Sunday, July 13, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Hard-to-kill houseplants

If the idea of growing houseplants appeals to you, but the reality turns you into a plant killer, there may still be hope for you and your brown thumbs. The secret is in your plant selection. Choose plants that thrive inside despite neglect, and you can enjoy plenty of indoor greenery.

“Select the right houseplants for your situation, and other than watering, there’s very little regular care required,” says Costa Farm’s garden expert Justin Hancock. “There’s an easy-care plant for just about every indoor setting.”

In order to dispel the myth that some people can’t grow houseplants, Costa Farms tested plants from their indoor houseplant division that features 1,500 products. They came up with an assortment of houseplants that survive for just about anyone. The result is their Plants of Steel collection.

Hard-to-kill houseplants in the collection include snake plant (Sansevieria) and Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema). “These two stylish plants take just about any abuse, from low light and low humidity to infrequent watering,” says Hancock. “ZZ plant (Zamioculcas) is another hard-to-kill plant that’s a bit newer to the scene. For brighter light areas, try growing ponytail palm (Beaucarnea) and sago palm (Cycas)—neither of which are true palms, but are much more resilient.”

One characteristic you’ll notice about most of these tough plants is that they have durable leaves. “Thick, waxy leaves have a tendency to hold up better to the low humidity often found in our homes—especially during winter months when furnaces blast all the moisture out of the air. They also tend to deal better with periods of drought when we forget or don’t have time to water them,” says Hancock.

To ensure that your houseplants stay alive and thriving, keep the following survival tips in mind.

Choose the right plant for the right place. Proper lighting is critical. If a plant requires bright light, putting it in a dark corner will lead to a sad, slow decline. The plant will seem healthy at first, but it will eventually empty its light reserves and look terrible. If you have low to medium light available, choose plants that tolerate such lighting.

Watch your watering. Improper watering is the number one cause of houseplant death. Water houseplants when the top inch of potting soil has dried out. For small plants, you can simply pick up the pot. If it is lightweight, it’s time to water. For large floor plants, use a moisture meter or a wooden skewer. If soil clings to the skewer, the soil is still wet, but if it falls right off, then the soil is dry and the plant needs a drink.

Humidify the air. The more moisture in the air, the happier most tropical plants are. Set your plants on humidity trays filled with pebbles or marbles and water that comes up to just below the top of the pebbles or marbles. This ensures that the bottom of the pot doesn’t sit in water, which can cause fungal infections and root rot. As the water evaporates, it adds moisture to the air surrounding the plant. Grouping plants also works, as the plants humidify one another.

Wash houseplant leaves occasionally with room-temperature water. This removes dust so that the leaves can receive more light and do a better job of cleaning your indoor air.

Julie Bawden-Davis
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