The end of summer doesn't have to mean the end of flowers and greenery. Many types of plants make suitable houseplants. With proper care, houseplants can beautify your home, purify the air and help you maintain a satisfying connection with the outdoors during the gray winter months.
A wide variety of plants can be grown indoors during the winter months. Among annual varieties, impatiens, begonias, geraniums and coleus all make colorful, easy-care houseplants.
If you don't have a lot of light, consider Pothos, cast-iron plants or spider plants. Aloe and Christmas cactus do well in sunnier spots and are low maintenance
Some fruit trees, such as Meyer lemon, can also be kept as houseplants during the winter.
In addition to beautifying your home, houseplants offer other important benefits. Fragrant plants, for example, freshen the stale air in homes that are shut tight during the cold winter months.
Houseplants might also be a boon to your health. In addition to converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, houseplants effectively absorb harmful indoor air contaminants and toxins, according to research by NASA scientists. These toxins are released by many common household items such as cleaners, carpets and paint.
Improper watering is the number one killer of houseplants, according to the master gardeners at the Ohio State University Extension.
To avoid over- or under-watering, you should research the water needs of your particular houseplant species. Check the soil regularly and give water based on the plant's individual needs. The extension experts recommend that you use room temperature water to strengthen root systems. If you are using tap water, leave it in an open container for approximately an hour so chlorine gas escapes. Also, avoid water that has gone through a water softening system. It may contain excess salts.
Proper care of your winter houseplants starts with a bottle of glass cleaner and some elbow grease. Adequate light is essential during the gray winter months, so Dr. Leonard Perry, an extension professor with the University of Vermont, recommends cleaning your windows, both inside and out, before placing houseplants in front of them.
As with watering, it is important that you understand the individual light needs of your houseplant species. Depending on the variety, houseplants require low, medium or high light levels. If you aren't sure what kind of light you have, try this test from the master gardeners at the Ohio State University Extension: hold your hand one foot above a sheet of paper. High light will cast a dark shadow, medium light will cast a light shadow and low light will cast no shadow.
Finally, keep in mind that all houseplants will grow in the direction of the light source. Turn your houseplants regularly to ensure they grow evenly.
Pests and Disease
If you are bringing outdoor plants inside for the winter, first check them carefully for insects and disease. Bring in only healthy plants. Proper watering will keep most diseases at bay. However, insects, such as aphids and spider mites, are common houseplant problems. They can be controlled with an insecticide or pesticide designed for houseplants.
You should be aware that some common houseplants, such as oleander and dumbcane, are toxic if ingested by children or pets. The University of Connecticut Home and Garden Education Center maintains a list of toxic houseplants on its website. Be sure to keep poisonous plants out of the reach of children and pets and consult your local poison control center in case of accidental ingestion.