Caring for Indoor Plants

Indoor plants are fashionable accessories in today’s modern homes. To make sure that they thrive, place them in locations where there’s plenty of sunshine and air. Indoor plants also need very fertile soil since they rely on this in order to thrive.
Caring for Indoor Plants

These days, it’s considered fashionable to decorate your home with outdoor elements. Stone slabs, wooden tables, and even indoor ponds are finding their way into modern homes. But easily the most popular form of decoration is the indoor plant. Indoor plants effectively bring the outdoors into your home without overpowering the rest of your décor. They also fit in with most home design themes, from rustic country styles to sleek, minimalist ones.

But what most people don’t realize is that indoor plants need as much maintenance as outdoor plants do. True, they can survive longer without sunlight, but that doesn’t mean you can leave them to thrive on their own. If you’re planning to decorate with an indoor plant, be prepared to spare time and effort in keeping it alive. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a pot of compost that’s far from decorative. Here are some useful tips on choosing and caring for indoor plants.

1. Simulate the outdoors. Most indoor plants are just varieties of some wild-growing plant, made a little sturdier so they could be used indoors. The best way to keep them alive is to match the outdoor conditions they were born into. It’s not likely you’ll create the exact copy, but everything you do right puts it a step closer to survival. As a rule, tropical plants should be kept in warm temperatures with a humidity of 50% to 70%, and succulents shouldn’t be kept below 60%.

2. Give them available light. Match your choice of houseplants to the amount of light they’ll be getting from where they stand. Most plants come with tags saying “high light,” “medium light,” and “low light,” which simply tells you how much light they need. A high light area is one that gets strong sunlight several hours a day; medium light means maximum light without direct sun contact; and low light is any area away from windows and well-lit rooms. Rotate the pots regularly during the day to make sure all the sides are getting enough light. You can use artificial lighting in the evenings, but avoid incandescent bulbs as they can get too hot. Use a special plant bulb for blooming plants.

3. Water regularly. Indoor plants either need constant, even moisture or want to stay fairly dry most of the week. Most of them, however, like to dry out a little in between waterings. To see if they’re ready for watering, press down on the soil and see if you feel any moisture. If you do, give them a few days to dry out first. Never leave water in the saucer after watering—this can affect the humidity levels and promote the growth of pests and bacteria.

Your tap water may contain sodium and chlorine, which can harm your plants when given in excess. To avoid problems, use purified water or at least dilute your tap water before watering. Alternatively, you can also leave it out for a couple of days to let the chlorine dissolve.

4. Control indoor temperatures. Ideal temperatures vary from plant to plant, but the general rule is 65oF to 75oF during the day and 60oF to 65oF at night. If you’re getting extreme temperatures (very cold at night and very hot in the day), move your plants to a more neutral place. The drastic changes can harm their natural adaptability and cause them to wilt. Check the temperatures just before bedtime to make sure they’re getting enough heat overnight.

5. Use good potting soil. Outdoor plants use the soil mainly for nourishment and stability. Indoor plants, on the other hand, rely on the soil for everything else—air, water, food, sunlight. Make sure your potting soil provides all this in abundance. The best potting soil for indoor plants is made from peat, a mixture or partly decomposed wetland plants. Peat-based soil is light and spongy, perfect for letting water and sunlight reach the roots. However, it tends to crust over at the top, so loosen it once in a while with a fork and add a fresh layer of soil occasionally.

6. Limit the fertilizers. Plants grow much slower indoors, so they don’t need much fertilizer; in fact, it can reach harmful levels if you go overboard. Be especially careful when fertilizing in the winter, as the plants aren’t getting enough light and heat to process the chemicals. When you do fertilize, use a slow-release fertilizer designed specifically for indoor plants. You can get them in liquid or water-soluble form from garden supply stores—try using more water than indicated to dilute the solution.