Houseplants Add Color, Texture and Life to Your Home
The benefits to caring for these green creatures are many:
- In grade-school science, we learned that plants do the opposite of humans; they absorb carbon dioxide—the very thing we exhale—and in turn release oxygen! This makes plants and people great partners when it comes to gasses. How many partners can you say that about? Plants increase and clean the oxygen we breathe.
- Plants also increase the humidity in the air, which decreases the incidence of dry skin, colds, sore throats and dry coughs.
- Improve your work environment by being “under the influence of plants.” Plants improve concentration, memory and productivity.
Turn that Brown Thumb Green
Sometimes it takes a little troubleshooting, but there’s a houseplant out there that will thrive in your environment and under your care.
4 Things to Consider:
1 - Light - How much light will the plant need?
Be sure to read the label on the plant to see how much light is recommended:
Sunny Light (direct sun)
- Within 2 feet of a south or southwest facing window
- Window sill is flooded with sunlight
- A sun room—if you have one, lucky you!
Bright Light (indirect sun)
- Within 4 ft. to 5 ft. of an east- or west-facing window
- 3 ft. to 5 ft. from a window that faces south or southwest
- Any place where the sun shines into a room for several hours
Partially Shaded (low light)
- An east-facing window where the morning sun shines into the room for only a few hours. Morning sun is cooler than afternoon sun, so you don’t have to worry about overheating your plant.
- At least 3 ft. to 5 ft. away from a window that faces south or southwest
- Directly in front of a north-facing window. This provides low-to-medium light intensity.
- More than 6 ft. away from a south- or southwest-facing window
- Hallways, staircases and corners of rooms
- Near windows that are shaded by trees
Your may have to move your plant a few times to find its favorite spot. If you watch for the signs, your plant will tell you:
Plants that aren’t getting enough light:
- Growth is spindly, with long spaces between leaves
- New leaves are smaller than existing ones
- Lower leaves turn yellow and fall off
- No growth or slow growth
- Flowering plants fail to bloom or bloom poorly
- Variegated leafy plants turn a solid green
- New shoots reach out and grow toward the light
Plants that are getting too much light:
- Brown scorched patches on leaves
- Leaves look faded or washed out
- Plant wilts at midday
- Leaves become dry and fall off
2 - Water – Ahh, just the right amount!
How to Water—Do’s and Don’ts:
- Do water top down. Most plant varieties prefer to have the root ball exposed to a large dose of water from the top of the soil/pot. Gently push the leaves aside and add water for several seconds. Continue this until a small amount of water runs out of the bottom of the container. (Note: most plants do not thrive when they remain in standing water.) However, there are some plants that prefer to be watered from the bottom/tray, and others that prefer to be immersed in water for a period of time. Be certain to read the label to understand how best to care for your plant or ask one of SummerWinds’ Trusted Garden Advisors.
- Do water those plants that are in sunny windows more often than those in dark corners
- Do water plants a little less frequently during the winter months, and more during the times when they are blooming and growing
- Do use tap water, but keep in mind that there are chemicals in it. Some plant species will have adverse reactions to these chemicals. To mitigate these effects, allow your tap water to sit at room temperature overnight, prior to watering.
- Do use rain or distilled water for those plant species that are truly chemical sensitive
- Don’t use hard water, if you can help it. Hard water contains an abundance of chemicals that are often detrimental to plant health
- Don’t put them in the shower with you as part of your daily routine
- Don’t water your plants blind folded—especially if you have cacti
- Don’t water plants with beer, even though it contains water
- Don’t water artificial plants
Time to water? In most cases, the simplest way to check if your plants need watering is to place the tip of your finger about 1 inch into the soil from the top. If it's still dry at the tip of the finger, then water.
You probably didn’t realize how chatty your houseplants are, but they will tell you if they are receiving too much water or not enough. Here’s how:
- Dry Soil – If the soil is so hard that you can't feel moisture with your finger, then you need to water more often
- Brown, Crisp Leaves – Are your plants drying out like trees in the fall? Plants often become crunchy and lose leaves when confronted with too little or too much water
- Refusal To Bloom – If a plant should be blooming but isn't, it probably isn't getting the right amount of water
- Drooping or Sagging – Plants that don't get the right amount of water often droop or sag
- Soggy Soil – Any time there is water standing under the plant or in the soil, the plant's roots may rot away. This should be avoided, in order to keep the plant alive.
3 - The right soil makes all the difference.
For most plant species, we recommend SummerWinds Potting Soil. It’s a natural and organic soil that is ideal for all types of indoor and outdoor container gardening. It is blended with sphagnum peat moss, perlite, pumice, bat guano, kelp meal and other ingredients for long lasting results.
For those plants that need superior drainage, consider using a cactus and succulent mix. We recommend E.B. Stone Organics Cactus Mix. (Fertilome in Missouri)
4 - “Feed me Seymour” – fertilize your houseplants.
For most plant species, we recommend Miracle Gro All Purpose Plant Food. It’s a great way to give your houseplants the little extra boost they need. Water depletes nutrients from the soil. Plant food will build those nutrients back up. In most cases, we recommend fertilizing every 2 weeks.