Growing plants indoors adds beauty to homes and buildings by softening harsh architectural features or by enlivening a space with color. Some indoor plants have been shown to improve indoor air quality, while all provide a year-round opportunity for gardeners to stay connected with plants, despite the weather outdoors.
Selecting and purchasing a healthy plant right from the beginning is important.
Look for houseplants. Houseplants are sold in many different places, such as at florists, greenhouses, nurseries, home improvement centers, craft fairs, flea markets, and even out of a truck in a parking lot. Plant quality and guarantees, along with price are important factors to consider when making a purchase.
There are several things to look for when shopping for a healthy plant. Begin by inspecting the leaves carefully. They should have the right color, shape and size and be free of blemishes or brown edges. Also, the lower leaves should not be pale or yellow.
A good specimen should not look leggy or sparse. It should have a good, balanced shape and not be top heavy.
Look closely at stems and leaves for any signs of insects or disease.
Finally, look at the pot and soil. If roots are growing through the drainage holes or are seen at the soil surface, the plant has probably outgrown its pot. If you choose this plant, special care will be needed when transplanting into a larger pot.
If you are unfamiliar with the plant, a proper label will be important too. It is a good idea to keep a new plant away from other plants for 2-3 weeks. This will protect the other plants from possible attack by any insects or disease you might have missed.
Most houseplants are tropical or sub-tropical in origin. Often, they have been grown in greenhouse conditions or even outdoors in southern climates. If plants have not been acclimatized, they may go through a period of shock.
Often, plants drop some leaves or some leaves may yellow, when first brought into a new environment. This adjustment period should not last more than a few weeks. During this time, keep the plant relatively cool to help minimize water loss through its leaves. Check the soil regularly to determine when to water. Also, do not fertilize at this time, since the plant is adjusting to lower light and humidity conditions.
One of the greatest limiting factors in selecting indoor plants is the amount of light the plant receives in its indoor environment. This point is further exemplified by most indoor plant selection guides, which categorize indoor plants by light.
Of course, plant needs such as water, humidity, nutrients, and space all affect the quality of the indoor plant, but those factors are usually much easier to modify in a home or building than placement of windows, skylights, or doors.
Light provides the energy plants need to make the food required for them to grow and flower. Certain colors or wavelengths of light are more important for plant growth than others. Leaves reflect and derive little energy from the yellow and green wavelengths of the visible spectrum. In contrast, the red and blue wavelengths of the light spectrum are the most important energy sources for plants.
As a single light source for plants, incandescent lights are not particularly good. They are a rich source of red light but a poor source of blue. Additionally, they produce too much heat for most plants and, if used, must be located some distance from the plants, thus reducing the intensity of the light the plants receive.
Fluorescent tubes provide one of the best artificial light sources available for plants in the home. They are about two and a half times more efficient in converting electrical energy into light energy than are incandescent sources, making them less expensive to operate. Additionally, fluorescent tubes produce relatively little heat and are available in types that emit primarily red and blue light.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) represent the newest source of supplemental light for plants. They are extremely energy-efficient and very long-lived. LED lights can be customized to produce the wavelengths of light desired. For example, LED plant lights emit only the red and blue light needed by plants. They emit very little heat and require no ballasts or reflectors.
Office Plant Suggestions
While each kind of plant has its own favorite environmental conditions, these typically do well in office spaces:
- Snake Plant/Mother-in-Law’s Tongue: Considered of the hardest houseplants, it only needs to be watered occasionally and have some sun.
- Garden Mum: NASA has found this to improve air quality by removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from indoor air.
- Spider Plant: Easy to grow and requires little maintenance; this makes them a great choice for offices.
- Dracaena: There are more than 40 different kinds of Dracaena plants to choose from.
- Ficus/Weeping Fig: This hardy plant needs some space as it can grow between two and ten feet tall.
- Peace Lily: Easy-to-care for, these plants do well in shady spots.
- Boston Fern: These plants prefer cool spaces with high humidity and indirect light.
- Bamboo Palm: They thrive in full sun or bright light and can filter so much air that they can grow to be as tall as four to twelve feet high.
- Aloe Vera: In addition to being easy to care for, the plants contain a clear liquid full of vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and other compounds that have wound-healing, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Source: USDA: www.usda.gov