Tips for gardening indoors with houseplants


Houseplants are enjoyed by people the world over. Anything from crazy shapes of cacti to the graceful beauty of a fern, there’s a houseplant that will fit your interest. Houseplants are actually beneficial to your environment. They help clean indoor air by releasing oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process and by removing certain pollutants from the air.  

You will be more successful growing houseplants by selecting the right one for your home conditions. Here are some things to think about before making that plant selection.

Poisonous plants

Some houseplants can be poisonous or have poisonous parts. Do a little research first or ask your local nursery staff, especially if small children or pets could come in contact with the plant.


This is one of the major factors limiting success with houseplants. As a general rule, most houseplants prefer light that is bright enough to read a newspaper. However, plants can vary in the amount of light they need and there are nice selections for those locations where the light is limited.

Windows with direct sun can sometimes be too much light for some plants. For example, African violets, Pothos, or Chinese evergreens grow better a distance away from the direct light or behind a sheer window curtain which can filter light. Artificial grow lights can also be used to supplement light.

Humidity and temperature

A relative humidity level of 75 to 85 percent is ideal. Unfortunately, this isn’t normally available in many homes, especially in winter. Low humidity causes houseplants to dry out and can increase problems such as spider mites.

Misting, air humidifiers, or placing plants on trays with pebbles and water can supplement low humidity levels. Temperature levels in your home should also be considered.

Tropical houseplants, for example, will not grow well when indoor temperatures are below 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil and fertilizer

Just like a garden outdoors, indoor plants will grow best with the right soil. Use a potting mix (not garden soil) for houseplants. Some varieties, such as orchids, can grow in a non-soil medium such as bark.

Many commercially available potting mixes are easy to use or you can make your own. Your plants will need nutrients. Consider using a water soluble houseplant fertilizer. What type you use and how often to use it will depend on the plant.  


Success or failure with a houseplant often comes down to water. The kind of plant, the conditions in your home, air circulation, and size of the container are just some of the factors involved in determining when and how often to water. You don’t want to over or under water.

Your best guide is to look at the appearance of the plant and use your fingers to test the soil.  


Once you understand the basics and know the conditions of your home, it’s time to make your selections.

Hundreds of houseplants are available. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Pothos is a very easy foliage houseplant for the beginner, another, the Snake Plant (sanseveria), and the Cast Iron plant. Cacti and succulents are relatively easy for the beginner, but don’t limit yourself. Orchids, for example, have a reputation of being difficult.

However, certain varieties are easy for the beginner. The Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis) is one of the easiest varieties to grow.

For more information on houseplants, visit our website at or contact our Horticulture Hotline at 315-736-3394.


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