4 Tips for Planning Healthy Houseplants

R. L. Rhodes
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Particularly during the winter months, when gardening outdoors may be impractical or even impossible, adding a few container-grown houseplants is sure to brighten the spirits of any gardener.

A potted rubber plant.

It may even seem comparatively simple, since your home presents a controlled environment. Here, too, though, gardening is full of potential pitfalls and unexpected surprises. A little foresight and planning can mean the difference between spindly, lackluster plants and vibrant additions to your interior decor. Use these tips to get the best start on raising houseplants around your home:

  • What’s the most underrated tool when it comes to growing indoor plants? It might just be a compass! Just as different plants have different light needs, the windows in your home will admit differing amounts of light depending on the directions they face. For plants that grow best with a mixture of sun and shade, pick a window that faces either east or west. Northern windows are great for plants that love light, but can’t stand up to direct exposure. For the rare plant that thrives in a full day of direct sunlight, try a south-facing exposure.
  • Growth is a fact of life, so be sure to choose a plant that will fit your space not only the day you plant it, but also as it grows to maturity. That means placing your plant in a location that will give it room to grow, but also choosing a container that will accommodate it even as it claims more space. Of course, you can always re-pot a plant as it outgrows its old home, but thinking ahead will potentially save you a bit of trouble and a lot of mess.
  • As much as you may think of your home as a distinct environment all to itself, rooms tend to have their own micro-climates, as well. Everything from the situation of the windows in a room to its distance from the central heating unit may create variations temperature and humidity. Taking stock of those differences will help you decide which houseplants are best suited for which rooms. For warm rooms, try tropical and desert natives, like cacti, succulents or rubber plants. For cooler rooms, think camellias, spider plants or tulips.
  • One way to help your houseplants thrive is to pair them with companion plants—that is, plants that benefit one another when grown together. Herbs like basil, fennel and dill can repel the insects that afflict other plants. Tall, leafy plants can help protect shade-lovers from a sunny exposure. If you plant more than one variety in a single container, make sure they have plenty of room and similar requirements for soil, water and light. Otherwise, one is sure to thrive at the expense of the other.

In addition to promoting growth and flowering, companion plants also make for attractive arrangements. Check out our article on decorating with houseplants for more tips on beautifying your indoor spaces.

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