November is a great month for wanting to hibernate. It’s been trying to snow here for the last week or so, with cold temperatures and dark brooding clouds, but as of now we continue to be in that in-between stage where most of the leaves have dropped, but we’re not in a winter wonderland just yet.
Just because we’re moving into winter, though, doesn’t mean that we can’t still talk plants and gardening. That’s the beauty of houseplants, you know. You can enjoy them all year round. And on those dreary in-between-winter-and-fall days (or those middle-of-winter-that-never-ends days), let me tell you, having something green and fresh around really lifts the spirits. Or, really, having something green and fresh around always – no matter what time of year it is – is good for the soul. At least I think so. Which is why I believe that you can never have too many houseplants. (My husband might disagree with me on that – when we were moving my things into his apartment he thought it was like plants vs. humans, and that the plants were definitely winning.)
There are a lot of plants that can be considered “houseplants”; any plant that can be grown indoors, generally for decorative purposes, but also culinary (think: herbs) or air-purifying, can be considered as such. And there are probably just as many books and guides telling you how to take care of them as there are plants. I can only speak to the houseplants I grow, know, and love. Over the coming months I’ll introduce them each to you – tell you their names, their habits, their quirks. But in the meantime, here are a few things about plants that I’ve learned over the years:
- Choose a place with good light. I know a lot of plant tags might say that the plant does well in “low-light” conditions, but that doesn’t mean it can survive in no-light conditions. Remember that even what we consider a well-lit room is a lot lower light than what occurs outside. If your plant starts to look like it’s stretching (lots of times referred to as “leggy”), or if it’s losing the variegations (leaf colorations) that it started with, it’s probably not getting enough light.
- Figure out a watering schedule. This will require a lot of interaction with your plant; checking the soil, observing the stem and leaves, talking to it… Plants vary widely in their water needs, so you’ll need to find out (ask an expert, do some research, experiment…) whether it likes to dry out completely between waterings or if it prefers to stay a little damp. I don’t know a solid number, but I would venture a guess that there are as many plant deaths due to over-watering as there are to under-watering. Proper watering can prevent a host of other issues as well (i.e., disease, insect pests, etc.), so this is an important key to the whole houseplant success thing.
- Avoid placing your plants in drafty locations. They don’t do well with either hot or cold air blowing on them constantly (or even intermittenly). Come to think of it, I don’t like having either hot or cold air blowing on me either. I always turn the a/c or heater vents away from me when we’re in the car. So if there’s a place that you wouldn’t want to be in for a prolonged period of time, chances are your plant doesn’t want to be there either. I live in a fairly dark apartment, so there aren’t a lot of good places that get enough light but stay away from drafts. I’m betting you have a similar situation. If your only good place for a houseplant is a windowsill, then by all means, put it on a windowsill. You’ll just have to be a little more diligent about making sure it’s receiving proper water, and that it’s not getting sunburned.
I realize that these guidelines may seem kind of vague. But, when talking about the myriad of houseplant varieties as one great whole, well, that’s the best I can do. Don’t be afraid to move your plants around the house until you find a happy spot. And, if you’ve killed more than a few houseplants in your past, know that you are in good company (even the greenest thumbs sometimes can’t have all successes). Hopefully, though, you’ll try again and this time find a good fit for you and for your apartment/house/office.