Tips for success with indoor gardening

Bring spring indoors with houseplants. Here's how to be a success.

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    When winter seems too much, houseplants bring a touch of spring indoors.
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Do images of flowering trellises laden with yellow, pink, green, and purple blooms dance through your dreams? You may be ready for some warm springlike temperatures, but the weather outside is still a little frightful. Ignore the weather and bring spring inside with some indoor gardening.

Not only does bringing spring inside help brighten your home, but houseplants can also improve the quality of the air you're breathing. A NASA study found that houseplants remove up to 87 percent of toxic indoor air inside a sealed chamber within 24 hours.

* Use loose potting soil to promote root growth. Outside, worms and insects tunnel through the dirt, naturally breaking it up to help plants spread their roots. To mimic their effect indoors, use potting soil mixed with peat moss, vermiculite and perlite to create a light texture that won't compact after a couple of waterings.

* Make sure the natural light is adequate. Some plants like direct sunlight and must be located near a south-facing window, while others prefer a few hours of indirect light. But to really keep your herbs and flowers looking strong all season long, consider using artificial grow lights, which can also help you get your spring garden started early with seedlings. The Grow Light Pro White, for instance, has four lights that can be turned on as a unit or individually, and it has an adjustable bottom shelf so you can alter the light level as your plants grow. When plants don't get the light they need, they start to appear thin and frail. As your plants begin to grow, make sure to rotate the pots so the stems grow straight, rather than bending unnaturally toward the source of light.

* Keep the humidity level above 50 percent with a humidifier. Not only will your plants appreciate the extra moisture, but so will you. When the humidity drops below 50 percent, most plants suffer from water loss through their leaves, and it's difficult to regain that water balance, even with frequent watering.

* Really bring spring inside your home with beautiful pots and decorating accents. Visit Wards.com to find beautiful and creative birdhouses that not only are functional, but stylish enough to hang inside. Consider hanging a wire birdhouse in the shape of an acorn in the kitchen window, or using a set of two birdhouses as a unique decoration for your entryway.

* Mix art and fun together with some ivy. Ivy topiaries are very easy to grow, and there are many creative planters and forms you can use to support the ivy as it winds its way toward the sun. Are you a music fan? A guitar and music stand with little pots incorporated into the design can help brighten up your living room.

Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page, which offers articles on many gardening topics. Also, check out our blog archive. Subscribe to our RSS feed for gardening articles or for blog posts and you'll be notified daily as we post new copy. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our contests.

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