Houseplants 101, here are some basic tips to improve your indoor gardening

Succulents, date and location not specified | Photo courtesy of Melinda Myers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Lift your spirits and improve your indoor environment by taking part in the indoor gardening movement. An apartment or home filled with tropical, succulent and flowering plants can provide beauty, extend your garden season, improve air quality and create a peaceful environment to relieve stress.

Though some may find indoor gardening a bit intimidating, don’t let past failures or the thought of tending living greenery stop you from enjoying the many benefits. Knowing some care basics and making needed adjustments to the growing environment can turn past failures into success.

Water, humidity and light are key to growing healthy plants. When you match these to a plant’s needs and the growing media, you’re sure to experience success.

Use a container with drainage holes to avoid overwatering, which can lead to root rot and plant death. It should be no more than an inch or two larger in diameter than the plant’s root ball. Growing in a larger pot results in the soil staying too wet, increasing the chance of root rot.

Select a quality potting mix that holds moisture but drains well. Cacti and succulents prefer a fast-draining mix while tropicals and African violets prefer a mix that stays moist, not soggy, but still drains well.

Set your plant in a location that’s free from drafts of hot or cold air and in the plant’s preferred light conditions. An east or west-facing window usually provides adequate light for most plants. Keep cacti, succulents and other plants requiring high light within two feet of an east or west-facing window.

Pothos, philodendron, Chinese evergreens and other plants that tolerate low light can be placed near a north-facing window or up to six feet back or off to the side of an east or west-facing window. Shears, awnings and trees can impact the light reaching your plants. Adjust their location as needed.

Always water thoroughly and pour off any excess water that collects in the saucer. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry before watering drought tolerant plants like cactus. Water tropical and flowering plants that prefer moist conditions when the top few inches of soil are barely moist, like a sponge that has been wrung out.

Reduce maintenance and improve plant health with gravel trays. Fill a tray or saucer with pebbles. Allow excess water to collect in the tray. The pebbles keep the pot elevated above the water to avoid root rot. As the water evaporates it increases the humidity around the plant.

When pest problems occur, consider an organic approach that is safe for people, pets and plants. Manage fungus gnats, those tiny fruit fly like insects found flitting around the house, with a naturally occurring bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, found in Summit mosquito bits. Just sprinkle the bits on the soil surface and repeat as needed until the bugs disappear.

Mites, aphids, scale and mealybugs can be controlled with an organic horticulture oil like Summit year-round spray oil. This product coats the pests and kills all stages from egg to adult. Repeat as needed to control any that were missed. Once the pests are managed, check the growing conditions and make any needed adjustments to the growing environment.

The more plants you grow the easier it becomes and soon you may find yourself immersed in a tropical or desert paradise inside the comfort of your own home.

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1 Comment

  • Bonnie January 13, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    House plants are coming back into vogue after the sterile, artificial movement. Plants add so much to a homes décor and well being of the people living there. Great hobby for everyone in the family. Kids love having a Venus fly trap, dad his own Bonsai collection, and mom indoor herbs for cooking. Plants teach us all about environment, care and feeding them to keep them healthy. Sow from seed or cuttings or buy them already potted and Enjoy watching them grow.

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