Winter days seem so short. Many gardeners, including myself, miss the longer days of summer when there was plenty of time to be outdoors in the garden. For us who are already feeling the slump of shorter days on top of being in the middle of a pandemic, growing indoor plants can be a great way to improve the mood indoors and bridge the gap between seasons. Houseplants, the term we usually use to refer to indoor plants, is a misnomer. Indoor plants are actually tropical foliage plants that have the ability to adapt to life indoors as long as their growers understand what it takes to keep them happy.
Here are a few tips to help get you started growing tropical foliage plants indoors this winter.
Understand plant needs
All plants have basic needs and the indoor environment is very different from the outdoors, especially in regards to light and water. Light levels are so much lower indoors that even the lowest maintenance plants can struggle if not located correctly. Some indoor plants such as cacti and succulents may require more direct sun (south exposure) while others prefer more indirect light such as an east exposure.
Check plant labels or online Extension resources for light information, and if in doubt, an eastern (morning sun) exposure is often ideal for many houseplants.
Water is the other key to growing indoor plants. Many beginning growers make the mistake of watering indoor plants like they do outdoor plants, which often results in root rot from overwatering. Since wind and other environmental factors don’t impact plants indoors, it takes some practice and time to learn how much time should pass between each watering. It is better to err on the side of caution and allow more time between each watering rather than less. Your finger makes a good soil moisture tester. If the top inch or more of potting media is dry it is a good bet it is close to time to water.
What to grow
Some great choices to begin with are easy indoor growers such Pothos, Philodendron, spider plant or snake plant. These tried and true indoor plants can be situated in a variety of indoor environments and still thrive. Cast iron plant, Aspidistra elatior, as the name suggests is also a good bet for a low maintenance indoor plant. It can handle low light conditions and cooler temperatures. Chinese evergreen, Aglaonema is another great plant for indoor environments with low light and it also tolerates dry air very well.
Some indoor plants can provide color and interest as well. Kalanchoe is commonly sold in bloom and is not difficult to grow indoors. African violets and their lesser known cousin Streptocarpus are another good option when it comes to providing flowers for color. Beware though that these plants are not as forgiving as those mentioned earlier and require more specialized care and attention. Do your homework and then give them a try. It may take more than one attempt to find a successful location and care routine for each plant in your specific indoor environment.