Indoor plants brighten up any room. They also improve indoor air quality by clearing toxins from the air and releasing oxygen. The variety of houseplants can range from foliage plants to flowering beauties, small or large. Vines, hanging plants and even small trees make attractive indoor plants that are easy enough for beginning growers to care for successfully.
African violets (Saintpaulia) are small plants with fuzzy stems and leaves that grow from a central crown. Dozens of colors of flowers are available, some ruffled and fancy and some quite plain. African violets are low light plants that do quite well under regular florescent lights. Keep them out of direct sunlight; they do not need to be placed near a window, but artificial light should be bright. Plant African violets in porous, well drained soil. Although they prefer high humidity, they do not like wet roots. Provide evaporative humidity by setting the pot on a tray of pebbles filled with water. Droplets of water that land on the leaves will turn the leaves brown, so never mist the plants. Water African violets by setting the pot in a container of water about 2 inches deep, and allow the soil to absorb water from the bottom. African violets tend to bloom best when they are potbound. They prefer average room temperatures.
Mother-in-law's tongue (Sanservieria trifasciata) is a hardy plant that tolerates many growing conditions, including neglect. The leaf tips are pointed, or barbed, which is what lends the common name to this plant. It is a succulent plant, with thick leaves that have light green or yellowish markings on them. Give this plant average room temperatures and bright, indirect light. Bright light increases the leaf variegation. Mother-in-law's tongue will grow in low light, but will have greener leaves. Allow the soil to become almost dry between waterings in the spring and summer. During fall and winter, water only every one to two months. Over-watering or wet soil will cause rot. This is a very slow growing plant, and it does not need frequent repotting.
Spider plant, or airplane plant, (Chlorophytum comosum) is another house plant that seems to thrive on neglect. It is a graceful plant, with long, grass-like leaves growing from a central mound. Spider plants are ideal for hanging baskets, or for pots on plant stands. They need to cascade over the sides of the container. Spider plants should be rotated occasionally so all sides receive light. A mature spider plant sends out stalks that dangle over the sides of the container, and a new baby plant grows at the tip of each stalk. Average room temperatures are right for this plant. Spider plants are known for their air cleaning ability, particularly their ability to filter out formaldehydes.
Give a spider plant plenty of water during spring and summer when it is growing quickly, and mist it to increase humidity. Spider plants may develop brown leaf tips. If this happens, trim off the brown tips with small scissors, making a pointed leaf shape as you trim. Dry air or too little fertilizer can cause brown tips. The most likely cause is chlorine or fluoride from tap water, which can be remedied by using distilled water to water plant.