Houseplants have loads to offer for minimal inputs

By Heather Kirk-Ballard

LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

You don’t have to have a large yard or lots of growing space to enjoy plants. Growing indoor plants is a great way to bring the wonder of the outdoors inside. Houseplants have grown in popularity, and the trend continues as young and older generations alike embrace plant parenting. Oh, the phrases we embrace.

Plants can be grown indoors with the right light, water, soil, temperature and humidity. Let’s go over them in a little more detail.

Light and water are perhaps the two most important factors you have to consider when selecting and growing indoor plants. Plants differ in the amount of light and water they need, so you must select them accordingly.

Most important, light is how plants make their food, so they need to get an adequate supply. Keep in mind, plants that need more light grow best in a south- or west-facing window. Those that require less light will do best in an east- or north-facing window. Plants that are not near windows and do not get enough light will become leggy and spindly. You may need to bring them outdoors on occasion in warm weather to reduce their “stretching.”

Just as with light, plants differ in their water needs. Succulents and cactuses will require a great deal less water than other herbaceous or woody indoor plants. The frequency will also vary.

It’s a good practice to water indoor plants weekly. Pick one day of the week and check your plants. Plants that are in ideal growing conditions with ample light will likely require more frequent watering.

The best way to tell when plants need watering is the good old fashioned stick-your-finger-in-the-soil test. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water.

The amount of water and proper drainage are key components to good watering.

Choosing the right soil will also effect the frequency you will have to water. A good number of different types of soils are available for indoor container plants. The ideal potting mixes for indoor use allow for adequate moisture, drainage and suitable nutrient retention.

Humidity is a less-considered factor in good growing environments. Plants prefer some humidity, which can be difficult to provide in homes that are controlled by central heating and cooling.

You can increase the humidity by grouping plants together. When the plants transpire, they release water into the environment. By grouping small numbers of plants together, you create a microenvironment of elevated humidity. You may also choose to place saucers of water beneath pots. Use small rocks to elevate the bottom of the pot above the water to prevent uptake by the roots. Remember, the goal is to provide moisture for humidity.

Indoor plants require less fertilizer than outdoor plants. For the best results, use a water-soluble fertilizer each season at half the recommended rate.

Here are some indoor plants to look for: ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), mother-in-laws tongue, pothos ivy, arrowhead plant, dracaena, calathea, bird’s nest fern, dieffenbachia, schefellera, fiddle-leaf ficus, money tree, parlor palm, spider plants, Chinese evergreen, peace lily and dragon tree.

You also can look for those trendy succulents and sedums that do so well indoors. In addition to being great indoor selections, these also make great patio plants. Keep in mind: they will need to be brought indoors or protected in freezing weather, and they cannot be placed in direct sunlight.

Finally, don’t forget about temperature. Most indoor plants prefer temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees. Basically, the temperatures at which we are most comfortable are the same temperatures that plants are comfortable in.

Research has shown that having plants in your home or office and any other indoor space where you spend a great deal of time improves our health and well-being. According to a report by the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture, plants have a positive effect on our well-being and indoor environment. That includes our homes, schools, hospitals, spiritual places and workplaces.

There are so many good reasons to bring plants into your working and living areas. Indoor plants improve air quality by removing carbon dioxide, particulates and harmful chemicals. The presence of plants in classrooms has been shown to improve test scores and create a relaxed and calming environment for children to learn in.

Plants help us heal. Studies have shown that patients who have a view of the outdoors or have indoor plants in hospital rooms spend less time in recovery, go home sooner, take less pain medication and experience less fatigue.

And at work, employees who have indoor plants are more productive, feel less tired, experience less anxiety and are faster at completing their work than those in workplaces without plants. The bottom line is, plants can make you feel happy and fight mental fatigue.

It’s clear that plants have a profound effect on our health and well-being. By bringing your plants indoors, you can enjoy the beauty and benefits of plants year-round.

Place plants in an west or south facing window for more light.jpg thumbnail

Plants placed in a west- or south-facing window receive more light. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Group plants together to increase humidity or place in a bathroom to increase humidity for plants.  .png thumbnail

Group plants together to increase humidity, or place them in a bathroom to increase humidity. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

Bring indoor plants outdoors from time to time.jpg thumbnail

Bring indoor plants outdoors from time to time to help keep them from “stretching” for light. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter

1/17/2020 4:49:46 PM
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