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Houseplants

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In horticultural terms, there is no such thing as a houseplant. The origin or the nativity of the plant thus decides how well a plant may do as a houseplant. It is more a question of survival and adaptation. Some do well, some not so much.

For better understanding though, plants that are typically grown indoors or can adapt themselves to indoor conditions are called ‘houseplants’. This means that these exotic plants, local to warm, frost-free parts of the world can be grown indoors, in cold climates, in containers that are portable or in miniature gardens. Most houseplants are therefore, native to the tropics. Houseplants native to tropical regions are also called pot plants.

Most houseplants are easy and manageable to grow requiring very little attention and care. They are generally grown singly in pots, but can also be planted together in dish gardens and terrariums. While some are cultivated for their flowers, such as geraniums and African violets, others, such as philodendron and sansevieria (snake plant), are grown for their foliage.

Contents

[edit] Types of Houseplants

There are many different types of houseplants that you can choose for your home to add a splash of color, a tropical flare, or even a tasty treat.

As such houseplants fall into the following categories –

  • Foliage
  • Flowering plants
  • Palms/Other trees
  • Ferns
  • Climbers and Trailers
  • Succulents

These could be further categorized as per the amount of light required by them in order to grow, ranging from low light to medium light to bright light.

  • Houseplants requiring High or Bright Light
  • Houseplants requiring Medium Light
  • Houseplants requiring Low Light


[edit] Identifying Houseplants

Most people have difficulty identifying the different kinds of houseplants. Their common names are very different from their botanical names. Common names of some houseplants' might be deceptive as they are named in the local language or have 'slang names'. This may lead to slight difficulty when people ask about different types of houseplants. In order to make it easy you could visit the following link that has categorized houseplants by botanical names with the category it falls under – [1]

[edit] Requirements for the Growth of Houseplants

Foliage plants are a favourite for many homes and offices. Since they require greenhouse conditions to flower, they are grown primarily for their eye-catching foliage.

Several factors influence growth of the indoor plants. The key factors for plant growth are light, temperature, humidity, and water. And any one of these factors in incorrect proportions will prevent proper plant growth indoors.

  • Proper Light

Too much of or too little of something can be bad, and the same applies to the amount of light that is required for the growth of a plant. Light is an important requirement for the process of photosynthesis. In order to induce effective growth, three important things have to be kept in mind – intensity, duration and quality of light.

The intensity of light used is very important as it directly affects every aspect of plant growth, from the colour of its leaves to flowering to even manufacturing of its food. Also the amount of light required by each plant varies, from high to medium to low.

Another important factor to keep in mind, as far as intensity of light is concerned, is the distance between the plant and the light source. A plant at a window facing south is likely to get more light than the eastern and western parts, with the north facing window being the coolest. Also the type of surfaces make a large difference, with a dark one decreasing the intensity of light and a light coloured one, increasing it. Seasonal changes are an important factor too. In winters the intensity of the light decreases and the reverse happens in summer. To read further on house plants in winters –[2]

The duration of light means, the number of hours a plant is exposed to light. As a rule plants should never be exposed to light for more than 16 hours, as they need to rest as well.

Quality means the wavelength of light -- blue and red light aid photosynthesis.


Choosing Lights There are three kinds of lights available or used.

  • Incandescent Lights: These are mostly red, with some infrared and a little of low blue
  • Fluorescent Lights: These can vary according to the manufacturer.
  • Cool White: These lights are mostly blue with little red mixed in them.

One can use cool white fluorescent bulbs for foliage plants, while incandescent or special "grow light" bulbs can be used for blooming plants.

  • Temperature

It is important to keep in mind that most indoor plants are sensitive to extreme temperatures. This can lead to the death of a plant or impede its growth or even affect its foliage. Ideal temperatures to maintain would be 65 degrees Farenheit to 75 degrees Farenheit during the day and five or ten degrees lower than the day, at night.

  • Water

There are many factors which influence the quantity of water required for a plants growth. Like light, too much and too little of water can lead to a plant's death.

The kind of soil used also largely affects the growth of a plant. A moist, yet not very soggy soil is always a better bet for effective growth. To make sure you water right, it is important to always pay attention to the condition of the soil. Try sticking your finger 2 inches into the soil; if you are unable to do so, then there is a problem. Your plant either needs a new soil mix which is more porous or it has become root-bound. To read further [3]

  • Humidity

Atmospheric humidity is expressed as a percentage of the moisture saturation of air. There are two ways to provide increased humidity for houseplants, especially during winters when the homes have 30 percent less humidity.

A humidifier or gravel trays (where, even moisture levels are maintained) placed beneath the flowerpots or containers increase the relative humidity. In the case of gravel trays, when the moisture around the pebbles evaporates, the relative humidity increases.

Another technique is to group plants together which improves the humidity surrounding them.

Also its important to know that misting plants may not work well often. While some plants tolerate misting, other plants do not. Too much misting can lead to the occurrence of disease. It is advisable to mist plants early in the day so that they will be dry by night.

  • Ventilation

Most houseplants, especially flowering varieties, are very sensitive to drafts or heat. Forced air dries the plants rapidly, overtaxes their limited root systems, and may cause damage or plant loss. Houseplants are also sensitive to natural or blended gas. these gases may lead to some plants not flowering, while others dropping their flower buds and foliage. Blended gases are usually more toxic in comparison to natural gases.

