Houseplants add color to your home, create a natural feel and enhance indoor air quality. Most houseplants are tropical and thrive in a warm indoor environment with consistent light and humidity. While all houseplants have different specific requirements, some general knowledge about houseplant care can help all your indoor foliage flourish.
Choose a container large enough to accommodate your plant comfortably. Do not stuff your plant into a container that is too small to avoid damaging the roots. Most houseplants are sensitive to over-watering, so choose a container with drainage holes or drill your own before planting. Plastic and fiberglass pots are the easiest to handle and maintain. Clay pots provide the most airflow for plant roots, but they break easily and the porous sides tend to soak up water, which causes houseplants to need more frequent watering.
Light, Temperature and Humidity
Houseplants vary in light requirements, but most require at least partial light. Place your plants on windowsills or shelves near windows. Plants located several feet from windows will not receive the full benefit of the sunlight. Fluorescent lights provide adequate lighting for most houseplants that cannot be placed near windows.
Most houseplants thrive in environments with temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees F. While some plants can handle hotter temperatures, most houseplants will wither and become susceptible to insects and disease in environments warmer than 75 degrees F. Keep your houseplants away from drafts, furnaces and air conditioners to keep temperatures stable.
The average home is not humid enough to be an ideal environment for houseplants. Increase the humidity in your home by keeping any humidifiers in your home are clean and full of fresh water. You can also grow most houseplants in a terrarium or place them on a tray of water and gravel or small decorative stones to increase the humidity.
Many houseplant problems are caused by under or over-watering. Most houseplants prefer moist soil. Water your plants if the soil is dry and hard 1/4 inch down and the pot sounds hollow when you tap on it. Discard any water that drains out of the pot so that your houseplants do not develop root rot from sitting in old water. If the water sits on top of the soil for more than a few seconds, mix sand or perlite in with your potting mix to promote drainage.
Soil and Fertilizing
Choose a potting mix with sand or perlite to encourage water drainage and improve root growth. Sterilize the soil before planting sensitive houseplants by placing it in an oven at 180 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Wash planting tools in chlorine bleach to kill any disease-causing bacteria.
Use a balanced fertilizer once a month during your houseplant's growing season to promote healthy maturation. You can also try a time-release fertilizer to save time. Follow the directions on the fertilizer for houseplants. Most houseplants do not need fertilizer during the winter months when they become dormant.