I love to garden for the joy that it brings me and to maintain my well-being. As we move towards winter, my craving for the garden also moves indoors. This week, the temps dropped into the 30’s at night, signaling TIME to bring my houseplants indoors. It snuck up on us here this year and I have a feeling it will warm back up. My plants might just get a little outdoor day visit here and there over the coming weeks.
In today’s post, I’m sharing simple tips for indoor gardening for a healthy home. Fresh air, lush greenery, colorful flowers, and sensory interaction (check out the sound of plants!) are a few reasons I love to garden. All of this can also be done indoors.
Many people don’t think they have a green thumb but with a little practice, anyone can grow at least one or two plants indoors. There is no mistaking how popular indoor gardening is. This is especially true over the last couple of years while our homes have become our everything!
Each fall, I spend a bit of time tending to my indoor garden, before bringing plants indoors. Some of my favorite ‘house’ plants are a 20-year-old philodendron, orchids, ZZ palms, pass-along ‘Christmas’ cactus, and an assortment of terrarium plants. If you have ever been to tropical climates, you might have recognized some of your favorite houseplants growing as outdoor tropicals. This trend began in the victorian era when lush tropicals filled parlors and conservatories. Some of us still can’t get enough!
Seasonal plant tips
To freshen up indoor plants seasonally (Fall & Spring), prune, fertilize, repot or replace leggy or unwell plants. For your terrariums, do the same as above but start by cleaning terrarium glass (with H2O only on the inside). The best time to move plants in/out is when temperatures indoors and out are about the same. Be sure all chance of frost has passed-or as it dips below the 50s in the fall.
I hope these indoor gardening tips will encourage you to try (or expand) what you grow indoors. It can take a little practice to find and maintain indoor plants in the ‘right spots’ but keep trying. My friends over a The Botanary do a great job of sharing the right plants for the right spots and ‘paring plants with people!
Good reasons to garden indoors
- Plants are natural air filters! They clean toxins like formaldehyde, benzene, xylene, toluene, and trichloroethylene from the air. Certain plants do a great job with certain chemicals. About 1 plant per 100 sq’ has been proven to significantly purify the air.
- Express personal style through plants and indoor gardening to add beauty and round out your interiors.
- The act of caring for and nurturing a plant can be a meditative and calming practice.
- You are bringing a piece of nature’s beauty inside where you can appreciate it more often.
What grows successfully inside?
Start by observing your surrounding, especially the quality of light and the location of airflow/vents. Also, be honest about your lifestyle and how much time you want to spend with your plant babies. These are the two most important factors for plant selection. Determine which direction your house and windows face. Have this information available when you go to select plants. You are sure to be more successful by selecting the correct plant for your conditions.
Factors in plant selection
- light/exposure (N, S, E, or W)
- humidity (run a humidifier if needed)
- maintenance time (watering, pruning, fertilizing, re-potting, etc),
- design style and colors in your home
- pets, check out the ASPCA list of pet-safe plants here
With this, you will be able to make the best selections for your space. Do your research before you head out to buy anything, check out a variety of reputable local garden centers or floral shops, and talk to the staff. They can usually make excellent suggestions if you know the direction your windows face and the size and space and will tell you the common and botanical names, and maintenance requirements.
The maidenhair fern above will dry out quickly and make you feel like a failure if you can’t give it daily attention. Alternately, the ZZ Palm or Snake plant below both require low light and maintenance to thrive.
The ZZ Palm: above great for low light: image via James Saper
Sansevieria or snake plant image via Gardenista
Plant maintenance and troubleshooting
The biggest mistake people make with houseplants is overwatering (I worked in the tropical greenhouse of a local garden center). Generally speaking, let plants dry out completely before watering again deeply (some exceptions, like ferns). Potted plants are more quickly depleted of nutrients, so re-pot every 2 years using an appropriate potting mix with a slow-release fertilizer in it or sprinkle a little slow-release once or twice a year (see package for the rate of use). Otherwise, fertilize according to a regular schedule when you water, prune out dead leaves and sections and keep an eye out for pests. If you spot something moving, take a good picture and look up pests online or take the plant/photo back to your local garden center for help.
There literally is an indoor plant for just about every situation. Ask questions and do your homework before you head out shopping so you can make the best choice for yourself. Your indoor plants can bring you joy, a sense of calm and beauty, and cleaner indoor air.