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Back Issues
2009 - Fall Edition
Interior Design
Enchanted Gardener
Article: Jackye Meinecke
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Houseplants add beauty and nature to indoor decor. They also have been recognized to help improve indoor air quality. Some naturalists argue that having plants indoors is good for the soul, improves our moods, and generally makes us feel better.

The challenge is keeping plants alive. There are four elements to consider when growing plants indoors: light, soil, water and fertilizer. Pests also create an inevitable issue.

Nearly all plants must have some light to thrive. Some plants may need several hours of bright light each day, while some may thrive in less than an hour of indirect light. South windows may provide a half-day of sunlight that is required by many indoor tropical plants, such as geraniums, bougainvillea, and hibiscus. Often, the more a plant flowers, the more sunlight it requires. East and west windows also provide enough light for many blooming plants, indoor cactus, and succulents. On the north side of a room, the plant choices will be quite limited, but may include pothos, snake plant, and ivy. Skylights improve the choices for indoor plants.

While plants need light to survive, they should not be placed too close to the window glass. Sunlight through glass is intensified and can burn a plant to death.

Most plants are brought home in a pot with a light potting soil. Usually, they should be repotted into a better quality potting soil in a larger pot. Cactus and succulents often require a planting medium with better drainage – usually provided with grit or perlite. Some plants, such as orchids, need very little soil. Most traditional houseplants will thrive in a good quality peat moss with added perlite and organic matter such as compost. Beware of some of the potting products that contain fertilizers that may burn the plants and polymers which may retain too much water for most plants.

Learning how much to water houseplants is more art than science. Plants have different water requirements that may vary with the season and the bloom cycle. Since many home gardeners water for pleasure or on a specific schedule, it is easy to over water plants. Be aware that most plants have a period of dormancy in which they do not consume as much water.

Since the plants are in pots indoors, fertilizer is essential. All plants must have nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) to thrive, and micronutrients as well. Whether the grower chooses a liquid, stake or pelleted fertilizer, the product should not be overused.

Pests indoors can be a real challenge. We provide the perfect humid, warm environment, and then we are irritated when the bugs thrive. Still, we don't want to wage a chemical war indoors. When you purchase a new plant, isolate it in its own room for a week or so to be sure it is pest free before placing it near your other houseplants. Plants that are over watered and over fertilized become unhappy, releasing chemical signals that attract insect pests. It also helps to destroy insects in the making by regularly wiping off the leaves of the indoor plants, removing dust and insect eggs and allowing the plants to "breathe" more freely.

Houseplants can add drama and beauty, relaxation and color to any room in the home if properly selected, placed, and tended. Add some nature to your home today. ///
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