Happy houseplants

BY DOLLY SICKLES, The Optimistic Gardener
Posted 8/28/20

Houseplants make you healthier.

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Happy houseplants

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Peace lilies are one of the easiest houseplants to grow, and their preference for medium-to-low light makes them very versatile.
Peace lilies are one of the easiest houseplants to grow, and their preference for medium-to-low light makes them very versatile.
Photo by Dolly R. Sickles
Posted

Houseplants make you healthier. They help you breathe easier and improve the quality of air in your home. They add color and liveliness, give you a sense of accomplishment, and generally beautify your space.

NBC’s Today Show did a piece a couple years ago about how nature helps you de-stress and is good for mental health because it reduces cognitive fatigue and stress. By bringing plants indoors, you are bringing nature to you. WebMD has a great article on the health benefits of houseplants that covers everything from beautifying your space or adding moisture, to using them to soak up volatile organic compounds from carpets, paint and cleaners that “can build up in the air and irritate your eyes and skin, worsen your asthma, or make it hard for you to breathe.”

Our son calls our houseplants our “house jungle,” and even though he jests, I know he secretly enjoys it as much as we do. Gardening success should not be relegated to outdoors alone. It takes time and dedication to keep up your house jungle, and when done well, you’ll get that same euphoric sense of accomplishment. If your outdoor garden is your macrocosm, that makes your indoor garden a microcosm. And inside, where you can control the lighting, water and temperature, it’s easy to channel Mother Nature herself. Here’s my formula for happy houseplants.

Develop a regular schedule

I water our houseplants every Saturday morning, and fertilize them about twice a year — at the beginning of spring, and the beginning of fall. The routine helps me remember. It takes me four and a half gallons of water a week, 20 minutes and a stepstool to finish, but it is supremely satisfying. For any plants that still have moisture from the previous week, I usually skip it and check back mid-week to make sure it’s not dry.

Perform routine maintenance

Every other month or so, my husband uses a moist cloth to wipe down the leaves until they shine as brilliantly as a professional greenhouse. We’re not just pandering to the leaves’ vanity — clean leaves also help the plant take in oxygen. On our larger plants, we add a layer of orchid mulch to help hold in moisture and give the pots a finished look. We keep dead leaves pinched off at the soil level to make sure they look pretty but are also not wasting energy and nutrients trying to revive or hold onto dead foliage.

Pathos is an easy plan to root. Trim the tendril, put it in a clear glass vessel and set it near a window that gets morning light until roots are a couple of inches long. Transplant to soil and enjoy, or share it with a friend.

Share your bounty

Our oldest plant is 22 years old. It’s a pathos, and friends gave it to us the day we brought our son home from the hospital. It’s still thriving in the same little blue pot, but over the last two decades, I’ve rooted dozens of mini pathos to share with family and friends. We keep it on top of a wardrobe, and as the tendrils get to about two feet off the ground, I trim them and move them into a window to root. I find the best method of rooting is in a glass container, and as my husband is a whiskey man, we just recycle the whiskey bottles. It makes the perfect hostess gift, pick-me-up gift, hope you’re doing well gift...in short, it’s a pretty, friendly, free way to share a little love.

Start with something easy

Peace lilies and pathos were made for novice gardeners. They like low-to-medium light and to be watered about once a week. You don’t have to apply any elaborate methodology; they thrive on their own. Ficus trees grow slowly but are easy to care for. Fiddle leaf fig trees are the current rage, and rightly so because they’re really pretty and, again, easy to care for. In our house jungle, we have peace lilies, African violets, aloe, orchids, grape ivy, ficus and fiddle leaf fig trees, string of pearls, snake plant, ZZ plant, Chinese evergreen, jade, kalanchoe, schefflera, dieffenbachia, and Christmas cactus. Like I said: house jungle.

What houseplants do you grow?

For more information check out:

• WebMD | Health Benefits of Houseplants: www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ss/slideshow-health-benefits-houseplants

• Good Housekeeping | 30+ Gorgeous Indoor Plants That Are Nearly Impossible to Kill: www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/gardening/advice/g1285/hard-to-kill-plants/

• Behind the Scenes: www.OptimisticGardener.com

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