No excuse to exclude houseplants from indoor life

“Houseplants are growing more popular in our high-tech world as humans feel a greater need to be close to growing things.”

As the outdoor garden slumbers this week the indoor garden can take center stage. All humans breathe easier around living plants. Plants fill the air with oxygen and absorb and remove indoor pollutants. Houseplants are growing more popular in our high-tech world as humans feel a greater need to be close to growing things. The best news is that anyone can have a tabletop garden.

Here’s the retort to every excuse for not adding more plants to your indoor life:

Q. I don’t have a green thumb – my houseplants just die

A. Wrong plant in the wrong place is the reason most houseplants fail, so it is not your fault. You simply need more information about how to care for a particular plant. Resolve to learn more and you and your new plants will both breathe easier.

Q. I forget to water so my plants or/and I travel so my plants die

A. Surprise! There are indoor plants that do well on very little water. Small cacti and succulents are perfect for the gardener who can’t remember to water or travels often.

Q. I don’t have a window in my home/office and plants need sunlight

A. Not true. Some houseplants like the philodendron, sansevieria and dracaena will thrive on the light from lightbulbs alone.

Plants just grow at a very slow rate in a windowless office or basement apartment. Which leads us to the next excuse…

Q. I don’t have room for indoor plants in my tiny work or living space

A. Visit a garden center and you’ll find succulent plants so tiny they can grow on the side of the refrigerator affixed to a magnet. Hanging plants take up less surface area and if you have even the smallest windowsill you have plenty of real estate for green and growing plants.

Q. My cat/dog digs in potting soil, or chews on houseplants

A. Pet owners can grow wheat grass or other green edibles that are safe for curious pets. Plant-chewing pets often just crave more fresh greens in their diet. Covering the potting soil of an indoor plant with marbles or glass stones or, in a pinch, placing foil on top of the soil will keep out curious critters.

Q. I hate clutter. The jungle look of a bunch of houseplants is not for me

A. There are indoor plants perfect for minimalist with clean lines and tidy shapes. A low bowl of succulents as a living centerpiece or a slender sansevieria (also called the snake plant, or Mother-in-law’s tongue) can be used as a living piece of modern art.

Q. I don’t have the budget to spend on plants

A. Most houseplants are easy to start from cuttings. This means you can simply admire a plant at a friend’s house or even the dentist’s office and ask for a segment of stem and leaf.

Place the cut end into a glass of water and in a few weeks roots may form. Dirt-cheap pots can be found at resale stores and some people give away full-grown houseplants when they are forced to move. Look on sites like “Offer up” or local “Buy, sell, trade” sites for free plants.

Q. I don’t know what type of indoor plant to get. The options are overwhelming…

Stay tuned to next week’s column and we’ll match your lifestyle and homestyle with a houseplant that is compatible. Winter is here for a few more months – but right now, there is the perfect houseplant, giving off healthy doses of oxygen, sitting at a garden center or nursery waiting to be adopted – you just haven’t met it yet.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

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