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The basic principles of gardening outdoors also apply to indoor gardening.
One good exception is that you can control your indoor environment. You can control the temperature, the light, and the moisture that is present. This is where many people fail when trying to grow indoor plants.
Temperature usually differs between rooms in a home, so where you put your houseplants is important. During the wintertime, what is often overlooked are drafts that may come through a window or beneath an outside door. In the summertime, drafts can be caused by air conditioning or fans.
Indoor plants don't take kindly to these unnatural occuring drafts. Your plants will let you know when they are put in these circumstances, most commonly by quickly shedding their leaves.
Don't confuse temperature with drafts however. Different houseplants prefer different temperatures. Some grow well in a warm environment, while others prefer cooler temperatures. The ideal temperature for your particular type of plant should be listed on the care instructions when buying it. If you have acquired a plant from somewhere else or no longer have the care instructions there are many books on plant care and indoor gardening.
The majority of indoor houseplants will do best with bright indirect light. Placing them in a sunny window will most likely scorch the leaves, take away moisture, and leave them wilted without energy. Be aware that at different times of the year the location of the sun beaming through the windows will change.
Deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves in the fall, will also allow more sunlight in.
On the other hand, don't keep your plants in a room that has the blinds closed all day, or in a room in the center of the house that doesn't have any windows!
Balance is the key here. And the important thing to note is how this balance changes during the time of the year.
When you are indoor gardening, you have to supply the moisture. The most obvious is by watering your plants on a regular basis. The less obvious is the amount of moisture in the air. During the wintertime the air becomes drier and you may notice that the leaves become yellow and dry. When indoor gardening, you can provide moisture by using a room humidifier or by using a spraybottle to gently mist around the plant. Be careful not to spray directly on the plant as this may create disease problems.
BUYING INDOOR PLANTS
Look for plants with healthy foliage. The leaves should not be discolored or appear to have a cotton-looking growth which would indicate disease.
Also check under the leaves for signs of spider mites.
The central stem should be sturdy and well-centered with balanced, thick leaves.
For indoor gardening, the type of pot that you choose should allow for excess water to drain through holes on the bottom. Of course you need a saucer under it to protect indoor surfaces. You may choose to use a decorative ceramic pot that doesn't have drainage holes. This is fine, but put some small rocks or broken clay-pot pieces on the bottom so that the excess water will not drown the roots.
There are many different styles of containers and plant stands to choose from. Use those that best fit-in with your individual style.
Potting soil is lighter than garden soil and therefore will allow better drainage. An even lighter soilless mix can be used for hanging pots if the plant is not heavy.
TIP: After time the soil may become compacted, so it is a good idea to replace it now and again. Also re-vitalizing with fresh soil rids the build-up of debris.
INDOOR GARDENING MAINTENANCE
Fertilize during the growth time to boost root and stem growth with needed nutrients. Be sure to use a fertilizer for houseplants. Under-fertilized plants will show signs of yellowed leaves. Over-fertilized plants will show signs of brown leaves and salty looking soil.
You can prune your indoor plants for the same reasons that you prune outdoor plants.
Pruning will promote a more compact growth and prevent the plant from getting too large. This is best done during the growth season. Dead leaves should always be removed to prevent disease.
How often do houseplants need to be watered? Not as often as you probably think! If a plant receives too much water, the roots are not able to absorb nutrients. The edges of the leaves may turn brown. If a plant doesn't receive enough water then the leaves may wilt or wrinkle. If this happens DON'T give up. Once it receives water, it should revive!
Until you get to know your plants watering schedule, it is best to just feel the soil for dryness and water when needed.
After time dust may accumulate on the leaves. You can wash them with an insecticidal plant soap.
By following these tips and techniques for indoor gardening, you can encourage healthy indoor plants. They are a benefit to have around because they provide us oxygen and moisture, and look great too! They also offer the opportunity to enjoy year-round gardening and enable us to grow plants that may not be native in the region we live.
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