The Five Questions to Help You Pick the Right Houseplant

There are a few really great choices in houseplants that almost anyone can grow. The trick is knowing what kind of plant person you are!

There are the “too attentive”, the “the direction followers”, and the “forgetful”.

There are plants to fit each of these types. You must be honest with yourself to be successful so here is a short test to determine which category you fit into.

POINTS 5 for each yes 0 for each no

Are you willing to put plants near windows? Yes No

Do you consider plants as only a decoration? Yes No

Do you own a plant care book? Yes No

Have you read it? Yes No

Are you never away from home 10 days in a row? Yes No

0 to 5 points:

You usually kill your plants … that said try these three plants they are as close to easy as it gets.

The Snake Plant (or Sansevaria), long sword shaped succulent leaves tolerates too little water and will straggle along in iffy light for a while. It does better in a bright room or in a window.

The Cast Iron Plant (or Aspidistra) with a name like that what could go wrong, not much, maybe a case of spidermites or mealy bug. So just wash the leases with plain water when you buy it and throw away the cloth or better yet a handiwipe. Low light and few waterings, wait for the top 1 inch of soil to dry out.

Pothos plant in any of its colors, white and green, yellow and green or just green. This vine needs bright indirect light, Mine go for a couple of years 20 feet away from a large east window with NO window covering. Water about once a week to 10 days depending how warm you keep your home; the warmer the home the more often watering.

5 to 15 points:

You may have a budding green thumb try these plants they are a bit more restrictive on water and light but worth the additional effort.

A Dracaena preferably in a pot that is 10 inches or larger and is about 4 feet tall. Larger potted plants are by definition more durable they are older and have really nice root systems. They may not need water every week but will not go two weeks usually. Dracaena come in many colors the easiest are the solid green ones (Craigii) and the white and green (Warneckii) variety. The red or pink edged ones are a bit harder and need better light. This plant can go up to about 5 feet from a sunny window or 3 to 4 feet to the side of the window. They really don’t need any direct sun just a bright area. These are often potted in volcanic rock they can stay in the rock and the pot for several years without repotting every year or so gradually add about a cup of potting SOIL to the top of the pot water in gently.

Chinese Evergreen or Aglaonema a small bushy type of plant with long oval leaves with variegated coloring, usually shades of green and sometimes white. Same lighting as above, let dry out in the top one inch of soil before watering. Clean the broad leaves as needed to reduce dust. Cut out the less than exciting and sticky flowers as they appear for a fuller plant.

Bromiliads or Urn plants come in a rainbow of colors and many shapes. If you can resist overwatering you should do well the blooms last a differing length of time on the different varieties but some will go a month or longer if you are care full. They hate cold drafts and cold water let the water you use sit out for a half hour the plant will appreciate it. This plant needs bright light but no direct sun. Use a light touch with a duster if it needs it, they are short lived so two years is a success. It may not re-bloom it may however send a Pup out from the base. Re-blooming is complicated read up in your plant care book or replace every year or so for fresh color.

15 to 25 points

Very good, try something a bit more exciting!

An African Violet sounds hard but it is not. Place in bright eastern light or in a north window. Repot only when it just looks way to huge for the pot they like to be crowed. Keep slightly moist NOT WET water from the bottom of the pot by placing it in a deep saucer and put about an inch of water into the saucer. Let sit 15 to 20 minutes. In a warm house every 3 or 4 days in a cooler house it may only need it once a week. Pick out old blooms when they easily pull away from the base of the plant. A soft damp cloth to wash gently with tepid never cold water. Watch for mealy bug they can be removed with a Q-Tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. Wipe with damp tepid cloth after. Never use cold water it may discolor the leaves. Feed every month or so with half the recommended amount of food. Skip food in the winter.

Spathiphyllum or Peace Lily is a good choice for those who will remember to water often and who have a friend they can ask to water it if you are gone for longer than a week. Feed once a month again ½ the amount directed. It will bloom at irregular intervals. Dust and remove dead leaves regularly. It needs bright light and will take direct east sun. It will grow to about 3 feet to 4 feet tall. Dry edges mean you need to water more often.

Orchids, they come in a number of varieties. Most are fairly tolerant of watering just don’t forget about then for more than 2 weeks. Also don’t let them sit for prolonged periods in water. They do need bright light the more the better even east sun. Read what your variety needs for feeding it may be feed only when in bloom. They like tight quarters so repot only every few years using an orchid mix. Blooms may last several months at a time.

Good luck and good growing. May your thumb be ever so green! The following are general care for most plants.

If you tend to forget to water, leave plants in plastic pots they will stay moist longer. Most plants need water every 5 to 10 days.

If the new growth on your plant is pale or very small move plant to brighter light. If it have burns move away from light.

Dust all your plants or wipe gently with a damp cloth as needed. Dusty plants can’t use the available light. Once a month is plenty, every other week is optimal. Wash or throw out cloths to prevent spread of disease and pests. You may use a paper towel.

If you are successful enough to have a plant that lives for 3 months you now should buy plant food. This is tricky because too much food may burn the roots and cause a total collapse of the plant. Err on the side of caution. Use half as much half as often as the directions recommend. If after a year your plant is still going strong, you can up the dosage slightly. In another year think about either transplanting to a larger pot or gently remove about a fourth of the soil on your plants roots and give it some fresh soil in the same pot. Do not break roots, be gentle!

Some times on vines you will need to trim them back. Take the most bare vine and cut back to the inside of the pot, yes I know its long but full is better. Where ever you cut to, is where the new growth will sprout leave an inch or two of stem above the soil. You will rarely have to do this the first year the following years it will be pretty obvious when and where to cut back.

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