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Houseplant Growing Guide

Bold, texture-rich plants for medium- to high-light areas

Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Grow These!
Ample sunlight makes it possible to grow many kinds of houseplants with ease. Here are five easy-to-grow plants that have striking architectural form. A single plant will make a bold statement in a room. Group three or five together to add distinctive color and texture to your space.

Blushing bromeliad (Neoregelia carolinae Tricolor)


The lipstick-red central leaves of blushing bromeliad look artificial because their color is so intense. Complemented by variegated lower leaves, this bold houseplant makes a statement wherever it grows. Growing conditions: Bright light; 65 to 80 F; keep water in central vase of leaf cluster Size: Up to 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide
Note: When watering blushing bromeliad, deliver water to the central vaselike structure of the plant instead of the soil.

Croton (Codiaeum selections)


Bright light brings out a rainbow of hues on croton foliage. Its gold, pink, and orange tones glow when backlit from a sunny window. It has a pleasing, tidy, shrublike form and a moderate growth rate. Why we love it: It adds an exotic vibe to any room. Growing conditions: Bright light; 60 to 75 F; allow the soil to dry between waterings Size: Up to 4 feet tall and wide
Note: Croton is poisonous if eaten or chewed.

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Pleomele (Dracaena reflexa)


Song of India variety of pleomele, also called dracaena, has bold variegated foliage. Its dense, upright growth is perfect for adding interest to a lackluster corner of a room. Why we love it: Its bold foliage combined with its shrubby form adds great texture to a space. Growing conditions: Medium to bright light; 65 to 75 F; allow soil surface to dry between waterings Size: Up to 3 feet tall and wide
Note: Pleomele is poisonous if eaten or chewed.

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Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved. Page 2

Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)


Add height to a room with ponytail palm. Its graceful arching leaves are a lovely complement to its swollen trunk, which holds moisture for the plant. Why we love it: Ponytail palm is so drought-tolerant you can go without watering it for a month. Growing conditions: Bright light; 65 to 75 F; allow soil to dry between waterings Size: Up to 10 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Note: Keep your ponytail palm in a container only a couple of inches wider than its trunk base to control its size.

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Ti plant (Cordyline selections)


Also called good luck plant, the ti plant has colorful, straplike leaves. Look for plants with red-, orange-, or pink-striped leaves. As ti plant ages, it loses its lower leaves to reveal a woody stem. Why we love it: Bright, colorful leaves give ti plant a great appearance 365 days a year. Growing conditions: Bright to intense light; 60 to 85 F; keep soil evenly moist Size: Up to 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide
Note: Ti plant grows best in high humidity. Place a potted ti plant on a tray filled with pebbles and water.

Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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Light
Houseplants, like all plants, need light to grow. Thankfully, many happily unfurl new leaves in low-light areas, such as across the room from a north-facing window. In the houseplant trade, light is often described as high, medium, or low. When purchasing a plant, check its label to learn about its light requirements. High light is direct sun from a south-, east-, or west-facing window with no obstructions from trees, buildings, or curtains. Keep an eye on porches and overhangs. They can turn a highto medium-light area into a lowlight situation. Medium light is indirect light from a window facing east, northeast, or west. Plants do well 1 to 2 feet away from the window. If the only available window is facing south, set plants that prefer medium light at least 4 feet away from it. Low light is sun from a north-facing window, across the room from a southor southwest-facing window, and in the corners of a room.

Test Garden Tips


Lighten up. If your plant has a stretched or abnormally floppy appearance, it probably is not receiving enough light. The stems stretch toward available light hoping to capture energy required to sustain the plant. Move the plant closer to a window or supplement with artificial light. Monitor temperature. Avoid placing plants directly on the windowsill. Although this appears to be a great way to expose them to maximum light, the temperature near the window might be detrimental. In summer, the windowsill might be blazing hot. In winter its often frigid. A spot 3 to 4 feet from the window is best.
Note: If a plant is suffering from too little light, avoid fertilizing it. While fertilizing might seem helpful, it is not. The plant cant process the additional nutrients without adequate light. Instead, increase the available light.

Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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Watering
Thoughtful, consistent watering creates conditions for a long-living, healthy houseplant. Overwatering harms plants more than underwatering. As a general rule, delay watering until the soil dries to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Follow these easy watering tips. Check soil before watering. Plant growth, humidity, pot size, and light intensity are all factors that affect how fast soil dries. Always sink your finger into the soil about an inch or so before watering. If the soil is dry, water. If it is moist, wait a couple of days and check again. Watch for water to drain. When watering, you will know you have applied enough when water drains out the bottom of the pot. This drainage is important as it flushes salts out of the soil. Excess salt buildup can injure plant roots. Keep foliage dry. Invest in a watering can with a long, narrow spout. This will allow you to direct water to the soil and avoid getting the leaves and stems wet. Use room-temperature water. If necessary, allow water to sit on the counter for an hour or two before watering plants. Water some plants from the bottom. African violets grow best when regularly watered from the bottom. To do this, set the plants in a sink or tray filled with 1 to 2 inches of water. Remove the plants when you see bubbles of moisture on the soil surface. Once every couple of months, water plants from the top to get rid of excess salts in the soil. Add humidity. The air is often dry in winter, causing soil to dry quickly. Increase the humidity around your plants by placing the container in a tray or saucer filled with pebbles or pea gravel. Add water to the saucer or tray so it is just below the bottom of the pot. Humidity will also increase when plants are grouped together to create a microenvironment.
Note: Some plants enter multiweek rest periods where they grow slowly. They require little water during this time. Only water plants when the soil is dry.

Test Garden Tips


Prevent root rot. Always empty excess water from a plant saucer after the water has finished draining from the soil. This will allow the roots to easily access oxygen. Dont overwater. Signs of overwatering include yellowing lower leaves and brown or black spots on leaves. Always check the soil before watering.

Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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Planting and Soil


Planting houseplants is similar to planting a container of colorful annuals for your patio or deck. All you need is a container with a drainage hole and good quality potting soil. The plant likely will grow with ease in the container for a couple of years before needing to be repotted. Fresh soil and a larger pot provide additional nutrients and space for the plant to grow even more. Healthy soil. Packaged potting mixes specially designed with indoor plants in mind are the way to go. Available at your local garden center or home improvement store, these easy-to-use potting mixes include valuable nutrients for houseplants. Drainage is essential. When selecting a container for your houseplant, be sure to choose one with a hole in the bottom so water can escape. Time to repot. Its time to repot a plant when the roots reach the edge of the container and begin growing along the outside edge of the soil ball. Repot the plant in a container that is 2 to 4 inches greater in diameter than the previous pot. Tidy up. Potting is a good time to remove broken stems, brown leaves, and wayward growth.

Test Garden Tips


Add water. Water plants a few hours before repotting to encourage the soil to cling to the roots. The moist soil will help keep the root ball intact during repotting. The soil in terra-cotta containers dries out faster than soil in containers made of other materials because terra-cotta is porous.

Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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Houseplant Care
Provide houseplants with adequate light and regular water, and youre well on your way to growing lush, healthy plants. Encourage your plants to produce strong stems and new growth with these tips. Increase humidity. Most houseplants benefit from moist, humid air. Increase the humidity around your plants by setting the pots in a saucer or tray filled with pea gravel. Add water to the reservoir until it almost covers the gravel. Humidity will also increase when plants are grouped together to create a microenvironment. Fertilize with care. It is easy to overfertilize houseplants. Newly purchased plants rarely require fertilizer as the soil usually has enough nutrients to sustain the plant for two to three months. As the plant ages, aim to provide small amounts of fertilizer as its growing. Liquid fertilizers labeled for indoor plants are an easy-to-use option. Apply them at the recommended rate and frequency. Cut back on fertilizing in winter as many houseplants enter a rest period, which slows their growth and lessens their need for fertilizer. Grooming details. Even with the best care, plants occasionally develop brown, yellow, or ragged edges on their foliage. Use scissors to trim the offending edges, following the natural outline of the leaf as closely as possible. Keep an eye out for dying or spent flowers and leaves. When flowers fade, pinch them off using your thumb and index finger. Use the same technique on soft, pliable leafstalks. Trimming thick wood leafstalks requires pruning shears or a pair of scissors to avoid damaging the main stem. One good turn. Ensure that all sides of a plant receive an equal share of light. At least one side of a plant growing in or near a window is shaded from the available sun. That causes it to bend toward the light and grow spindly on the shaded side. Prevent the distortion by giving the plant a quarter-turn every week.

Test Garden Tip


Pest patrol. The best defense against pests is prevention. Begin at the garden center. Carefully inspect any plant you want to buy, checking carefully for signs of insects and disease. Combat pest problems at home by providing optimal light, water, and humidity.

Copyright 2011, Meredith Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

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