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How To Choose Indoor Plants For Your Home

Updated on June 13, 2016

Grow Gerbera Daisies Indoors or out!

Gerbera Daisies are lovely!
Gerbera Daisies are lovely!

Houseplant Care

Perhaps the first thing to consider before choosing an indoor plant is whether you are a gardener at heart or more of a decorator? Many exotic plants like orchids, bromeliads and lilies are beautiful, but require some time and care if you want to keep them for a long time. Some folks treat plants like cut flowers and keep them for a while and then replace them with new ones.


Plants need light, water and food, like all living things. Light is very important. Too much can burn a tender shade-loving plant and not enough will slowly kill it. A south-facing window will offer the most sunlight, an eastern facing window is great for many house plants as it offers a lot of light, but won't fry them with harsh afternoon heat. A northern exposure provides very little light and few plants will actually thrive there. Windows facing west provide strong afternoon sunlight. When you go to the nursery or plant shop, check to see what exposure is best before you purchase one. You can also purchase plant lights and a timer to insure that your plants receive the correct type and amount of light. This requires a bit of time, space and expense, so try the natural light method first.


I tend to kill plants by over watering, a habit I'm trying to break. Most plants will rot and keel over when over watered as the roots literally drown. The best way to water plants is to sit them in a sink or tub and water them well from the bottom. Let them sit and soak up moisture through the hole in the bottom of the pot, overnight is fine, then drain thoroughly for about 20 minutes and put them back into their decorative pot or basket. I feed mine with a weak solution of water soluble plant food about every third time I water them and this seems to work well.

A drainage hole in the bottom of the pot is a must. Plastic or glazed ceramic saucers keep the excess water from draining out. I don't recommend unglazed terra cotta saucers as the water will leach through these. I china saucer from that tea cup you broke is handy for smaller plants.

Chlorinated city water is hard on plants, but you can fill your watering can or a gallon jug with water and let it sit for a day or two before using it Also, very hard water can cause white lime scale to form on the pots and isn't the best for plants. Once we installed a water softener this problem was solved. I have a rain barrel to collect water for my plants. You can capture rain water just about anywhere in a bucket.

The best way to water plants - at least from my experience - is to set them in the sink or bath tub and give them a good soak by sitting in an inch or two of water. This way the leaves stay dry (unless they need a bath) and when you drain the tub, the plants will also drain off any excess water. Too much water kills more house plants than anything!


I use Miracle Grow in a very dilute form once a month or so. There are special plant foods for African Violets and the like, but I've never used them.


Air circulation is important. Plants breath so need a bit of space around them. Unfortunately, our house is designed so that the heat vents in the floor are directly under the windows, so the hot dry air from the furnace dries the poor things out while they're trying to get sunlight from the windows. A tray with a layer of pebbles filled with water helps. Sit the plants on top of the pebbles so they don't soak, but so the evaporation will keep their leaves from drying out. I put a few drops of bleach (just a drop or three!) in the pebble water to keep it from getting green and slimy. You can purchase small bags of pebbles at plant or craft stores.

Be mindful of drafts. We've replaced most of the windows in our home with double pane insulated glass, but we still have two of the old aluminum, drafty variety. Avoid areas directly in the path of doors to the outside if you live in a very cold area.


Choose your plants carefully. If I buy plants from a discount chain, get them as soon as they hit the shelves. Ask the department manager when they get new plants delivered. Quite often the plants arrive in a very healthy happy state, but are neglected by overworked staff and dry out or become damaged by drafts when placed near the entrance. The less time a plant spends in a store, the better it's chances of survival will be. Your local nursery or florist is best and you can often special order plants from their catalogs. I have gotten plants online and have been very happy with them. Spring and Autumn are the best times to order to help avoid cold or heat damage in transit.

Exotic plants are sold nearly everywhere these days, but cheaper is not always better. Plants may cost you more from a nursery or floral shop, but they are usually less likely to have pests (like spider mites or mealy bugs) and haven't been sitting in a truck for days or weeks.


Dust that accumulates on the leaves is not only unsightly, it can also suffocate a plant. Plants breath and absorb sunlight through their leaves, so must be kept relatively clean. I'm not a big 'cleaner' but I do try to give the large-leafed plants a shower ever few months, or wipe the leaves with a damp paper towel. I've also loaded my bathtub with plants and given them all a cool (not cold) shower.


If you've never grown an exotic plant, start with only one or two. Try to chose one that is not highly hybridized and therefore will be stronger and harder to kill. Read about the plant you choose, learn about it's needs, likes and dislikes before you bring one home, it's almost like adopting a pet!


Plants not only add beauty to a home, they also help clean the air. Ten medium sized house plants can totally filter the air a 1200 square foot home every twenty-four hours!

Here is a list of a few plants that do well in just about any light:

Monstera, Chinese Evergreen,

Heart Leaf Philodendron

Snake Plant

Parlor Palm

Swedish Ivy.

The plants listed above are all foliage plants, but they'll get you started. You may want to focus on one type of exotic plant like cactus or succulents; foliage plants, African Violets, Orchid Cactus (one of my favorites, they are rather blah most of the year, but have such glorious blooms in late winter!), or different types of ferns.

I hope this information doesn't overwhelm you. Like every new endeavor, start slow and simply and grow along with your plants

House Plants Clean the Air In Your Home!

Collection of The Four Best Clean Air Plants for Your Home in Four Inch Pots
Collection of The Four Best Clean Air Plants for Your Home in Four Inch Pots
This is a perfect collection for beginners and will filter your air as well.

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