An Indoor Gardening Guide for Flowers, Herbs and more

People who don't have much outdoor space or who live in a colder climate with a short growing season can still enjoy growing plants. Indoor gardening allows people to grow their own flowers, herbs, and vegetables. An indoor garden is an ideal way to enhance the look of a home, as well. Plants grown indoors need a bit more care and attention in some cases. The indoor gardener needs to provide adequate light to the plants and ensure that the temperature and humidity levels in the house are suitable for the types of plants they grow.

Benefits of Indoor Gardening

One of the major benefits of indoor gardening is that many houseplants help clean the air in the home. House paint, carpets, and building materials often release toxic gases or volatile organic compounds. Many types of houseplants are able to absorb the gases, reducing the pollution in the air. Flower gardening indoors is a way to bring color and life to a home, even in the cold winter months. Certain flowers, such as Peace Lily and Gerber daisy, also help purify the air. Growing herbs and vegetables indoors allows people to save money at the grocery store. An indoor garden of vegetables and herbs means that people can enjoy fresh, locally grown produce year-round.

Selecting Containers

Indoor gardening means that the plants need to be placed in a container of some sort. Gardeners aren't limited to the flower pots and window boxes sold at most garden centers. Any type of container will suffice, as long as it has certain features. The most important feature for any flower gardening container to have is drainage holes either on the side or bottom. Without the holes, the soil and roots of the plants will become waterlogged and can potentially rot.

The size of the container depends on the size of the plant. A pot that is too small will quickly smother a plant while a pot that is too large won't drain adequately, leading to rotting. A general rule of thumb is to pick a pot that is just an inch or so wider than the plant's original root ball. How long the plant is expected to last also determines the size of the container. An annual herb or flower won't grow very much or develop an extensive root system and will be alright in a smaller pot.

Material is another consideration when selecting a container. Certain materials, such as plastic and glazed ceramic, retain water better than others. Unglazed clay or terra- cotta pots quickly draw water from the soil, making them a better pick for succulents or plants that thrive in dryer conditions. The weight of the material is also something for an indoor gardener to consider. If they plan on moving the plant frequently, a lightweight container made of plastic might be a good option.

Selecting Plants

Low maintenance plants, such as jade and dragon tree, are ideal for growing indoors. If a gardener wants to grow vegetables indoors, they should look for plants that don't need much light or space. Greens such as spinach and lettuce work well indoors, as they thrive in shady areas, don't need much space, and can be cut down and will grow back. Smaller herbs such as basil, thyme and chives are also good picks for indoor gardening. Annual flowers such as pansies, marigolds, and daisies grow well indoors, as long as they have adequate light. Most houseplants thrive in an indoor setting, as they don't need direct sunlight and are suited for the typical indoor temperatures.

Plant Growth Factors

All plants need some amount of light to survive in an indoor garden. Some plants need sufficiently more light than others. Usually, if a plant produces flowers or fruits, it needs more light than plants that only produce leaves. If a house has several large windows that face south or east, that might provide enough light for the indoor gardener. If not, the gardener should place the plants under a fluorescent lamp to give them enough light.

Vegetables, flowers and houseplants do best in temperatures between 60 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, the typical temperature range for most homes. Too-warm temperatures will cause the plants to become leggy. Different plants need different levels of humidity. Ferns and tropical plants need high humidity conditions and might thrive in a place that is naturally more humid, such as the bathroom. Succulents such as jade prefer drier conditions.

Indoor plants need to be fed and watered, too. A fertilizer high in nitrogen is ideal for plants grown for their leaves while fertilizer with a higher amount of phosphorous is ideal for flowering plants. Plants that don't get enough fertilizer stop growing, develop pale or yellow leaves, and stop producing flowers or fruits.

One issue many indoor gardeners have is giving their plants too much water. Houseplants and indoor vegetables should only be watered when the soil is completely dry, at least one inch deep. An easy way to water the plants is to pour water over the soil until it flows out of the drainage hole on the underside of the container. The plants can be watered from below, too, by placing a saucer full of water underneath the pot.

Plant Care and Maintenance

Plants grown indoors should be fertilized when they are in a period of active growth, usually from March to October. A gardener can feed the plants about once a month, following the package directions. The plants don't need feeding when they are dormant during the colder months of the year. Even though the plants are indoors, they still become dormant for several months. In the winter, indoor plants also need less water.

Once plants outgrow their containers, they should be moved to a bigger pot. A plant is too big for its container once its roots start growing out of the drainage hole or once water passes through the pot without saturating the soil. A gardener should pick a pot that is an inch or so larger than the initial pot. When repotting, it's important that a gardener only use container mix or potting mix. Soil from the garden isn't appropriate for a container, as it will become compacted and retain water. Garden soil can also contain pests and pathogens.

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