BLESSINGS IN BLOOM: Indoor Gardening
By Kerry Peetz
For gardeners, this is a melancholy time. We are already missing the splash of color from our favorite perennial flower, the scent of fresh soil, and the highly gratifying feeling of slicing our own garden-grown vegetables. Alas, another growing season has passed. What are we gardeners to do?
For hundreds of years, we have been bringing the outside in, brightening up our homes and offices by adding plants to the design. Even though we call them houseplants we shouldn’t forget the fact that plants are adapted to the outdoors and are not truly meant to be inside. All plants need the basics (water, sunlight, and nutrients) to grow and stay healthy, and as gardeners it is our responsibility to provide these in our routine care. It is true that an atrium, sunroom, enclosed porch or courtyard enclosed by glass walls/ceiling provides appropriate conditions for many plants when it comes to light and temperature, but what we face is the challenge that these plants are not exposed directly to the outside elements like wind and rain.
When grown indoors, plants collect a layer of dust on their foliage since there is no rain to wash it off and keep them clean. Dust has a negative effect on plants by blocking and reducing the amount of light that reaches the leaves which diminishes the efficiency of photosynthesis, the process by which a plant produces its own food. Respiration and transpiration are also impacted since the gas exchange cells on leaf surfaces are also blocked by dust particles. Plants stay healthier when they are clean and can metabolize at optimal levels; this also has the added benefit of helping to keep them pest-free.
The practice of stimulating the plants with movement and dusting the leaves is recommended for all plants grown indoors. Using a fan to simulate wind and giving them a gentle shake every once in a while, will make them stronger and will also help loosen dead leaves. If plants are light enough to be moved to the sink or tub they will benefit tremendously from a shower. Your hands plus a soft rag will also reap healthy benefits. Providing some “wind and rain” for your houseplants on a regular basis will make them strong and happy.
Here are a few suggested plants that thrive indoors with proper care: Hot and Dry Conditions — Tiger Aloe, Zebra Plant, Mother of Thousands; Low Indirect Light — Pothos, Bamboo Palm, Birds-nest Fern, Snake Plant, Asia Umbrella Tree; More Than Four Hours of Direct Sunlight or Bright Indirect Light — Croton, African Violet, Jade Plant, Christmas Cactus and Sea Teak; Four Hours of Direct Sunlight or Bright Indirect Light — Gold Dust Tree, Spider Plant, Crown-of Thorns, Fiddle-leaf Fig, Climbing Philodendron, Norfolk-island Pine.
Citrus in Colorado? Yes! Citrus trees have been very successful when grown indoors. Tangerine, lemon, kumquat and small orange trees can be grown as houseplants. They grow best indoors at 65° during the day, dropping five to ten degrees at night. Plant in soil containing a good amount of organic matter.
Indoor plants create an inviting environment with a calming and relaxing effect. Whether you have a salvaged pot of blooming geraniums to overwinter, are starting the popular “kitchen” window herb garden, or “would really like to try growing that lemon tree,” caring for plants over the next few chilling months is a way to keep our green thumbs warm until next spring.
“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” — John Steinbeck, “Travels with Charley: In Search of America”