Do you wonder why some people can take indoor gardening to new levels while you strain to keep a so-called "bulletproof" houseplant alive? They know the secrets to caring for an indoor garden. Growing an all-year-round garden isn't as hard as it seems—just a little more attention and care is all it takes to keep plants alive in even the coldest days of winter. Follow these five secrets to green up your indoor landscape.
Just as with real estate, location means everything to your year-round indoor plants. Learn what kind of light requirements your houseplants want and give it to them. African violets prefer bright but indirect light, for example, so don't place them in a full-sun, south-facing window. Crotons stay alive in shade, but their vibrant colors won't pop unless they're in bright light.
Before you select a houseplant, read the tag. If you live in a dark basement, don't buy a full-sun plant unless you plan to add special plant lights (not just regular overhead bulbs or fluorescent tubes).
Think about your decorating style when adding year-round plants to your home. If you have a tropical decorating scheme, consider tropical indoor plants. Use cacti with southwestern style decor. Try a tall, upright Sansevieria trifasciata (often called snake plant) for impact in a contemporary setting. Cottage styles call for flowering plants such as African violets, flowering maples (Abutilon hybrids), or year-round indoor plants with colorful leaves, such as begonias.
Yes, a kentia palm may look stunning at the doctor's office, but imagine placing a tree that can get 10 feet tall and wide in your living room. Maybe your space can handle that, but if not, consider a different plant—perhaps an areca palm that only has 3-foot fronds. Conversely, if you have a large space and add smaller varieties of philodendron, it may not make as big of an impact. Do your research and determine how large plants and flowers can get indoors before purchasing.
Every garden has specific needs. Tailor your garden to match your caretaking style. Are you a chronic waterer, ready to douse your year-round indoor plants every day? If so, find a plant that likes to be moist most of the time, such as a dwarf papyrus. On the other hand, if your style is benign neglect, invest in a cactus or air plant. In general, most indoor plants like their soil thoroughly moistened and not watered again until the soil has gone almost dry. Stick your finger below the surface of the soil to check moisture levels, or buy a moisture-reading meter.
Editor's Tip: More plants actually die from overwatering than underwatering. Check the soil before you water and make sure your pot has proper drainage.
A pitiful-looking houseplant looks immediately better if you spend time removing old, dead leaves or blooms. You may need to use scissors or floral snips to do the job. Dust can also clog the stomata (which the plants use to breathe) on the leaves, preventing air exchange. Employ a feather duster, small artist's paint brush, or a soft, dry cloth to keep leaves shiny and clean. Or, put your plants in the sink or shower periodically and rinse them off with room-temperature water.
Each time you water your all-year-round plants, give them a quarter turn so all parts of the plant have access to light. The only exception is moth orchids (Phalaenopsis hybrids); if you turn them while their bloom stems are growing, the stems become crooked.