Growing Indoors: Opening Your Home To Houseplants

Whether you’re a city dweller without a sufficient means to garden, or simply want to breathe life into your interior spaces, growing indoors is a viable solution that will improve air quality and make your home more tranquil.

In this three part series, we will explore how to grow healthy plants, vegetables and herbs within the four walls of your home or apartment. Today, we advocate for houseplants and why everyone can, and should own at least one (or hopefully many).

For the Love of Science

Houseplants are so much more than an accessory to decoration. They are alive and at work, releasing oxygen and filtering pollutants. They also suppress mold spores and bacteria by emitting phytochemicals.

If your home is prone to dry air, hosting plants will also add humidity. Plus, watching something grow in real-time is ever so satisfying, fascinating and colorful.

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If you’re a serial green killer (let’s face it, we’ve all been there), we encourage you to try your thumb at gardening again. The best way to be successful is to understand a plant’s needs based upon its origins, and then recreate their natural environment. Consider the condition of your home’s interior and then choose your new roommates. Many of us become entranced by species that might not thrive well in our homes.

Light it Up

Most easy-to-care-for houseplants derive from the understorey of the tropics: begonias, spider plants, orchids, dracaena, maranta, pothos vines, calathea and bromeliads all fit into this category. These plants naturally grow in warm, humid, dimly lit forests with very little air flow – similar to the environment of many home interiors.

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These varieties don’t want too much sunlight or left thirsty for long durations. Their demise is mostly due to incorrect watering. Water them thoroughly, draining off any excess so they don’t stand in water. Don’t overwater; many do best if you let them dry out slightly before watering again. The simplest method to determining whether to water is to pick up the plant. Dry soil is of course lighter than wet.

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When growing plants indoors, the direction in which your window faces affects growth dramatically, just as the exposure outside does. Here are some species suggestions based off lighting needs.

West Facing Windows:

Coleus, Aloe Vera, Geraniums, Bird of Paradise, English Ivy

For most indoor plants, the light from a west-facing window is a welcome compromise between the bright but usually weaker light from an east-facing window and the direct and often very bright light let in through a south-facing window. As a result, plants that like a little more light but can’t handle hot direct sun are happiest with this exposure. It’s often a good location for flowering house plants as well as ones with variegated or even non-green foliage, as it tends to intensify color.

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A west-facing window is also a good spot for many plants that do well with either an eastern or southern exposure, so feel free to experiment with including them. Those preferring an eastern exposure may need to be placed away from the window or shielded by a light curtain, while those preferring a southern exposure may need to move closer to the light. Either way, you’ll have plenty of options to fill your space.

East Facing Windows:

Heartleaf Philodendron, Umbrella Tree, Boston Fern, Fiddleleaf Fig, Youth on Age

Ideally, east-facing windows get either bright indirect light all day or direct sun in the morning hours, when it’s less intense, and indirect sun for the rest of the day. Every location is different, however, and if the morning light you get is very bright or hot, it might result in scorched or wilting leaves or simply a failure to thrive. If that’s the case, either move the plant further away from the window or install a sheer curtain to filter the sunlight.

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On the other hand, trees and tall buildings may filter the light so it’s no longer bright, or may even block the light during a good portion of the day. if a plant is leaning toward the light, getting leggy or struggling to grow, try moving it closer to the window. If it still struggles, you may need to look for plants that do well in low light, such as those that thrive with a northern exposure.

Southern Facing Windows:

Cacti, Succulents, Chrysanthemums, Purple Heart, Rock Fig

Southern windows have a southern exposure, which means they receive the greatest amount of direct light (about five hours of direct sun per day). A southern window creates intense conditions that many houseplants can’t survive. However, you do have a few options, including some flowering plants, foliage plants, and cacti or succulents.

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During the winter months, most plants can benefit from a southern exposure, but during the summer months, the sun shines directly into a southern window at midday, when temperatures and light are at their hottest and brightest. While many plants like direct sunlight, a southern exposure can become very hot. Cacti and succulents tolerate intense heat and direct sunlight, but if you install sheer curtains or mini-blinds on your southern window, you can modify the intensity of sunlight and heat to help flowering and foliage plants thrive as well.

Low Light Conditions:

Chinese Evergreen, ZZ Plant, Parlor Palm, Dragon Tree, Radiator Plant

Have you been afraid to try growing plants in your home, or a particular room, because you think you don’t have enough light? Fear not! There’s plenty of plant varieties that thrive in low light conditions and are also easy to grow.

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While all plants need some light to live, those mentioned above are among the most adaptable to low-light conditions, making them a win for light-starved homes. North-facing rooms, or rooms with no windows are considered low-light rooms. If your room has no windows, you should leave lights on twelve hours a day, or rotate low-light plants into the room for a few weeks at a time before moving them back to a naturally lit room.

Caring for Houseplants

Routine pinching and pruning helps keep your indoor garden looking attractive and can correct structural problems while encouraging new growth.

The key to pruning houseplants is to do so before they become too leggy or unbalanced. Once some plants get unruly it’s rather difficult to whip them back into shape again.

Done early enough, pinching and pruning will keep houseplants the right size and shape for their space. Light trimming and reshaping can be done any time of the year, including winter. If you will be cutting back substantially, wait until late winter or early spring.

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Not all houseplants need pruning, but most benefit from at least some shaping and removal of dead leaves and damaged or diseased stems.

When you prune, do so judiciously. Well pruned plants don’t look pruned, but instead appear natural. If in doubt, don’t cut. It takes a long time for houseplants to grow back once you’ve cut out a substantial amount of growth. As a rule of thumb, prune out no more than ¼ of the foliage at one pruning.

The Nisaku KUSANUKIKAMA Saw Tooth Sickle with stainless steel blade is one of our favorite pruning tools for thicker foliage.

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For thinner stems and leaves, this Nisaku Saw Tooth Sickle has finer teeth which are gentle and effective on delicate flora.

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Some plants require regular pruning, while others only need it a couple of times of year. When pruning flowering plants, familiarize yourself with the bloom cycle prior to pruning, or you might remove flower buds.

Styling Hacks

If you’re looking to pull double duty out of your houseplants (think fun AND functional) then these style tips are for you.

Make growing fun. Play with planters, accentuate your home’s architecture and collab with color. Ditch the flimsy plastic containers and get more creative. Nisaku potted plants master knives are the go-to tools for repotting. Flexible and durable, they help you easily lift and shift plants f all sizes.

Corners are great areas to experiment with color and height. Try grouping plants of various stature and color.

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Afraid of damaging your beloved furniture, but wanting a piece to showcase your plants? Scour your local flea market for items to use as stands, or have fun re-purposing an older table, desk or shelving unit.

Add texture to your living space and elevate the height of your shelves with trailing plants. Many species with a waterfall effect love humidity, so a bathroom is the perfect environment.

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