Texas Living

Take Your Green Thumb Indoors

By Leslie F. Halleck 12.9.16

Gardening isn’t always rosy. While flowers and tomatoes might be your thing, you can still get your green-thumb fix by bringing a bit of nature indoors with houseplants.

Winter is a great time to green up your indoor space, as plants improve both your indoor air quality and your mood. As far as trends go, using houseplants as “sculptural” elements in your home’s décor is popular, as is growing more edibles indoors. So let’s get started.

Choosing the right plants 

The key to growing indoors? Make sure the plants you choose can thrive in the amount of light provided inside your home, and learn how to water them properly. While growing food crops indoors requires supplemental lighting, there are a number of easy-care, low-light houseplants that can refresh your space with minimal effort on your part. Most tropicals need consistent moisture and can tolerate slightly lower light levels; while most succulents need to dry out between waterings and need brighter light than your home may provide.

In general, it’s best to place indoor foliage and blooming plants near a bright window and in rooms with bright filtered light. Dark interior rooms may not provide enough light for most plants. But if you’re the type who forgets to water easily, or maybe doesn’t open the blinds in the morning, there are some exceptions.

Low-light, low-watering plants: Sansevieria, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, is tough as nails and thrives in lower filtered light with minimal waterings. Zamioculcas zamiifolia, or ZZ plant for short, will also tolerate neglectful waterers and low light. You can grow these two favorites farther away from your windows.

Bright-light, high-watering plants: Fiddle leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, is incredibly popular right now due to its treelike form and large oxygenating leaves, but you’ll need to place it in bright light near a window and keep the plant moist. If you’re looking for easy blooms, you can’t beat African violets; keep them consistently moist and in a bright northern or eastern window, and they’ll reward you with plenty of color. The same goes for orchids and other blooming gift plants you may receive over the holidays.

Bright-light, low-watering plants: Try air plants, such as tillandsia. You can display air plants indoors in just about any container near bright light. Simply soak them in water once a week. These are especially great if you don’t want to bother with soil indoors, or have allergies.

Artificial light plants: Seedlings take more light than your windowsill can offer. To grow strong seedlings indoors, you’ll need to invest in a small grow-light system. Seedlings also need about 16 hours of continuous bright light. There are small light setups designed for several trays of seedlings, or you can invest in larger lamps and shelf fixtures to grow more transplants or larger edible plants. If you plan on growing herbs, greens, or fruiting crops such as citrus or tomatoes indoors, they’ll also require additional plant lighting to thrive and produce.

Caring for your winter plants

Most houseplants benefit from the monthly application of a specialized fertilizer. You can buy fertilizers specifically formulated for your favorite types of plants, such as African violets or orchids. Regular incandescent or fluorescent lights aren’t designed to grow plants. Be sure to seek out lights that support plant growth.

Following these tips is sure to lead you to a thriving indoor garden and brighten your winter all season long. 

While your green thumb may now be indoors, don’t forget to protect your outdoor plants from wintertime frost with these tips.