Growing and displaying
plants indoors are widely used in homes and commercial
buildings such as offices, restaurants and shopping malls.
They help us stay in touch with nature and, in a sense, "bring
the outside indoors."
Indoor plants may collect
dust or greasy films that dull their appearance, making them
less attractive. Clean leaves are favorable to healthy growth.
Also, cleaning helps control insects and enhances the
plantsí attractive-ness. Products that clean and shine
leaves are generally not recommended because the waxy coating
residue may interfere with air exchange. Never use these
products on plants that have hairy leaves, such as African
The best way to clean leaves
that are not hairy is to dampen a soft cloth with water and
wipe the lower and upper surfaces of each leaf. An alternative
is to place the entire plant outdoors or in the shower to
rinse it off. Plants with hairy leaves should not be dusted
with a wet cloth but with a soft cosmetic brush. A pressure
sprayer may be employed.
All plants require certain
essential elements for proper growth. Indoor plants, in
low light conditions of the interior environment, have reduced
Observation will guide you
in determining a plantís fertilizer needs. As a rule,
applications should be more frequent when the plants are in
their growth stage(s). This is usually in the spring and
summer when sunlight intensities increase and the days are
warmer and longer. During the short days of winter, many
indoor plants that receive little or no artificial light enter
a "resting stage." If plants go into a winter rest
period, do not give them fertilizer.
Frequency of fertilizer
application varies somewhat with the vigor of growth and age
of each plant. Rapid, new growth is often undesirable, as
plants may outgrow their locations. As a rule, fertilizer
applications should be more frequent when the plants are
growing. Fertilize at the recommended label rate every two or
three months, or dilute the fertilizer to about one-tenth the
recommended rate and use this solution at every watering
during the growing season. An alternative to these methods is
to fertilize every seventh watering.
A complete fertilizer (one
that contains nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) is an
excellent choice for indoor gardens. Choose a balanced
fertilizer for foliage plants, such as 20-20-20, and one that
is higher in phosphorous for flowering plants, such as
15-30-15. These numbers represent the percents by weight of
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer.
Fertilizers are available
for indoor plants in liquid form, water-soluble granules and
slow-release forms (granules, stick or tablets). Water-soluble
fertilizers are often preferred because dilute solutions
reduce the potential for fertilizer burn.
Soils that have a white film
on the surface or pots with a white crust on the rim or
drainage hole may indicate that the plant is being
overfertilized and/or possibly overwatered. Salt buildup in
the soil can lead to root damage, causing symptoms such as
reduced growth, brown leaf tips, dropping of lower leaves and
wilting of the plant.
The most effective way to
prevent soluble salt injury is to prevent the salts from
building up. Water correctly by watering the soil thoroughly
and allowing the excess to flow out of the drain holes into a
tray which is emptied.
Many types of containers can
be used for growing plants. Most pots with bottom drainage
holes are made of plastic, ceramic or clay, whereas decorative
containers without drainage holes may be made of clay, ceramic,
plastic, wood, copper, brass and various other materials.
It is important to choose
the correct size container for the plant. Containers too small
or too large present an unbalanced appearance. An appropriate
container should provide room for soil and roots, allow
sufficient headroom for proper watering, and be attractive
without competing with the plant.
Two methods for potting
indoor plants are: (1) planting directly in the container and
(2) placing a potted plant in another, more decorative
container ("double-potting"). When plants are potted
directly in the container, the container should have a
drainage hole and a tray to catch the excess water. If the pot
does not have a drainage hole, place a layer of coarse gravel
in the bottom to allow a space for excess water (it is
important not to saturate soil in such containers). The "double-potting"
technique can be used with decorative containers with or
without drainage holes. The smaller, interior pot should have
a drainage hole. If the decorative pot does not have a
drainage hole, place a layer of gravel in this pot, and place
the potted plant on the gravel layer. No gravel layer is
necessary if the decorative pot has a drainage hole. Be sure
to place a tray beneath the pot to catch the excess water.
Never place pots directly in contact with the carpet, floor or
furniture as moisture can damage its surroundings.
Clay pots are porous and
allow air movement through the sides of the pot. This allows
the soil to dry and oxygen to reach the roots. Nonporous
containers prevent water from evaporating through the sides,
thus, plants require less frequent watering than those in clay
The environment in our homes
dictates which plants will grow vigorously and which will
suffer. The most important environmental factor in growing
plants indoors is adequate light.
Light provides the energy
source needed for plants to manufacture food. The amount of
light is commonly measured in foot-candles (ft-c). The
interior of a well-lighted home is often less than 100 ft-c,
while outdoor light intensity on a clear sunny day may exceed
About 100 ft-c for 12 hours
per day are necessary simply to maintain plant quality for one
year, and at least 200 ft-c for 12 hours per day are necessary
for foliage plants to manifest any benefit from fertilization.
With the exception of homes
with a sunroom or greenhouse, few homes have areas with
sufficient light levels to grow plants that require very high
light (hibiscus, wax begonia, geranium). High light plants (weeping
fig, English ivy, schefflera) can usually be grown well near
windows or glass doors with western or southern exposures.
Medium light plants (African violet, Boston fern, dumb cane)
do well if placed within several feet of these light sources
or in eastern exposures. Low light plants (peace lily, heart-leaf
philodendron, cast-iron plant) can be placed several feet away
from eastern exposures or in northern exposures. The amount of
light at any given location will vary according to time of
year (angle of the sun, day length), outdoor tree shading,
window curtains and wall color (light reflection), as well as
the location itself. Inexpensive light meters are available.
Artificial lighting is
widely used to supplement or replace natural light. Many
indoor plants grow well under artificial light provided by
fluorescent lamps or special incandescent lights. A large
variety of fluorescent lamps are available. Generally,
ordinary incandescent lamps are not recommended for plants, as
plants placed under them tend to stretch or become "leggy."
It is possible to make up for lack of sufficient light by
increasing the time or duration that the plant is exposed to
light. Sixteen hours of light and eight hours of darkness are
satisfactory for most plants. Use an electric timer to ensure
the correct cycle each day.
While lack of sufficient
light results in poor plant growth, too much light can also be
harmful. Shade plants cannot tolerate excessively high light
levels. When a plant receives too much direct light the leaves
bleach or scald, sometimes dying. This often happens after
moving a plant outdoors in direct light. Any changes in light
intensity should be gradual
Not every plant has the same needs when it comes to
watering, but there are some basic rules you should follow:
Wet the soil thoroughly, and the
water should be able to drain out of the bottom of the pot.
How much you water, and how often purely depends on the type
of plant that you are dealing with, so read the seeds or ask
the person selling you the plant, how much water does this
Now, don't over water, that's
probably what kills most plants. If you have too wet of a soil
constantly it will lead to problems with the roots. You'll
notice that the leaves will become yellow, that's because
there is not enough oxygen in the soil because it is too wet.
When watering the plants, try to
use water that is the same temperature as the room. This will
insure that the plant doesn't have any shock from too cold or