Nothing refreshes indoor air--and indoor dwellers--like plants. Whether you are an apartment dweller without access to a yard or a homeowner forced inside by winter weather, indoor plants enhance decor, provide a calming view and sometimes even adding seasonings to a winter dinner. Assess and enhance your indoor environment, and enjoy the pleasure of growing things all year round.
Make some notes about your indoor environment before purchasing indoor plants. Plants have different temperature, light, and moisture needs and do best when these needs are met. If your apartment seems excessively warm all winter, check the thermostat to see how warm is warm. Note the windows you plan to use for plants and the direction they face; some plants want filtered light, others direct light. Knowing which windows face south or get good morning light helps you make good choices. Note also the space you have available for plants to grow. A vigorous plant may eventually take more space than you thought; plan for growth. Consider the different mini-climates within your home. Bathrooms and kitchens are commonly high-humidity areas, while living room windows may let in excessive cold unless curtains are closed in the winter.
Read information tags accompanying plants, or search for information in houseplant books or online sources. Plants may need equipment to flourish: a spray-mister, waterproof trays lined with pebbles or specialized food and feeding schedules. Houseplants rely on owners, more than the soil in their pots, for ongoing supplies of nutrients. In spite of their indoor location, some plants are subject to mites or other diseases that will need treatment. Factor these considerations into your plant choices.
Seek out, if possible, nurseries that specialize in houseplants. Bargain plants in supermarkets or other stores may not be in good health. Usually shipped in assortments, these plants may transmit pests or diseases between varieties, and stores with other merchandise are not always able to provide good care.
Look for signs of health and growth. Dried, wilted or wrinkled leaves may signal larger problems. Crisp appearance and strong multiple stems indicate health. Look under the leaves for new sprouts and buds. While a plant in full bloom makes a fine party centerpiece, emerging buds promise longer bloom and development of the plant. Check the soil for dampness, both by touch and smell. Dry soil suggests poor care, and dank, swampy odors suggest root rot, fungal or mold problems that may not be discernible to the eye. A very light weight pot may indicate that, while the top of the soil is damp, everything below that is dry, and roots are in danger.
Avoid very leggy plants or those that seem heavy enough to tip out of their pots. You will be told that leggy branches can be pinched back, and transfering to a larger pot will keep your plant from tipping, but branches or stems may break before you can address the problem. Choose a more compact version of the plant and enjoy watching it grow.