  • Fertilization

Like most plants, houseplants too require fertilizers comprising three major plant food elements: nitrogen (N), phosphoric acid (P), and potassium (K). They are available in many different combinations and under a multitude of brand names. What’s important to note is the quantities of these ingredients available in every pound of the product. The most appropriate proportion and also commonly available is about 20-20-20.

The frequency at whichfertilizer should be added to the soil varies according to the vigour of growth and age of each plant. While some may need it every 2 weeks, others will flower well for several months without needing any supplement. However as a thumb rule, use the recommended fertilizer twice a month from March to September. Winter months usually see reduced light and temperature thus leading to reduced growth. Which is why no fertilizer needs to be added during this season as it may prove to be detrimental.

In order to avoid root burn, buildup of soluble salts or excess fertilizer, make sure that some of the fertilizer runs out of the pot’s bottom while applying fertilizer in a solution form.

  • Soluble Salts

Soluble salts are minerals dissolved in water. Fertilizer dissolved in water becomes a soluble salt. Reduced growth, dropping of lower leaves, browning leaf tips, dead and wilted root tips are all indicators of high soluble salts. These salts could be seen accumulating atop the soil thus forming a crust varying from yellow to white. These salts could deposit themselves as ring around the pot at the soil line, the drainage hole or on the outside of clay pots. It is also more vulnerable to attack from insects and diseases.

In order to avoid soluble salt injury, watering correctly is important, as this will stop the excessive salts. Also while watering, let some water drain through and then empty the drip plate.

Another practice should be to leach plants every four to six months. And this should be done ideally before fertilizing, so that the fertilizer doesn’t get washed away. Leaching is carried out by pouring a lot of water on the soil and allowing it to drain completely. The amount of water used should be equal to twice the volume of the pot. 20 cups of water are used to leach a plant in a 6-inch pot that usually holds 10 cups of water.

[edit] Summing Up

Ten Golden Rules for Houseplants

  • Don't drown them
  • Rest them
  • Accept the loss of temporary plants
  • Allow extra humidity
  • Group them
  • Learn to repot
  • Choose wisely
  • Don't overuse fertilizers
  • Check the plant's specific needs
  • Summer outside


[edit] Selection of House Plants

While houseplants may seem easy to grow they do pose many challenges as each plant differs in its type and needs. Following are few things one must keep in mind while selecting houseplants for their homes or other indoor spaces.

  • What to look for

It is important to buy houseplants keeping in mind factors such as plant quality, guarantee and the price amongst many others. While many houseplants could be purchased in places like flower shops, nurseries, greenhouses, flea markets etc, what is important is to make sure you are able to meet all the above three factors, while purchasing from the chosen place or outlet. Also look for a place that can offer you plenty of options to choose from and where all the plants have received proper care.

  • Quality

It is important that while selecting a plant, to look for a healthy plant. You can do this by looking if the stems and the leaves are healthy. Also the leaves should not be brown on the tips, or spotted. The plant should be of the size you are looking for.

If you buy a smaller plant thinking it will grow without inquiring about its growth, you could be in for some disappointment. It could take several months or even years for it to reach a height you may desire.

Also always check for any symptoms of a disease or any insects on the plants especially around the stem and leafy areas.

Also it is advisable to select plants that haven’t been freshly potted. However, check if the roots are not growing through the drainage holes of the pot. If they are, it means that they have outgrown its old pot.


[edit] Steps to Follow Next

Once you have a new houseplant, keep it isolated it from the other plants in your house for a 2-3 weeks. This will prevent the other plants from either catching on to a disease from the new plant or an attack by insects.

Also it will be preferable to acclimatize the new plant to its surroundings.

Be prepared for some leaf droppings or yellowing in the first few days or weeks. There isn’t anything wrong. It’s just the plant trying to adjust to its environment. While this happens, it is important to keep the plant in cool place, check the soil regularly and do not fertilize.

[edit] Selecting Useful and Convenient Plants

Houseplants, like most, have also seen themselves go through different phases of fashion over the years. From ferns and foliage dominating the seventies to orchids in the eighties to flowering plants in the nineties. The new buzz of the millennium is ‘health’ and houseplants that dominate the scene are those that can add to healthy lifestyles in addition to acting as attractive foliage.

Many houseplants are characterized by properties affecting an individual’s psychological and physical self.

According to a two year long study conducted by NASA, houseplants are good for us, as they get rid of harmful chemicals and emissions from the atmosphere like carbon monoxide, benzene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde. The NASA identified a few plants tested by them as the best purifiers and the easiest to grow. Some of these being - Spider plants, English Ivy, Bamboo Palm, Fiscus, Mother-in-law’s tongue etc. To read in detail visit - [4]

Ofcourse there are other useful plants like aloe vera, which is not only easy to grow, but an excellent cure for cuts and can also be used to boost the health of your skin.

Then there are those that are a culinary delight. One can easily grow an indoor herb garden comprising rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, parsley etc.

Some are just a sight for sore eyes. Like Ivy, philodendrons, shamrocks, palms, ginger plants etc.

However, it is important to know that some plants may not also be that healthy to grow, and could contain some level of toxicity. To read in detail, visit – [5]


[edit] References

http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/webdoc1374

http://www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/houseplants/types.html

http://www.evergrowing.com/tips/

http://www.mnsi.net/~jhlavac/gardening/indoor.htm#HousePlantsGeneral