Indoor Plant Identification and Care

Overview

Growing plants indoors is a satisfying hobby that adds a cheerful, calming note to your living environment. Identify plants best suited to your light and temperature conditions and care for them properly to enjoy years of pleasure and growth.

Benefits

Indoor plants can be beautiful, fragrant, handsome and even tasty. They add life and ambiance to any space with adequate light. They also cleanse the air, and allow urban-dwellers with no outdoor space the pleasure of gardening.

Considerations

When identifying indoor plants for your location, consider factors that affect plant health and growth. How much light is available? Houseplants require far less light than outdoor plants, and many adapt to available light conditions. But indoor plants have a range of needs. Southern windows provide the brightest sills, and are suitable for sun lovers such as kitchen herbs. Tall, lanky sansevierias might prefer the corner of a room, out of direct light. Consider your home's temperature. In warm locations, unusual tropical plants such as the Venus flytrap can thrive. How much time are you willing to devote to plant care? Plants that dry out quickly, such as those with thin leaves and some herbs, require monitoring and are best for those who would enjoy the fussy task of keeping an eye on them. Cacti, which rarely need water or care, are a more suitable choice for someone who travels frequently.

Types

Common tropical plants for indoors include varieties of fern, palm, ficus, dieffenbachia, spider plant, jade, sansevieria, bromiliad, cacti and others. Visit a local nursery to become familiar with the looks of various plants. When you see something you like, speak to an employee about whether the plant might be a good fit for your conditions, and whether and when to fertilize. Herbs such as parsley, rosemary, thyme and oregano are often grown on windowsills. Jasmine and lavender are fragrant choices for pots in sunny locations. Try plants not meant for indoors such as coleus, geranium and impatiens in pots at the end of the growing season. Many vines and even some small trees such as some varieties of lemon and orange can be grown indoors. Experiment. Nontraditional houseplants can provide a surprising touch of color and a memory of summer gardening in the middle of winter.

Warning

Do not overwater indoor plants. This is the single most common mistake new indoor plant gardeners make. While every plant has specific needs, soggy roots will kill nearly all of them. One way of testing whether it's time to water is to stick your finger an inch or 2 into the soil. Depending on your plant, it may be time to water. Advice such as "water weekly" is fallible--every home has different conditions that cause water to evaporate more or less slowly. On the under end of the spectrum, allowing plants to dry out completely creates conditions hospitable to pests and disease. It can take time to get the hang of when to water indoor plants, but by paying attention to their needs, it will become second nature.

Expert Insight

Many new and used bookstores contain materials about indoor gardening. Browse encyclopedias devoted to identifying houseplants; guides to caring for specific favorites such as herbs, orchids or ferns; books on special topics such as forcing bulbs, hydroponic gardening, fertilizer and organic pest control.

Keywords: indoor plant, houseplant care, identifying houseplants