8 Steps to Growing a Healthy Indoor Garden Anytime

Potted Plants

An eye-catching indoor garden is full of healthy houseplants, and creating one that makes your home look great is easy with a little direction and some high-quality ingredients. Follow these eight steps to grow an indoor garden full of thriving houseplants that will invite friends and family to ask for your green thumb secrets:

  1. Choose Healthy Houseplants
  2. Water Properly
  3. Provide Optimum Lighting
  4. Fertilize Regularly
  5. Control Houseplant Pests
  6. Ensure Sufficient Humidity
  7. Groom and Prune
  8. Repot When Necessary

A flourishing indoor garden starts with healthy plants. Purchase plants at a trusted nursery or garden center. Some easy-to-grow houseplants that thrive in most homes include Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema), various Dracaena, pothos (Epipremnum pinnatum `Aureum’) and snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). If you are uncertain as to the best houseplant choices, ask a nursery professional for guidance.

Be discriminating when choosing plants for your indoor garden. Check selections thoroughly for signs of good health — new, normal-sized growth; budding and blooms (if the plant flowers); a stem that is well anchored in the soil; and an overall healthy appearance.

Avoid bringing home houseplants that have droopy and wilted leaves, overly wet soil, mushy stems and/or small and shriveled new growth. Other warning signs include excessive brown leaf tips, yellowing and dropping leaves, elongated stems that appear to be reaching for light, and visible pests.

The number one cause of houseplant damage and death is improper watering. Damage due to underwatering includes wilting, loss of leaves and flowers, and brown leaf tips. Overwatering results in fungal disease in the roots, which leads to root rot. Overwatered plants wilt despite wet soil, and experience blackened leaves.

African Violets

Water houseplants with lukewarm water only, when the top one to two inches of soil is dry. Check for watering readiness by using a moisture meter or inserting a finger into the soil past the first knuckle.

How often you water depends on various factors, including the temperature in your home and the type of plant or pot. Plastic pots, for example, retain soil moisture longer than porous terra-cotta containers.

Plants get their energy for growth through the process of photosynthesis, which requires light to occur. Houseplants that don’t receive enough light grow weak and spindly, lose leaves and are prone to pests and diseases. To determine the correct lighting for each plant, check the plant information tags for instructions.

Place plants that require high light in front of an unobstructed southern- or eastern-facing window, or under full-spectrum lighting. Place plants that need medium light two to three feet away from southern- or eastern-facing windows, or in front of north-facing windows. Plants that require low light can be grown in most areas of your home, except in very dim locations.

To increase your chances of growing a thriving indoor garden, choose houseplant locations carefully.

Well-fed houseplants reward you with healthy growth and plenty of blooms. A high-quality fertilizer feeds plants and soil, creating an environment for sustained, vibrant growth.

Houseplants do best with frequent applications of mild fertilizers, such as Alaska® Fish Fertilizer, which provides a constant supply of organic matter that breaks down slowly and provides plants with necessary nutrients. Blooming plants, such as African violets, require a fertilizer designed to promote flowering.

Be sure to fertilize all of your plants when first creating your indoor garden.

Houseplant pests, such as mealybugs, scale insects and spider mites, can wreak havoc on your indoor garden. Even if you thoroughly check a plant for pests when purchasing, some insects lay dormant and appear at a later time. For that reason, it's important to check weekly for signs of insect infestation, including holes in leaves and a sticky substance on foliage, which is excreted by pests as they feed. When you find pests, isolate the affected houseplant immediately to safeguard the rest of your collection.

The sooner you treat an infestation, the better for your indoor garden. Sevin® Ready-To-Use Bug Killer will control mealybugs and scale insects. Always treat houseplants outdoors and follow product label directions.

Many houseplants originate in tropical climates. While most houseplants will survive in the dry air commonly found in homes, they grow best with some additional humidity. Signs that your houseplants suffer from low humidity include leaf curling and yellowing, bud drop, brown leaf tips and pest infestation.

To get your houseplants off to a healthy start, ensure they have adequate humidity by taking the following steps:

  1. Spray your houseplants with a fine mist of water two to three times a day.
  2. Create a humidity tray by filling a saucer with polished stones or marbles. Add water to just below the surface of the stones or marbles, and then place the plant on the saucer. The water evaporation will humidify the surrounding air and the plant.
  3. Group plants. Water evaporates from plant leaves in a process known as transpiration. When this occurs, the plants humidify each other.

Grooming and pruning your houseplants keeps them tidy and attractive. Prevent plants from luring pests by regularly removing dying foliage and spent flowers with pruning shears. Also keep foliage clean, as dirty leaves aren’t able to clean your indoor air and create oxygen. Wipe leaves with a soft, wet cloth to remove dust and buildup.

To continue to thrive, houseplants require occasional repotting. Signs a houseplant needs a new container and fresh soil include reduced growth, roots emerging from the pot drainage holes or from the soil surface, and water rushing through the pot when you water.

Always repot to a container that is no more than one pot size larger than the current container, as too large of a container leads to excess wet soil that can lead to fungal disease and root rot.

Help reduce the risk of transplant shock by watering the plant after repotting with a solution of Pennington® UltraGreen® Plant Starter with B1, which provides plants with vital micronutrients.

Conclusion

Now that you know how to grow healthy houseplants, you can get started creating an indoor garden oasis that’s sure to beautify your home and impress your family and friends.

Total Time Required to Set Up Your Indoor Garden: One day

Effort: Easy to achieve through simple tasks.

Time breakdown (Depending on the number and size of houseplants in your indoor garden):

  • Purchasing quality houseplants: 1-3 hours
  • Locating houseplants in your home: 1-2 hours
  • Ongoing maintenance tasks:
  • Watering: 30-60 minutes per week
  • Fertilizing: 30-60 minutes per month
  • Pest control: 15-30 minutes per week

Other maintenance (providing humidity, grooming and pruning): 15-30 minutes per week.

Repotting: Two to four hours every six to twelve months.

Pennington Fertilizer Resources