Houseplants keep gardeners busy in winter
MidSouth gardeners can still enjoy working with plants in the dead of winter. Growing indoor plants is a great way to bring the wonder of the outdoors inside. Many plants can be successfully grown indoors with the right light, water, soil, temperature and humidity.

Light and water are perhaps the two most important factors to consider when selecting and growing indoor plants. Plants differ in the amount of light and water they need, so select them accordingly.

Light is how plants make their food, so they need to get an adequate supply. Keep in mind, plants that need more light grow best in a south or west facing windows. Those that require less light will do best in an east or north facing windows. Plants that do not get enough light will become leggy and spindly. You may need to bring them outdoors on occasion to reduce their “stretching.”

Just as with light, plants differ in their water needs. Succulents and cacti require much less water than herbaceous or woody indoor plants. Watering frequency will also vary. It’s a good rule to water indoor plants weekly. Pick one day of the week and check your plants. Plants that are in ideal growing conditions with ample light will likely require more frequent watering.

The best way to tell when plants need watering is the good old fashioned “stick-your-finger-in-the-soil” test. If the soil feels dry, it’s time to water.

Choosing the right soil will also affect the frequency you will have to water. A good number of different types of soils are available for indoor container plants. The ideal potting mixes for indoor use allow for adequate moisture, drainage, and suitable nutrient retention.

Humidity is a less considered factor in good growing environments. Plants prefer some humidity, which can be difficult to provide in heated winter homes.

Increase indoor humidity by grouping plants. When the plants transpire, they release water into the environment. By grouping plants together, you create a microenvironment of elevated humidity. You may also choose to place saucers of water beneath pots. Use small rocks to elevate the bottom of the pot above the water to prevent uptake by the roots. Remember, the goal is to provide moisture for humidity, not watering.

Indoor plants require less fertilizer than outdoor plants. For the best results, use a water-soluble fertilizer each season at half the recommended rate.

Finally, don’t forget about temperature. Most indoor plants prefer temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees. Basically, the temperatures at which we are most comfortable are the same temperatures that plants are comfortable in.

Gardeners become anxious this time of year. Caring for houseplants can alleviate that anxiety and allow us to enjoy the beauty and benefits of plants year round.

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