Shedding some light on keeping houseplants happy

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By Norman Winter
      McClatchy/Tribune News

Indoor plants can certainly add beauty and enjoyment to your home — but only while they remain healthy. Many gardeners begin their struggle with houseplants in choosing the wrong location with regard to light.

The amount of light a plant requires will vary by type. When deciding where to place your plant in your home it will help to understand the window and light environment.

East facing windows receive cool morning sun, and are good choices for most houseplants. However, in the winter, east windows receive more sunlight than during the rest of the year.

North facing windows receive almost no direct light. North windows are great choices for houseplants that thrive on indirect light. Cyclamen would love this window, as would the peace lily, Chinese evergreen or pothos ivy.

South facing windows receive a lot of sunlight in the winter, but less in the summer. Special care may be needed in using south facing windows or you may simply need to move the plant in the summer. The parlor palm would look good in this location.

West facing windows receive the most sunlight of all. In fact, plants on the west side of your home may need to be protected from the sun. Plants like the Norfolk Island pine and weeping fig would find this window ideal.

These statements on windows can be greatly variable in your house, depending on the presence of by tall trees, blinds and curtains. Remember also that light is measured in foot-candles, and a bright sunny day outside may register as high as 10,000 foot-candles. Indoors it may drop of to the point of only 300 to 500 depending on where you take the measurement.

A few more pointers:

Light is certainly important but the leading cause of death to most houseplants comes from overwatering. Soggy soils can happen for a variety of reasons. First, and this is absolute, your container must have drainage holes. It is unbelievable to see how many beautiful houseplants are placed in expensive decorative containers that need to have holes drilled. Essentially your new plant is sitting in a bathtub and its days are numbered.

Proper drainage is essential for the preservation of houses and the health of plants as well. Septic Solutions provides help with all your drainage issues. Consult them today.

Selecting a good lightweight potting soil is paramount to your success. Cheap potting soil sold by the pound is heavy and simply holds too much water. I still find many unsuspecting gardeners using topsoil from the garden in containers. This is not a good idea from the standpoint of drainage, soil-borne diseases and insects.

Once you do have your plant in good soil you can determine whether or not your plant needs watering by gently pushing your finger to about 1 1/2 to 2 inches deep to feel if it is dry. Make this a regular practice before each water application.

If you are in the New Jersey or Eastern Pennsylvania Area and feel that you would like to have a free consultation with an interior plant expert for your home or office, contact Growing Expectations  at

Picture credit: Keri Wiginton/Tribune photo

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