Indoor plants serve as natural air cleaners, humidifiers and fresheners. They provide green or colorful accents during the winter months, when outdoor plants in many areas are dormant. Use a handheld light meter to measure light intensity throughout your home or business, suggests Floriculture Specialist Bodie V. Pennisi of the University of Georgia's Cooperative Extension. Choose indoor plant varieties suitable for your different light levels.
Plants of the Aglaonema family survive with low to moderate indoor light. Those with solid green leaves, like Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum), can manage on between 25 and 75 foot candles of light for eight hours each day. Those with gray or variegated leaves need 75 to 200 foot candles. Pewter plant (Aglaonema crispum) grows up to 4 feet high with silver-marked green foliage. Ribbon aglaonema (Aglaonema commutatum) has gray-veined green leaves.
These forgiving plants also tolerate low humidity, dry soil and temperatures as low as 55 degrees Ft, say Clemson University Cooperative Extension's Horticulturist Karen Russ and Floriculturist Al Pertuit. They do best at 68 to 77 degrees F with humidity between 5 and 49 percent. Plant them in standard potting soil amended with additional humus. Keep the plants consistently moist. Watch for aphids, spider mites, mealy bugs and scale.
Philodendrons may be vining or self-heading, producing leaves from a basal clump. Regardless of type, they're among the most reliable indoor plants, according to the Clemson University Extension. Different varieties need form 25 to 200 foot candles of light, but no direct sun. Their leaves can be 3 inches to 3 feet long, solid, patterned, green or deep red. Vines grow as large as their supports. Self-heading plants require room to spread.
Philodendrons are happiest in daytime temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees F and nights at 65 to 70 F. While they tolerate low humidity, they grow more quickly in humid conditions. Give them evenly moist, not wet, potting soil. Fertilize them regularly with water-soluble houseplant food.
An exceptionally showy, flowering indoor plant, florist's gloxinia (Sinningia speciosa) shares the velvety foliage and brilliant colors of related African violets. These native Brazilian plants have large, bell-shaped blossoms in hues from white to deep purple and various pinks, reds and blues. Bicolored, double and wavy-edged cultivars are also available.
Gloxinias need medium to high, 75 to more than 200 foot candles, of light but no direct sun. They love warm locations with a daytime temperature of 75 degrees F and 65 degrees F at night, says Clemson University's Floriculturist Al Pertuit. They thrive in acidic soil, pH between 5.5 and 6.5, containing 50 percent peat and a balance of sand, vermiculite and perlite. Give them high humidity and keep the soil constantly moist. Feed them a balanced fertilizer with each watering. Never wet their leaves.