The Bad Gardener's Guide to Healthy Houseplants

Green watering can and ivy in pot.

So, you may not have the “greenestthumb around, don’t fret. There is hope for those who wish to brighten their homes or offices with plants, but fear that they may not be able to provide the love and attention they need. Many plants are so easy to care for that you will forget that they are even real. The key lies in making the appropriate selection. Spider plants are great starter plants for anyone who is leery of houseplants. There is a variegated type or solid green type. Both varieties have tiny while flowers and trailing offsprings that can be removed and repotted to create new plants.

Understanding Basic Houseplant Terminology

Knowing exactly what your houseplant requires to thrive takes the guesswork out of watering, fertilizing, pruning and the like. Your job is to create conditions as close to the native conditions that the plant came from. For instance, if you plan to grow a Boston fern, it is important to understand that this plant needs a fair amount of humidity and indirect light in order to flourish. Once the fern is in its ideal conditions, it requires only minimal care. They key lies in understanding what the care requirements mean.

Light – Houseplants may require low light, indirect light, or direct light. Low light plants work well in hallways, in a window shaded by a tree or other locations where it is at least 6 feet away from a southwest or a south-facing window. Plants that require indirect light should be place 3 to 5 feet away from a south or southwest facing window, and where only the morning sun shines for a few hours. Houseplants that like direct light enjoy sun rooms or a sunny windowsill. Place these plants within 2 feet of a south or southwest-facing window.

WaterSome people are nervous about how much water to give their plant. In their confusion they may overwater or underwater. A good way to tell what your plant needs is to stick your finger in the soil up to your knuckle. If it is moist, don’t water, if dry, water. Always use distilled or filtered water, and allow the water to drain. Allow your plant to dry out before watering. Do not let your plants sit in water; most houseplants will suffer if their “feet” are wet. You can also purchase a water meter, which will make things easier.

Humidity - Many houseplants are tropical plants that thrive in high humidity. If you houseplant calls for high humidity, you can provide these conditions in a few ways. Try placing a small, cool mist humidifier in the room, far enough away from the plant so that the leaves do not get wet, or mist plants daily. You can also fill a tray with pebbles and a little water and set your plant pot on top, or grow several plants in the same room; they will provide humidity for each other.