a drainage hole. If your plant is constantly sitting in water, this can lead to root rot which, in turn, kills your plant.
- Overfeeding. I get a few questions asking when people should fertilize their indoor plants. Fertilize your indoor plant when it is actively growing. In the winter time, indoor plants can be fertilized once every month or two. In spring and summer, you can fertilize once a month or more. Read and follow the fertilizer instructions. To know if you’ve been overfeeding your plant, check the top of the soil. If you see a white, crusty film on the soil, that’s a sign that you’ve been over feeding. You can flush your soil of this build up by taking your plant outside and running a gallon or two of water through it.
Some other things to consider with your indoor plants is dust collection on the leaves. Plants make food for themselves in their leaves, if a layer of dust is on those leaves, that will inhibit the plants ability to photosynthesize. You can mist the leaves every once in a while, to combat this. One last thing to consider is pot-boundness. Though indoor plants aren’t super-fast growers, they can still outgrow their original pots. To know when this is happening, notice how quickly your plant dries out in between waterings. If it is drying out quickly, it’s probably time to re-pot.
Indoor plants add beauty and decoration to a lifeless interiorscape. But, did you know indoor plants can help with indoor air pollution? This is a particular problem in sealed-off, energy-efficient buildings, which consist of particles and gases trapped in building air that are not circulated or filtered properly. Research by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has proven that houseplants have the ability to improve indoor air quality by reducing air pollution from chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene.
If you take care of your plants, they will most definitely take care of you! For resources, questions, or more info about this topic, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center at 828-757-1290. You can also visit us anytime online.