Tips for Growing Plants Indoors
Enjoy a garden view even if you don't have a garden when you grow flowers and foliage indoors.
Kimberly Queen Fern
Also called sword ferns, Kimberly queen ferns (Nephrolepis obliterate) make elegant specimen plants, thanks to their straight, upright fronds. These nearly-carefree Australian natives are happy indoors if they’re kept in medium light and given sufficient humidity (if your air is too dry, try running a small humidifier nearby). Outside, they’re hardy in zones 9-11. Indoor gardeners love them because they help purify the air, but you can also enjoy them outdoors in warm weather months.
No garden? No problem. Many flowers and foliage plants thrive indoors year-round, and others can "vacation" outside for the summer and move back in when the temperatures drop.
Top Tips for Growing Plants in Your Home:
- When you go shopping for new plants, read the tags or labels. For best results, match their needs to the conditions in your home. If your interior is dimly lit, for example, buy a snake plant, ivy, pothos or other low-light plant.
- Most homes are too dry for plants, especially when the furnace is on. To raise the humidity, group plants together and/or sit the pots on top of some pebbles in a tray filled with a little water. Don't let the pots touch the water, which could lead to root rot.
- Other ways to raise the humidity: use a humidifier or mist your plants often. Don't mist plants with hairy leaves, however; that could encourage disease.
- Most indoor plants need to be close to a sunny window. Eastern exposures are good because they get cool, morning light. Avoid letting the leaves touch the glass, which can become cold enough in winter or hot enough on sunny days to damage them.
- Rotate your plants periodically, so they don’t lean toward the light. If you don’t have enough natural light, supplement with artificial lighting. You’ll find many options at home and garden centers or nurseries.
- In general, water less often in fall and winter than when plants are actively growing. Overwatering kills more indoor plants than anything else. Water with room-temperature water until it drains out of the bottom of the container. Dump any excess from saucers and trays.
- Fluoride and chlorine in tap water can damage some plants, such as Dracaenas. To prevent problems, let the water stand for a few days before using it.
- On mild fall and winter days, open a window to give your plants fresh air. But keep them out of cold drafts and away from heating vents.
- Watch for insect pests. If they show up, knock them off with a stream of water in the kitchen sink; put large pots in the shower. If pests like aphids or mealybugs come back, swab infested leaves with a cotton ball dipped in equal parts rubbing alcohol and water mixed with a drop of mild dishwashing detergent. For severe infestations, use a horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
- You can grow many fabulous flowering plants indoors, such as orchids, African violets, peace lilies (Spathiphyllum), Anthuriums and Rieger and wax begonias, but some need more care than foliage plants. Again, read their tags. Geraniums, for example, need bright light and cool temperatures.
To Bring Outdoor Plants in for the Winter:
- Gardeners in cold winter climates should start acclimating plants to overwinter before the nighttime temperatures drop below 50 degrees F. Do this by moving the plants onto a porch or deck or other sheltered spot for 2 to 4 weeks. This will help them get used to the lower light conditions in your home.
- When you bring your plants in, check them carefully for hitchhiking pests. As with other indoor plants, knock off small insects with a spray of water from the garden hose, kitchen sprayer or shower. Treat with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil if needed.
- If you don’t want to bring in your pots, take cuttings to carry over for next year.
- Need to re-pot your plants? Use new pots to avoid spreading disease, or clean up used containers by soaking them in a solution of one part bleach to 9 parts water for at least 10 minutes. Scrub off any mineral accumulations or other debris, then rinse the pots thoroughly. Keep terrra cotta pots in a bucket of water until you're ready to use them; dry pots can wick away moisture from your plants.
- Once your cuttings develop roots, pot them in fresh potting mix in a container with drainage holes.
- Herbs like basil, oregano and rosemary can also overwinter indoors; just dig them up and pot them. If you use the leaves for cooking, don't remove too many at once.