Did you know that sales of indoor plants (or houseplants) spike each winter? Many are given as Christmas (or host/hostess) gifts, something for that special someone, or even as a present for a school-age kid (by taking care of an indoor plant, a child will also learn responsibility and learn about the plant by researching, writing and talking about it with either you or as a school show-and-tell project).
According to the National Gardening Association, more than one-third of American households grow indoor plants. And most businesses regularly include plants in their office décor.
Besides their sheer beauty, additional benefits of indoor plants include: producing a calming effect, helping to clean and purify household air and improving mental health (like cheering you up, particularly the elderly).
New hybrids have come along that has greatly expanded the world of indoor plants far beyond basic philodendrons and violets (and some don’t need a lot of care).
A Few Indoor Varieties (that don’t need a lot of care):
The African violet is becoming retro-chic again for indoor miniature gardens; they’re also often grown on wide, bright windowsills in country kitchens. (These plants are not true violets, but does it really matter? They ‘re still quite beautiful! There are hundreds of varieties that have been developed with blooms from white to dark purple. A key to keep the blooms repeating: humidity. These plants like bright, filtered sun (but nothing hot and direct). They also like moist, not wet, soil. A special African violet fertilizer is the best to use. And don’t splash the leaves with cold water, because they’ll spot!
Ferns-They need medium or bright indirect light. The Boston fern in particular is a very good pollution fighter that needs little maintenance.
Cast Iron-I’ve never heard of this until I started researching; this plant does indeed live up to its name! It needs practically nothing to thrive. Just place it near bright light ( not full sun) and don’t water it very often (even the leaves just need an occasional dusting).
Ivy-Originally an outdoor plant that’s been adapted to the indoors, ivy likes indirect light and evenly spaced watering, but doesn’t mind being dried out sometimes.
Philodendron-This classic plant is one of the most durable (it’s native to the Central and South American jungles). It can tolerate low light, and you can even let the soil dry out between waterings; yellow leaves on a philodendron means there’s too much water!
Sansevieria (also known as snake plant and mother-in-law’s tongue)-Another hardy soul, this plant is almost indestructible and now comes in many varieties. It can tolerate low light go two months without water in winter (!). For the other seasons, water every other week. Treat this like a cactus (it has sharp tips!).
Want a combo planter? Get a basket, large bowl, pot, or any desired container (preferably a large one). Tuck a few small pots of greenhouse-grown plants, such as ferns, miniature ivy, mini orchids, for example-and group them in the container. Tuck packing straw, moss or shredded paper around them. You can either place on a windowsill or permanently plant them as a terrarium.
Indoor Plants and Window Placement
It’s very important to choose the right location regarding light.
The amount of light a plant requires will vary by the type, so it helps to know window direction and light environment.
East–facing windows that receive the cool morning sun-Good choices for most indoor plants-and the cactus
Please Note: In the winter, east windows will receive more sunlight than the rest of the year.
North–facing windows that receive almost no direct light-Great choices for those indoor plants that use indirect light, like the cyclamen, Peace Lily or pothos ivy
South–facing windows that receive a lot of sunlight in the winter, but less in the summer-good for the poinsettia and the parlor palm
West–facing windows receive the most sunlight of all-The weeping fig and the Norfolk Island pine are good choices.
Please Note: The amount of tall trees on your property, blinds, drapes and curtains can change the amount of light (or no light) that your windows receive.
The leading cause of death for most indoor plants is overwatering.
Sources: “Calming effect”-McClatchy Newspapers-January 30, 2011, “Excellent Gifts” by Kathy Van Mullekom (Daily Press, Newport News, Va.)-December 23, 2012 and “Proper Placement” by Norman Winter” (McClatchy Newspapers)-January 16, 2011