Houseplants 101

by Tracey Pestian, Morning Sun Manager

Do you crave green as much as I do? Here at Morning Sun, we do our best to uphold a beautiful and natural environment that is pleasing to the eyes of our customers, as well as to our own. One is literally surrounded here by lush, green foliage, carefully placed in, on and around the various distinctive vintage tables, cupboards, cabinets, etc., that Darla brings into her shop. We all need nature, so bringing the outdoors into your home will certainly aid in getting your daily dose of happy! Houseplants are ideal for creating ambiance in every room of your home, and as a bonus, you will breathe cleaner air and have reduced blood pressure. Who of us does not want a home that is cozy, quixotic and warm?

A beautiful trio: Ming Aralia, Bird's Nest Fern, and a Button Fern... Grouped together in containers made of the same material, these different textures of foliage are a feast for the eyes! 

A huge topic of conversation with our customers is houseplants – which plants to purchase, how to take care of them, how much water to give them and how often, how much light do they require, why do I keep killing them, what am I doing wrong and so forth. We have all been frustrated, when after a short period of time of bringing a lovely houseplant home; we find the plant withered, brown or bright yellow and have to toss it into the garbage can. So, here are 10 basic tips to help to ensure the long life of your own houseplants:

1)  Light: All houseplants require light, but amounts vary depending on your plant and where it has been placed in your home. So, the light in your home should be considered before purchasing a new houseplant. Ensure that the place you have chosen in your home receives some filtered sunlight every day. For instance, succulents need more sunlight than your average houseplant and do well in a west or south facing light, whereas ferns will do well in an east or northeast facing light. Flowering plants require very bright light conditions in order to bloom. In winter, when sunlight is sparse, a west-facing window offers a good light for many plants, even if it is temporary until spring returns.

According to a NASA Clean Air Study, Sansevieria is capable of purifying air by removing toxins.  It can also survive in VERY low light, and only needs to be watered once or twice a month! Wow!  Is this the perfect plant???


2)  Water: I know that at times, watering your houseplants feels like a real chore and you feel like skipping it.  Be diligent though, and use lukewarm water (except for ivies - these love a cold shower). The amount of watering needed will depend on the type of plant and your home environment, such as brightness, weather, etc. In winter when your furnace is in high gear, you will need to water more often. As typical rule of thumb, do not let your plants sit in standing water to prevent them from rotting.  ...and when I water my seemly millions of plants at home, I talk to them and sometimes sing to them. I think they enjoy me…! :)

**Note: Using soft-water for watering your houseplants is not recommended as most cannot tolerate high amounts of salt.

3)  Soil: Most houseplants will do well in an all-purpose potting soil as it generally has all nutrients required. However, succulents like a mixture of sand and potting soil, whereas orchids and bromeliads prefer fir bark. I like to use organic soil for my houseplants. You can find both at your local garden center.

Orchids paired with trailing grape leaf ivies will transform any room into an oasis.  Find a large water-proof container (or add your own plastic liners to the bottom).  Add an orchid or two or three or four ;) and then nestle in as many ivies as will fit around the orchids to achieve this stunning look! Make sure to keep the orchids and ivies in their own growers' pots, as they will need to be watered separately.

4)  Temperature & Humidity: Houseplants will normally adjust to average household temperatures of 70 degrees or higher during the daytime and 60 degrees and above at night. Heat sources, such as hot air vents or wood-burning stoves cause low humidity. Using a humidifier or placing plants together on a tray filled with pebbles and water may be necessary. Just grouping plants together will increase the humidity around them.

5)  Fertilizer: Organic fertilizers are best, as plants enjoy good health just like humans do. Fish emulsion is really good for plants, and yes, for a minute you may think you are at the ocean due to the fishy aroma, but your houseplants will love you for it. There is no need to fertilize in the winter months, but the rest of the year, fertilizing every 3-4 weeks is recommended to keep your plants looking lovely. Always dilute according to package instructions. You may find products at your local garden center. Follow the instructions on the package.

6)  Repotting: If you find that you are watering a certain plant way more than normal, and it looks a bit wilted, look at the bottom of the pot to see if the roots have become bound in the pot. If so, it will need a larger pot – preferably only the next size up. Don’t over-pot! When repotting into a new pot, place some soil in the bottom of the pot. Take the root ball of the plant and sort of squeeze the roots to loosen them up a bit. Place it into the new pot, ensuring that the root ball is about an inch from the top of the pot; then fill in the sides with more soil, packing it in. Water the plant and you are good to go.

7)  Pruning: If your plant begins to look a bit leggy, don’t be afraid to prune as cutting the stems will actually encourage them to grow.

8)  Grooming: I check my plants as I water them for brown or blemished leaves and if I find some, I remove them to keep my plants looking beautiful.

9)  Pests: Healthy houseplants are rarely affected by pests. Insects attack when plants are in their weakest moment. When buying plants from any plant shop, inspect them closely for pests. Just to be safe, keeping it away from your other plants for a week or two after bringing home a new one isn’t a bad idea. If you do have to use an insecticide, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on the label. Spider mites are a common pest and form webs on the underside of the leaves. Spider mites do not like cold water, so a real cold shower will work splendidly to rid them.

10)  Diseases: Keeping your plants clean does wonders! Remove any leaves that do not look right. Soggy plants are prone to disease. Look at the roots to make sure they are healthy too. Brown roots are a sign of trouble.

Plants are people too!




I hope that you find this information very helpful! Plants are so beneficial to us all. I love waking up every morning and seeing green all over my home – it really makes me smile. With a little effort on your part, your own houseplants can make you happy too. They need us to help them to look great! So instead of looking at the care of plants as a chore, think about how happy you are making them by taking such good care of their needs. Because we are bringing them in our homes and out of their natural environment, of course they need us.

Happy House-planting!!