Once you put away your holiday decorations, do you feel that your house looks a little “bare?” Have you found yourself longing for a diversion to the daily news? If you answered yes to either question, I have a rewarding suggestion – try your hand at houseplants! Growing plants indoors not only provides variety and beauty to your home, but studies have shown that caring for houseplants has a calming effect and reduces blood pressure. Houseplants not only look good, but they can also help clean the air and reduce dust.
The two primary considerations for successfully growing plants in your home are temperature and light. Most houseplants will thrive in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees and should be located away from areas in your home that are warmer (television or heating vents) or cooler (air conditioning vents). Plants also require varying degrees of light to grow properly; there are plants that will grow in very low light such as philodendron, Chinese evergreen, peace lily or spider plants; and plants that require medium to bright light, such as African violets, Boston ferns or succulents.
When you purchase plants, you will probably notice light designations such as “bright,” “indirect,” “Medium,” “High” or “Direct Sunlight.” How do you use these somewhat vague descriptions to identify the appropriate spot for your houseplants? One of the best ways is to identify the direction of your windows; this will help you decide the ideal light situation for your plants.
South-facing windows receive the most sunlight and are the hottest; these locations are ideal for blooming plants, cactus and succulents. North-facing windows receive the least amount of sunlight and are the coolest; plants such as ferns, begonias and dieffenbachia do best in these cooler, shadier spots. East-facing windows receive direct light only in the morning and are cool with slightly more light than north-facing windows; lower-light plants such as peace lily, Chinese evergreen or spider plants will perform well in these locations. Finally, West-facing windows receive light in the afternoon and tend to be warmer and brighter. The same types of plants that thrive in South-facing windows will do well in West-facing windows.
There are many options to choose from when considering a new houseplant. The easiest, most adaptable houseplants are considered “Old Faithful” plants that your grandmother probably had and that will easily survive neglect. Plants such as pothos, dieffenbachia, Moses-in-the cradle, snake plant and clivia fall into this category and are widely available at garden centers. Then there are quirky, less common houseplants like cactus, unusual begonias such as the lily pad or angel wing, and prayer plants, that exhibit unique habits and colors but do not necessarily require extensive attention. And what could be more tropical than beautiful orchids or bromeliads? These plants can add color and texture to your décor and then happily thrive outside once they have bloomed.
Houseplants need not be confined to the standard terracotta pot; decorative containers or even hanging planters can be used to enhance your houseplants. It is best to use well-draining soil/potting medium and water your plants sparingly. Make sure that all pots have drainage holes and use plant saucers to protect furniture from any overflow when you water.
The University of Florida website has a vast amount of information on the selection and care of houseplants. Check out all the details and suggestions at: https://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/plants/houseplants/
No matter which plants you decide to try in your home, you will be rewarded with natural beauty and perhaps even blossoms and fragrance! Just remember the familiar adage: “The right plant in the right place” and you’ll have success with growing interesting and attractive houseplants. Luckily, you always have the option of relocating your houseplants outside in our Southwest Florida subtropical environment without fear of frost – another great benefit of living in paradise!
Cathy Dunn is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and Garden Club of Cape Coral member.