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How to Grow and Take Care of Indoor Plants

Potted Plants

Beautiful, healthy houseplants are the perfect way to fill your home with life and color. Whether you want just a few or have a houseplant jungle in mind, you can learn how to grow and take care of indoor plants successfully. These simple steps can put you on track for thriving indoor plants and houseplant happiness:

  1. Choose Healthy Houseplants
  2. Consider Your Light and Space
  3. Complement Your Decor
  4. Water Properly
  5. Fertilize Regularly
  6. Control Houseplant Pests
  7. Provide Adequate Humidity
  8. Groom, Prune and Repot as Needed

Choose Healthy Houseplants

A flourishing "jungalow" starts with healthy plants. Always buy from plant vendors you know and trust. Be discriminating when choosing new plants. Check them thoroughly for signs of good health such as normal-sized growth, well-formed leaves or buds, well-anchored stems and overall color and appearance.

Don't fall for plants that look less than great. Avoid houseplants with droopy or wilted leaves, soggy soil, mushy stems or small and shriveled growth. They may be past rescuing or carry disease. Warning signs include excessive brown leaves, dropped or yellowing leaves, elongated stems and visible insect pests.

If you're not sure of the best indoor plants for your home, ask your favorite plant shop pro for advice and guidance. Many easy-to-grow, low-maintenance indoor plants, including Chinese evergreens, golden pothos and snake plants, can thrive in almost any home.

Consider Your Light and Space

Plants get energy for growth through a process called photosynthesis, which can only happen with light. Some houseplants need less light than others, but even low-light indoor plants grow weak and spindly without the light they need. Light-starved plants are also more prone to pests and disease. If you have a certain space or a certain plant in mind, research its light needs before you buy.

As a general rule, plants that need high light do well in front of southern-facing windows. Place medium-light plants in east-facing windows or 2 to 3 feet away from high-light windows. Low-light indoor plants — such as ZZ plants, snake plants, pothos and philodendrons — can tolerate north-facing windows and normal indoor lighting in most areas of your home. Be aware of trees and buildings outside. An obstructed southern window may get less light than a northern one.

Take time to consider size so your plants don't quickly outgrow their ideal place. Small indoor plants, such as mini succulents, baby cactus or pileas, relocate easily. But large indoor plants — like indoor lemon trees or Thai limes — may only suit one or two sun-filled areas in your home. The best hanging indoor plants, such as ivies, string-of-pearls and vining pothos, need space away from traffic so they can hang undisturbed.

African Violets

Complement Your Decor

One of the best things about growing houseplants is using trendy indoor plants to complement your home décor. Containers are part of the equation, but plants themselves offer color, texture and structure to express your individuality and accentuate the latest décor trends. Whatever your style, from boho to mid-century, there are cool indoor plants to match.

Fiddleleaf figs, rubber plants and Monstera deliciosa make big statements with strong, dramatic foliage and personality. Resilient ZZ plants in shiny green to raven black combine color with striking form. Spiky snake plants accentuate vertical lines and angular interest in colors from moonshine green to golden stripes. And crotons explode in combinations of orange, red, yellow, pink and purple depending on light intensity.

Water Properly

The No. 1 cause of houseplant damage and premature death is improper watering. Underwatering causes wilting, loss of leaves and flowers and brown leaf tips. Overwatering results in wilting, yellow or black leaves and fungal diseases such as root rot.

Water houseplants with lukewarm water whenever the top 1 to 2 inches of soil is dry. Before you water, do a quick check with a moisture meter or do it the old fashioned way: stick your finger down into the soil.

How often you need to water depends on various factors, including how warm you keep your home, the type of plant, and the type of pot. Plastic pots, for example, retain soil moisture longer than porous terra cotta containers, which let air pass through the sides.

Fertilize Regularly

Well-fed houseplants reward you with healthy growth and, if you grow blooming plants, plenty of flowers. A high quality fertilizer feeds plants and soil, creating an environment for sustained, vibrant growth. At planting, feed your new houseplant with a complete fertilizer such as Pennington UltraGreen All-Purpose Plant Food 10-10-10 or Pennington UltraGreen ColorBlooms and Bulbs 15-10-10 to start it out right.

Many houseplants do best with frequent applications of mild fertilizers, such as Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1, which provides organic matter that breaks down slowly and provides plants with necessary nutrients over time. Blooming plants, such as African violets, require a fertilizer designed to promote flowering. For lemon trees or other indoor citrus, premium fertilizers such as Pennington UltraGreen Citrus and Avocado Plant Food 10-5-5 provide specially formulated blends to meet special plant needs.

Control Houseplant Pests

Houseplant pests, such as mealybugs, scale insects and spider mites, can wreak havoc on your indoor garden. Even if you thoroughly check for pests when purchasing plants, some insects lay dormant and show up later — when you least expect them.

For that reason, it's important to check weekly for signs of infestations. Look for insects, holes in leaves, and sticky substances excreted by pests as they feed. If you find pests, isolate the affected houseplant immediately to safeguard the rest of your plant family.

The sooner you treat an infestation, the better off you and your indoor plants will be. When using insecticides, follow label instructions closely, including pre-harvest intervals for anything edible. Whenever possible, move the offending plant outdoors for treatment. Avoid using pesticide sprays indoors or in confined spaces.

Provide Adequate Humidity

Many popular houseplants are native to tropical climates. While they tolerate the dry air typically found in U.S. homes, they grow better with higher humidity. Signs that your houseplants suffer from low humidity include leaf curling and yellowing, bud drop, brown leaf tips and susceptibility to pests.

To keep your plants healthy and happy, you can increase humidity these easy ways:

  • Mist your houseplants with a fine spray of water a few times per day.
  • Create a humidity tray by filling a saucer with small pebbles or polished stones. Add water to just below the surface of the pebbles, then place the plant on top. As water evaporates, it humidifies the air around your plant.
  • Group plants together. Water evaporates from plant leaves in a process known as transpiration. When this occurs, the plants humidify each other.
  • Groom, Prune and Repot as Needed

    Grooming and pruning your houseplants keeps them neat and attractive. Regularly remove any dead foliage and spent flowers with herb scissors or pruning shears. If you trim leaf tips, carefully follow the natural leaf shape as you trim.

    Dirty leaves can't clean your indoor air and create oxygen as well as clean leaves, so wipe them regularly with a soft, wet cloth to remove dust and buildup. Avoid leaf shine products. They may look good, but they clog leaf pores.

    Every year or so, check houseplants for signs that they need repotting. The signs can include slowed growth and roots growing out of drainage holes or above the soil line. Don't go too big too fast. Move up one pot size at a time. Oversize pots mean extra soil and excess water, leading to fungal disease and root rot. Pennington UltraGreen Plant Starter with Vitamin B1, used at repotting time, helps reduce the risk of transplant shock.

    By following these tips on how to grow and take care of indoor plants, you can impress your family and friends and beautify your home. Remember, the best indoor plants are the ones you love to grow and enjoy. At Pennington, we're here with premium products and advice to help you succeed with indoor plants and everything else you aspire to grow.

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