Houseplant care requires an understanding of the needs of your specific plant. Some prefer the bright light of a southern window; others thrive in cool northern or eastern windows. Although nearly all require well-drained soil, their watering needs vary. Observing good cultural practices insures that healthy plants will enhance the atmosphere of your home.
The vast majority of houseplants originate in tropical and subtropical regions, often leading to the mistaken belief that they require full sun and abundant watering to thrive. Many are native to the understory or forest floor and prefer filtered or indirect light. Placing tropical plants in direct sunlight may scald leaves and cause undue stress to the plant. Although they may prefer moist soil, it must be well-drained to allow roots to breathe. Soggy soil prevents oxygen from reaching roots and may result in disease or death of the plant.
Light exposure is typically defined as high, medium and low light. According to the Ohio State University Extension, you can determine the intensity of light in an area by holding your hand 12 inches above a piece of paper and observing the shadow. A clearly defined shadow indicates high light exposure, a fuzzy shadow with blurred edges indicates medium light exposure and no visible shadow indicates low light exposure. Determining the correct lighting for your plants depends on the specific needs of your specific plant. Check the plant identification tag to for lighting needs.
Over- or under-watering is the main cause of difficulties with houseplants, according to Douglas F. Welsh and Samuel D. Cotner, Extension Horticulturists from Texas A&M University. Because the roots of plants grown in pots typically grow in the bottom two-thirds of the plant pot, it is important to water plants thoroughly to moisten the soil at the bottom of the pot. However, relying on the surface soil to determine when the plant requires water poses a risk improper watering. Assess the soil by inserting your index finger two inches below the soil surface to determine if your plant requires watering. Many prefer moist soil, but some prefer drier soil. Provide the moisture requirements of you specific plant as indicated on the plant identification tag.
Humidity level refers to the amount of moisture in the air. The University of Georgia Extension reports that the average home has a relative humidity of 10 to 20 percent. Many houseplants from tropical regions require a higher relative humidity than that in the average home. Grouping plants together, using pebble trays filled with water to allow for evaporation and using a humidifier to increase the relative humidity near plants are effective means of raising humidity levels. Although misting may raise humidity levels temporarily, it is not efficient for maintaining increased humidity.
Houseplants prefer warm days and cooler nights. Texas A&M University recommends temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and between 60 and 68 degrees at night for foliage plants. Blooming houseplants prefer cooler nighttime temperatures between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool nighttime temperature allows the plant to recover from daytime moisture loss and produces brighter and longer lasting blooms.