In my previous post, I deliberately included some plants that have high tolerance to hostile conditions like the following:
5. Dry heat
For the same reasons your skin gets dry in winter—forced air furnaces, lack of humidity inside—your plants often fail to thrive in interior winter conditions. Your house is too dry and hot for them. I keep most of my sensitive plants (orchids, gardenia, jasmine, musa, alocasia) in a room where I have closed off the heating vent and provided a humidifier. I have a humidity gauge that I check regularly. In the rest of the house a humidifier attached to your furnace (which I also have) will be good for both you and the plants, and the simple expedient of keeping them on trays of pebbles and water can also work. If you can lower the thermostat, you’ll save cash and help your plants. (In my old, drafty house, too much heat is never an issue.)
The same dry, hot air that most plants resent is very favorable for spider mite, scale, and mealy bug infestations. Also, many plants from discount vendors will already be hosting such undesirables. You are much better off buying your plants from a nursery specializing in indoor plants. The staff there will be on the lookout for infestations, whereas the staff at Home Depot—I assure you—couldn’t care less. Again, some of the plants I listed (dracaena, sanseveria) are disliked by most bugs.
3. Too little sun
Many of the more desirable houseplants do like stronger light than you may be able to give them. There are ways to fix this—build a sunroom or greenhouse, use growlights—or you can simply capitalize on the light you have. I have an upstairs room with a south window and I have augmented this light a bit: that’s where most of my plants live. No curtains, obviously. Sadly, you can’t use plants as decor where the light is unfriendly.
It’s best to pick a regular time to water plants (once a week, once every 10 days) and stick to it. Watering them all at the same time is much better than having separate timetables for each plant. Use this time to look closely at the plants, especially at the undersides of the leaves or the woody areas, to check for bugs. You have to learn what your plants are supposed to look like and regularly check to make sure they’re at least coming close to their ideal state.
1. Too much love
So many people overwater their houseplants; this is the major reason for orchid death. Water thoroughly no more than once a week and sometimes less often than that. Look at the culture requirements and adapt them to your schedule. You can bend the rules to do whatever is easiest for you, because if it’s not easy, you may not do it.
Let a million houseplants bloom!
Thanks so much for the many wonderful suggestions of plants in comments. I heartily endorse the repeated suggestion of jade, and, though I have no personal experience with clivia, I plan to try it soon.Posted by Elizabeth Licata on November 26, 2008 at 1:37 pm, in the category Shut Up and Dig.