The key to healthy houseplants
Tips on picking a plant that can thrive with the light and lifestyle in your home.
Forget every story you've heard about the accidental death of a houseplant. The key is picking a plant that can thrive – OK, survive – with the light and lifestyle in your home.Skip to next paragraph
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"You have to have a realistic sense of your maintenance skills," said Justin Hancock, senior garden editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine. "Something like watering seems easy enough, but when you have kids or have to make dinner every night, it may not be one of your higher priorities."
Here are some tips to foster your foliage:
Water: Overwatering is often the most common mistake plant owners make. If the soil is still moist, hold off. Don't assume that wilted leaves mean a thirsty plant — it could mean just the opposite, that it's drowning.
In many cases, low humidity will cause leaves to dry and curl. Gardening experts recommend using a humidifier during the winter and spraying leaves with water in the morning rather than overnight, which may cause leaves to rot.
Light: Of course, the quality and intensity of sunlight a plant needs will vary. It's also important to consider how many hours of sunlight per day the plant will get when deciding which window will provide the best exposure. While natural light is best, many houseplants adapt well to an artificial grow light that can be purchased for under $10.
Bugs: It's also important to inspect your plant for tiny insects that like to hang out on the undersides of leaves. Spider mites, scale, and mealybugs are most common in houseplants. Try to identify the problem before reaching for a pesticide, even an organic one — sometimes the solution is something as simple as cutting back on watering.
Hancock suggests these five house plants that are practically indestructible:
– Pothos. Streaked with a creamy or white in the leaves, this popular plant thrives in low to bright light and prefers moderately dry soil. Its versatile vines can trail as long as 8 feet, or can be mounded on a tabletop. Beware: Sources say that the plant's parts can be poisonous to pets and children.
– Snake plant. This plant has a high tolerance for neglect, so don't worry if you're one to take long vacations. Dark green in color, the snake plant sometimes has silver marbling or striping on its cylindrical leaves, and its architectural look has made it vogue. Be careful not to over water because its roots are prone to rot.
– Philodendron. Probably the most common houseplant, the philodendron has heart-shaped leaves and climbing stems that can be trained to grow around a window or over the edge of a piece of furniture. It's comfortable in low to bright light and can go a few days with dry soil. But like the pothos, it should be kept out of the reach of kids and pets.
– Zeezee. Relatively new to plant lovers' radar, the zeezee are known to thrive for many years with little maintenance. The leaves are so thick and glossy that many assume it's plastic. Occasional watering and some light will do the trick. The plant generally grows to about 3 feet tall and wide. This plant is also considered poisonous if eaten.
– Spider plant. Having been around for years, these plants have great old-fashioned appeal. Spider plants are constantly reproducing smaller plants from their long branches. The "babies" can be transferred by tying them with string into water or a pot of loose soil until they root, then clip them from the main plant. Spider plants require a little more attention, as the soil should be kept evenly moist and they require medium to bright light.
Exotic indoor plants
If you want to branch out, so to speak, there are more exotic plants that, with more care, will certainly intrigue guests with rich colors, strong scents, or hanging fruit.