12 Things You Did Not Know About Houseplants

12 Things You Did Not Know About Houseplants

In honor of Indoor Plant Week, Tovah Martin, author of the newly published book, The Indestructible Houseplant (Timber Press, 2015) and confessed houseplant hoarder spills some secrets that you might not have known about houseplants.
1. They Make Great Pets
When you walk into the supermarket, big box store, or garden center and adopt a houseplant, you will be giving some poor little orphan plant a forever home. But houseplants return the love as well. Not only do they perform tricks such as growing and blossoming, but some are even pettable. Go ahead, reach out and touch that hairy begonia leaf. Houseplant therapy begins here.

2. They Come in Colors
If you thought that plain green is the limit for most houseplants -- look again. Many easy houseplants blossom -- including low-light mavens such as African violets, hoyas, and peace lilies. But beyond flowers, check out the new wardrobe for foliage plants. They come clad in some truly electric colors, and new hues are being added all the time. Crotons, dracaenas, red aglaonemas and many other old stand-bys are wearing party attire year-around.

3. They Are Not High Maintenance
You’re busy, and that’s cool with your houseplants. Choose the unkillable kind, and you won’t be constantly running around with a watering pot. Actually, you might be giving your plants too much TLC. Most people overwater their houseplants in winter. Ease off, and everyone will be happier. 

4. They Don’t Need a Tropical Climate
Speaking of cool plants, there’s no need to crank up your thermostat for your houseplants’ benefit. Most plants like the exact same temperatures that make you comfortable. Turn your thermostat down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit at night in winter, and they will be healthier. 

5. They Like Company
Go ahead, adopt another beautiful houseplant or two. When you cluster several houseplants together, the immediate area becomes more humid thanks to all that moist soil. Plus, your complexion will benefit from the added moisture in the air. And your sinuses will thank you as well.

6. They Don’t Need to Be Fed in Winter
Cross fertilizing off your “to do” list from Thanksgiving to the first of March. With lower light, houseplants grow slowly or not at all -- so they don’t need food during the winter. In fact, serving rich meals can make them stretch and become leggy. Hold off until spring when they’re making new growth. 

7. Annual Promotions Are Not Essential
Most people house their houseplants in containers that are too large for their root system. When repotting a houseplant, wait until the roots fill the pot, and then graduate it only one pot size at a time -- giving it roughly an inch of new soil all around. When a plant becomes plus-sized, hold it steady at the same footprint by shaking out some soil and packing in fresh potting mix.
Learn how to repot houseplants.

8. A South-Facing Window Is Not Necessary 
In fact, most houseplants don’t want or need to bask in the sunbeams. Even succulents will do just fine in an east- or west-facing window if you grow them close to the panes. Some ironclad plants such as wax plants, aspidistras, dracaenas, and Chinese evergreen can sunburn when given too much light.

9. Skip the Spritzing
No need to mist houseplants. Misting doesn’t raise humidity for more than a few seconds and it can lead to problems by spreading disease spores around. Instead, sit your plants on a pebble tray with an inch of pebbles and one-half inch of water -- or just get a humidifier. But most plants survive in your home unless it’s really Sahara dry.

10. They’re Okay with Home Alone 
Want to go on vacation for a week? Just pull your plants away from direct window light and they’ll be fine without hiring a full-time plantsitter. For a brief vacation, you can cluster them in the sink with an indirect light source not too far away. You’ll miss them more than they will miss you.

11. You Can Learn a Lot from Living with Plants 
For example, did you know that begonia roots grow horizontally while herbs tend to plunge their roots downward. And many bromeliads such as vrieseas drink through their vase-forming leaves. Ever notice that angel’s trumpets (brugmansias) tend to bloom most heavily on the full moon. When you get personal with houseplants, they reveal all their secrets. 

12. They Like Rock & Roll 
Conclusive tests have shown that houseplants like whatever music makes you groove. They even enjoy it when you sing in the shower. Of course, all that extra humidity while you’re splashing away to the Star Spangled Banner is like spa treatment for a houseplant. And they never complain when you’re off key. But thanks to the supportive vibes of your green, photosynthesizing friends, you’ll be less likely to hit a sour note. Hug a houseplant!

Post by houseplant enthusiast Tovah Martin. She cohabitates with more than 300 houseplants in her New England home, gaining the benefit of their therapeutic vibes every day. A writer working with several magazines, she lectures extensively throughout the country on topics including houseplants, garden stewardship, and heirlooms. Join her on Facebook at Plantswise by Tovah Martin. And get more tips from Tovah from her book The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants that Anyone Can Grow. Look for the book at your local bookseller or favorite online retailer.