By Melanie Mathieson
The Gardening Guru
Some say that those who grow plants indoors are not gardeners.
Well, I strongly disagree.
I started growing houseplants when I was about five years old. I had houseplants long before I ever had my own property, where I could plant flowerbeds and a vegetable garden.
I have vast experience growing many types and varieties of houseplants, and I’ve worked in a greenhouse caring for plants a few different times.
My first badges as a Brownie and a Girl Guide were for gardening, and I used houseplants for my projects.
So whether your goal is to grow plants indoors or an entire yard full, you can learn many things by starting with just one houseplant. I encourage you to discover your green thumb and call yourself a gardener–get a houseplant.
Many of the plants we consider houseplants in Canada actually are plants from the wild in other parts of the world. Essentially, houseplants come from the forests, jungles, and deserts of the tropics and sub-tropics.
Knowing where plants come from helps to understand how to care for them in your home and where position to them in the house.
For example, Dieffenbachia and Philodendron are native to some parts of South America, orchids are native to Malaysia and the Philippines, the poinsettia originates in Mexico, and the Boston fern is native to the tropical regions in humid forests and swamps throughout the world, especially in northern South America, Mexico, Central America, Florida, the West Indies, Polynesia, and Africa not Boston, Mass.
When selecting a houseplant, choose only those foliage plants which appear to be insect- and disease-free. Check the undersides of the foliage and the axils of leaves for signs of insects or disease.
Select plants that look sturdy and clean, as well as being well-potted, shapely, and well-covered with leaves.
Choose plants with healthy foliage. Avoid those which have yellow leaves, brown leaf margins, wilted or water-soaked foliage, spots or blotches, and spindly growth.
In addition, avoid leaves with mechanical damage, and those which have been treated with “leaf shines,” which add an unnatural polish to the leaves. Plants which have new flowers and leaf buds, along with young growth, usually are of superior quality.
When transporting plants, remember the two seasons of the year that can cause damage to them—the hot summer and the cold winter months.
In the summer, avoid placing plants in a car and leaving it closed up because the temperature will rise and destroy the plant in a short period of time.
If you have to travel for any distance at all, the plant can be burned by the sun shining on it even though the air conditioner is on and the temperature is comfortable in the car.
Shade the plant from direct sun while it is in the car.
During the winter months, wrap plants thoroughly with newspaper or paper bags (not plastic) before leaving the store to carry them to your car.
Even a short run from the store to the car in very low temperatures can kill or severely damage plants.
Wrap plants thoroughly, place them in the front of the car, and turn on the heater, but make sure the heater is not blowing directly on the plant. The trunk of most cars is too cold to carry plants safely during the winter.
On an extended trip, make special arrangements so that plants will not be frozen or damaged by cold weather. Many foliage plants will be damaged considerably if the temperature drops much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so maintain as warm a temperature as possible around these plants when transporting them from one location to another.
Remember that it is easier to purchase a plant which requires the same environmental conditions your residence has to offer than to alter the environment of your home or office to suit the plants.
Make sure you assess your home before you venture out to purchase a plant. Just like buying plants for the outdoors, it pays to do a little research ahead of time.
There are many good books on houseplants available at the local library. Research what you like and then narrow it down to what will grow in your home conditions.
As well, base your choices on the care commitment required and what you are willing to provide.
I encourage you to take a chance. If you can find some reasonably-priced plants in small pots, then go ahead and give them a chance.
Sometimes it is experiments like this that yield the best results.