Houseplants are good for softening a homes décor, providing an indoor hobby, purifying the air, and making a barren day greener. Choose plants convenient to your lifestyle and take proper care of them to extend their lives. Cooperative Extension at the University of Nebraska-Lincolns Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources suggests several care tips.
Conditioning. Your new plant probably will have less light and humidity than its accustomed to and may lose foliage within a week or two of purchase. Condition a plant by initially exposing it to the maximum amount of available light, usually close to a south window. For about four weeks, gradually reduce the light to the intensity of the place where the plant eventually will stay. Then, leach the soil mixture four or five times by allowing water to filter through the soil and out the drainage hole. This removes excess fertilizer or salts that can damage plants in low light.
Light. Select plants requiring medium to low light unless you plan to provide supplementary light. Areas near south windows tend to be the brightest; the darkest are across the room from a north window; and the light received by a houseplant near an east or west window is the same. Plants that receive insufficient light have long, thin stems, small leaves, and a lighter-than-normal color. Plants that can thrive in low light include the peace lily, philodendron, pothos ivy, and mother-in-laws tongue.
Water. Thoroughly wet the soil with each watering, meaning that water should drain out the bottom of the pot. Frequency depends on plant type. Avoid watering more frequently than required because wet soil can lead to root rot. Water with room-temperature water.
Containers. Always use containers with drainage holes. Prevent soil loss by placing a few small stones in the bottom of the pot, or cover holes with a coarse piece of window screen. Clay or plastic pots may be used. Soil in clay pots dries faster than in plastic pots, so people who tend to over water should use clay pots.
Soil. Plants obtain water, oxygen, and nutrients from the rooting media generically referred to as potting soil. Most foliage plants thrive in a 1:3:2 mix of sandy loam, organic matter (bark chips, peat, compost, leafmold), and perlite.
Fertilizing. Amount and frequency depends on the type of plant, available sunlight, media mix, growth rate, watering frequency, and type of fertilizer. Actively growing plants should be fertilized every two months. Plants under low light require less fertilizer. Signs of excess fertilizing include burned or dried leaves and wilted plants.
For more information on houseplants, visit the University of Nebraskas Cooperative Extension website at http://www.ianr.unl.edu/pubs/Horticulture.