Growing houseplants is not difficult, but there are a few things you can do to ensure they will thrive. Many houseplants are tropical or subtropical in nature and an indoor home environment is not ideal. Excessive watering, overfeeding, low humidity and inadequate lighting are a few things that can affect the health of your houseplants.
Photosynthesis is a process that enables plants to convert light to energy. Interior lighting can be inadequate at providing your house plant with the energy needed to survive. Picking a window with eastern exposure will supply your plants with the best interior lighting. An eastern exposure will also remain cooler throughout the day, so the plant will not dry out as quickly. Windows with southern or western exposures have the largest variations in lighting and temperature due to seasonal changes. Northern exposures provide the least light year-round.
If lighting is inadequate, increasing the daily length of exposure to light will offset the low-light conditions. This can be done with artificial lighting, such as incandescent lights for blooming plants or cool white fluorescent lights for foliage plants.
Placing a plant on a light reflective surface will provide the plant with a more intense light. Alternately, a dark reflective surface will decrease the intensity of light available, reports Bodie V. Pennisi, Extension Floriculture Specialist at the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. (Reference 3)
Watering technique can affect the health of your plants. Too much or too little water can cause plant loss. Don't assume you need to water if the top layer of the soil is dry. Test for dryness by putting your finger down into the soil around the root system of the plant. If it is slightly dry there, it is time to water, according to the Texas Agricultural Extension Service.
Fertilizing plants too much can kill them. Most house plants grow slowly in the fall, so fertilizing during the months of October to April is not necessary, reports Richard K. Zimmerman, Ph.D., retired extension specialist at the West Virginia University Extension Service. Plants only need to be fed about three or four times a year. Tablets or soluble and liquid fertilizers are all available for house plants. Dosages should be followed carefully and not exceeded.
Temperature and Humidity
The ideal temperature for a house plant is 56 degrees Fahrenheit to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You should avoid locating your plants in drafty areas or locations where temperature extremes occur.
Because most house plants are tropical, they thrive in a humid climate. The ideal relative humidity level for a house plant is approximately 40 percent to 50 percent. The typical home has a relative humidity of only 20 percent. In this atmosphere of low humidity, house plants lose water quickly. The use of a humidifier can bring your home into the correct range needed for your plants to remain healthy.