Ask any gardener in snowy January what they’re craving, and most will tell you that it’s the simple pleasure of puttering around plants. Research confirms what gardeners always knew. Our sense of well-being suffers when we’re not outside, digging in the dirt. Research also suggests that when we must be cooped up indoors, the simple addition of plants to our indoor environment can make us happier and more relaxed.
Interest in houseplants has been steadily building, but surged in 2020. Facing long lockdowns in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic, Americans turned to gardening for comfort. Sales of seeds and plants, both indoor and outdoor, soared like never before. Online plant communities sprung up everywhere, providing much needed social interactions for housebound “plant parents” during anxious and difficult times. The images they shared illustrated how the addition of a simple houseplant (or 10) could breathe life into the empty corners of their indoor spaces.
The National Garden Bureau has been featuring a “Plant of the Year” in five categories for four decades, choosing an annual, perennial, bulb, edible and flowering shrub each January. Responding to this growing interest, the bureau added a houseplant category for the first time this year, and named Peperomia as 2022’s Houseplant of the Year.
Regardless of the houseplant you choose to grow, all share some basic requirements:
• Light. All plants need light to manufacture food. As a general rule, if the location you choose for your plants is bright enough to read this article by, many plants can thrive there. Some plants are tougher than the rest. I remember the year my Aunt Mary got tired of her snake plant and tried to kill it by putting it in a closet for months. It didn’t work.
• Humidity. Most houseplants originated in tropical or semitropical regions, where the air is moist. Many plants can adapt to the drier air in our homes, but they do better when humidity is increased.
• Temperature. This group of plants is called “houseplants” because they need the same conditions we do to survive. Most prefer daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 60s to the mid-70s Fahrenheit, and nights that are about 10 degrees cooler.
• Watering. Use enough tepid water that the excess flows through the soil and out from the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot, but don’t let the plant stand in water. Most plants do better when their soil dries to 1/2 to 2 inches below the surface between watering. Leaves will lose their sheen just before wilting, an SOS signal that it’s time to water, but try not to wait that long.
• Fertilizing. Plants need fertilizer in the spring and summer, when they are actively growing. Cut back in the fall, when growth slows, and stop fertilizing once daylight saving time ends. Always moisten the soil before adding fertilizer.
• Grooming. Dust buildup encourages insects, and also filters the light that leaves need to manufacture food. Carefully clean the foliage when it seems dusty.
• Insect pests. Start by using a stream …….