Tag Archives: Low light houseplants

Houseplant Confidential – Part I

Tucked on window sills and tabletops my houseplants clean the air and provide indoor beauty while the landscape outdoors is mostly resting. They are easy to keep healthy if I follow a few tips.

Spathiphyllum aka Peace Lily

A typical houseplant lives in the understory of a tropical rain forest where it gets filtered light. They’re used to warm rain and perfect drainage. We put them in pots inside our homes where they have much different conditions to contend with. Most houseplants will tolerate darker conditions if you adjust your watering to accommodate the slower growth rate.

Water just enough to keep the soil from going totally dry allowing oxygen to move back into the root zone. Let the soil in a 4-6 inch pot dry half an inch down between waterings then water with room temperature water. Don’t let the pot sit in a saucer of water or the roots will rot. If your plant is in a larger pot let the soil dry a couple inches between waterings. A moisture meter is very helpful for larger plants.

Move plants into the best light you have. Even a table lamp will provide light for a plant growing underneath. Remove dust with a moist cloth or place the entire plant under lukewarm water in the sink. Dust blocks light from getting to leaves.

Dracaena

Fertilize less often skipping December and January and starting up again with half strength fertilizer in mid-February. Houseplants are essentially dormant in winter needing fertilizer only when active growth resumes.

Don’t re-pot a plant in winter when they are slow to grow new roots. Replant when the growing season resumes in March or April. Choose a pot only two inches bigger than the old pot each time you transplant. Most plants grow happily for years in the same pot and soil with proper fertilizing and watering during the growing season.

Avoid placing plants in cold drafts near high-traffic areas such as a foyer or hallway. Ficus trees are notorious for dropping leaves when exposed to temperature changes.

Sansevieria

If you have medium to low light conditions in your house some of the best upright plants are philodendron, peace lIly, Chinese evergreen, cast-iron plant, schefflera, arboricola, ferns and palms. Hanging plants that grow well in low light are heart-shaped philodendron, pothos and grape ivy. Most of these houseplants grow naturally in low light areas of the jungle. Don’t overwater and they’ll be happy.

If you do find insects on your plants, a spray of mild insecticidal soap for houseplants usually does the trick if you do a follow up spraying a week later. Horticultural oil works well, too, by smothering insects and their eggs. If you have tiny black fungus gnats flying over the soil, you are watering too frequently. They feed on the algae growing on moist soil. Scrape off the surface, spray with insecticidal soap and let the soil dry out.

Next week: toxic and non-toxic houseplants for cats and dogs and those that clean the air.

Houseplants that are Good for You

As summer comes to a close, students are back in school and all of us are spending more time indoors. Time to spruce up our homes with houseplants. Whether you have a home office, small desk for studying or just a chair where you like to read, adding a few houseplants to clean the air and bring a touch of nature inside is a great idea. There are plants that thrive with little care and are   I know, my house is quite dark and my plants are happy and healthy.

Plain green leafy types do best where the light is low.   My favorite upright plants include schefflera, Hawaiian arboricola,  philodendrons like selloum and split-leafed, Chinese evergreen, spathiphyllum (peace lily),cast iron plant (aspidistra), parlor palm, snake plant and ferns .  They are native to the jungle understory, under the canopy,  and grow naturally in low-light areas.   Hanging plants that I grow in these same conditions are heart-shaped philodrendron, pathos, and grape ivy. 

Many common houseplants  help fight pollution indoors.  They’re reportedly able to scrub significant amounts of harmful gases out of the air, through the everyday processes of photosynthesis. Some pollutants are also absorbed and rendered harmless in the soil.  Plant physiologists already knew that plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen as part of the photosynthetic process. Researchers have found many common houseplants absorb benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, as well.

Most of the plants  evolved in tropical or sub-tropical forests, where they received light filtered through the branches of taller trees. Because of this, their leaf composition allows them to photosynthesize efficiently under relatively low light conditions, which in turn allows them to process gasses in the air efficiently.

Some houseplants are better at removing formaldehyde from the air, while others do a better job on benzene; none is much help when it comes to tobacco smoke. But there are enough known plants that do a good job of removing pollutants from the air we breathe to cause us to view houseplants as more than just an attractive feature to decorate our homes.

One is the common succulent, Aloe vera (now renamed Aloe barbadensis), also known as "medicine plant." Many people already have one in a bright kitchen window because of the soothing, healing properties its viscous inner tissue has on burns, bites and skin irritations.

Soil and roots were also found to play an important role in removing air-borne pollutants. Micro-organisms in the soil become more adept at using trace amounts of these materials as a food source, as they were exposed to them for longer periods of time. Their effectiveness is increased if lower leaves that cover the soil surface are removed, so there is as much soil contact with the air as possible.

NASA studies generated the recommendation that you use 15 to 18 good-sized houseplants in 6 to 8-inch diameter containers to improve air quality in an average 1,800 square foot house. The more vigorously they grow, the better job they’ll do for you.

The best indoor pollution fighters are:

    * Hedera helix  – English ivy
    * Chlorophytum comosum  – spider plant
    * Epipiremnum aureum  – golden pothos
    * Spathiphyllum `Mauna Loa’  –  peace lily
    * Aglaonema modestum  – Chinese evergreen
    * Chamaedorea sefritzii  – bamboo or reed palm
    * Sansevieria trifasciata   – snake plant
    * Philodendron scandens `oxycardium’ –  heartleaf philodendron
    * Philodendron selloum  – selloum philodendron
    * Philodendron domesticum  –  elephant ear philodendron
    * Dracaena marginata –  red-edged dracaena
    * Dracaena fragrans `Massangeana’  – cornstalk dracaena
    * Dracaena deremensis `Janet Craig’   -Janet Craig dracaena
    * Dracaena deremensis `Warneckii’ –  Warneck dracaena
    * Ficus benjamina – weeping fig