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After a couple of comments that SOME PEOPLE are incapable of growing indoor plants I figured I had better try to be helpful.

There are fine gardeners I know who can't seem to get plants to live indoors. Epipremnum aureum/Pothos Ivy is one of the simplest, hardiest and widely used plants in the industry of interiorscape. But, if water it too much it will die. You can grow it in water, true, but that forms special roots that breathe differently than ordinary soil/media based roots.

I am going to talk about the most commonly seen indoor plants. I will use both common names and the fancy scientific ones. There is a reason why scientists have those multi-syllable names for plants. It is so that if I am talking about a plant and we, as ordinary humans, call it by two or more different common names then we can still find information about it from other sources. It doesn't matter if the book was written in German, French or Swahili, the scientific name remains the same. I can name at least six different species of trees that go by the name of "Red Oak" and they are not adapted to all areas. This is the disconnect between common and scientific names and why I am so anal about it.

The most common problem that I see with houseplants is too much water. This is why I say most plants die from too much love rather than not enough. Even though you can grow a plant cutting in water does not mean it needs to sit in a puddle of water in a pot. There are a few occasions when the plant is so rootbound it will absorb the excess water, but ordinarily I recommend letting the plant completely drain in another area and then return it to its saucer or raising the pot up so that it does not sit in the water runoff. I have used a brick, pieces of styrofoam, a block of wood or whatever is handy to keep the container from sitting directly in the runoff.  If the container that it is growing in does not have ANY drain holes, I can pretty much guarantee it will die. Things like Aglaonema/Chinese Evergreen and Dracaenas/Corn Plant/Janet Craig do not like to sit in water. Ever. When I was growing Dracaenas in a greenhouse I did not water them heavily. There is a bit of a range of how much I would water them but it was less than other plants of the same container size. Those great big stalks of the Corn Plant do not have a lot of roots growing out of them and what they do possess is in the very bottom of the container. Sitting in an inch of water is not conducive to their well-being.
Pothos Ivy I water quite a bit more. But, if it is heavy with water then I leave it alone. I don't use a water meter gizmo. I put a finger on the surface of the media, if it is leaves a print on my finger from moisture I know it is still sufficiently wet. If it is too tall in a hanging basket for me to reach, but is still heavy compared to when it is dry, I leave it alone.
Make the plant use the water you give it. Give it a thorough drink and leave it alone. Wilting every once in a while is not going to kill it. Staying constantly saturated will.
Sanseveria/Mother-in-law's tongue/Snake Plant and Aspidistra/Cast Iron Plant are damn near bulletproof.  Slacker bachelors can grow them. They will tolerate low light, very little water and have almost no pests.

Light is the other factor that is most often overlooked or poorly understood. The difference between the amount of light a plant gets inside and outside is dramatic. Some sources recommend using a light meter, but that is not really that necessary. It is more important to know what the light requirements are for your plant and what ranges your house/apt offers. Parking it over by the fireplace fifteen feet from the nearest window is about like putting it in the deep dark shade under a thick forest canopy. Ficus trees die in places like that. Ficus are a high light, high nutrition demand plant. Asparagus ferns, inside, demand a high light too. If you want a shower of leaves then park that Ficus way on the other side of the room that has  a north facing window. If you want it to do well, put it right in a southern window (on this side of the equator) and turn it often.
Know how much light your plant needs. Saintpaulia/African Violets, as tender as they seem, require a high light to bloom. No matter how much high octane fertilizer I throw at them, if they don't get enough light they won't bloom.

Soil: I detest cheap potting soil. Buy the good stuff or make your own. I also have to fight against the old myth that putting rocks in the bottom of the container improves drainage. In fact it decreases the drainage. Why? One reason is gravity. Think of an ordinary kitchen sponge. If it is full of water and I lay it flat on the counter it holds more water than if I stand it up on the short side. Gravity pulls more water out of a taller, narrower pot than one that is shorter and wider but the same volume. If I put rocks in the container I have essentially made the pot shorter and therefore it holds more water.
The other factor is the interface of the two particle sizes. The pore spaces of the potting media are smaller than those of the gravel/rocks/pottery shards. The water will adhere to the soil and cohere to itself until it is fully saturated above the gravel layer and then gravity overcomes the adhesion and cohesion factors. This is how a USGA green is designed. It is designed to hold water and then flush only after it is fully loaded. Fine for golf greens, not so good for houseplants. Leave the gravel out of the pot, unless you are trying to decorate it on top.

Yeah, they need food too. There are a multitude of fertilizers. Organic, chemical whatever, I don't care, just feed it something every once in a while. How much and how often depends on the plant. Ficus require more than Aglaonemas.  I have fed my indoor dog and/or cat food and they did fine. Food is generally a minor point.

I swear it is not hard. A weekly visit, ample light and a few tips on how they grow is all that is necessary.

Here are a few links you might find helpful.

From Georgia
Growing Indoor Plants with Success

From Rhode Island
Growing conditions for indoor plants

and from Purdue, pdf warning
Indoor Plant Care

Have fun, it really isn't that hard.
oh yeah, if the poinsettia died, throw it away and do not grieve.

Originally posted to cactusflinthead on Sat Jun 14, 2008 at 06:50 AM PDT.


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