House Plants: What Must You Know and What’s All the Rest

House plants are amazingly “in” right now. This trend has only increased during our times of quarantine. Some people grew Victory Gardens. Others stayed inside with house plants. Some did both.

But just like when I was beginning to garden (I won’t actually admit to how long ago that was, but let’s put it this way: if any of my house plants had survived from then, they would be approaching antique status), there are numerous people talking about ways to grow plants and what you need to know.

It sounds quaint now–or it does to me, but I never bought into it back then–but there were lots of ” home remedy ” type ideas about growing plants when I was a beginner gardener.

Yes , we still have some home remedies around. I even spray milk myself as a fungicide (speaking of home remedies). But these were things like using 7-Up on your lawn and beer for something–don’t ask me because I paid little attention to most of it.

Today everything is about science. We need to know how many foot candles of light a plant needs in order for it to grow properly. Everyone needs a light meter to place plants appropriately.

Really? I don’t want to discredit the fine folks who are writing about this but really?

Perhaps if I lived in a place with fewer windows–or where my windows were obstructed by tall buildings–I might question the quality of my light. But most likely not. I suspect that I would need plants for low light and adjust accordingly.

South window with house plants

After all, part of the year, my windows are obstructed by deciduous trees. You can see that the window in the above photo–a south window–is actually shaded fairly heavily right now by a Japanese maple. In another month, all that shade will be goner. I, and the plants, manage to adjust accordingly.

There’s surely no harm in using a light meter or figuring out foot candles for your various plants. But I don’t find it necessary and think it is overly complicated. Look out the window. Use common sense.

What you do need to do is to learn botanic–or Latin–names for the plants. It’s the only way to assure yourself of getting the correct plants. You don’t have to memorize anything. But it’s very helpful to know the difference say, between monstera deliciosa and monstera adansonii. Both are referred to as Swiss Cheese Plant (& very trendy right now) but the first has those distinct cut leaves that you often see displayed in vases while the second is a tropical vine with leaves whose perforations are enclosed. You want the one that you want and not a relative or a cousin, so to speak.

So if I were trying to comprehend house plants right now, I would spend some time learning the correct botanic names for the ones that I wanted to grow.

I would learn about the growing conditions they like (warm or cool, lots or humidity or is the average home fine) which catalogs, growers sites, and other resources readily provide. And I would begin to add things slowly.

When find things that grow well for me–that I also like–I generally buy more of the same variety in different cultivars. It works out well.

3 thoughts on “House Plants: What Must You Know and What’s All the Rest

  1. Alice October 14, 2020 / 7:11 am

    Thank you for sharing the details on house plants as while gathering information on gardening or outdoor plant we forgot to collect information for indoor plants. I appreciate the efforts that you have put into the work.

    Keep sharing more work like this.

  2. tonytomeo October 18, 2020 / 1:00 am

    My houseplants became houseplants when I brought them from where they were landscape plants in Southern California. They are easiest to grow will less effort into weird techniques. Heck, I barely fertilize them.

  3. gardendaze October 18, 2020 / 5:19 am

    When I lecture, (or used to, pre-pandemic), I would get a lot of questions about how often I fertilize. People couldn’t believe that I didn’t fertilize my plants. But most get repotted every year so the fresh soil is enough for them. They especially couldn’t believe the orchids. For some reason, people kill a lot of orchids. Sigh.


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