Extreme weather this summer has forced landscapers (and gardeners) into survival mode, just trying to hang on until the rain and cooler temperatures arrive this fall. It’s a good time to try houseplants and indoor gardening. Buy seeds and start your own fall vegetable transplants indoors, buy a houseplant like a philodendron, or try growing herbs with an indoor vegetable garden.
For permanent houseplants, choose those that are adapted to low light levels – selection and care is quite different for plants that stay inside the house than typical landscape plants. Some of the hardiest houseplants that work well in most homes include Christmas cactus, philodendron, ficus, pothos ivy, sansevieria, ZZ plant, dracaena, and aglaonema.
Two major factors to focus on with houseplants are light and water. Plants known to be good inside a building are usually tropical plants native to areas with very dense canopy that can handle lower light levels. but all plants need light to grow – and even houseplants need more light than is usually available in the house to grow well and thrive.
A simple test to measure light levels and help choose the best location for houseplants can be done by holding your hand about 12 inches above the surface in question (floor, table, etc.) for a while. the brightest time of day. Look for the shadow of the hand – if it’s a clear, distinct dark shadow, it’s a high light level. If it has a blurry outline and a faint, faint shadow that is dimly lit. Match plants with the right amount of light they need based on label instructions.
Watering houseplants can be tricky; many plants do best when they can be watered liberally and excess water can drain well, but houseplants tend to be watered lightly and more frequently; and there is usually a tray underneath to catch excess water which can create standing water for long periods of time. If possible, place houseplants in a sink or tub, water thoroughly, and allow to drain well before returning.
Indoor herb gardens are very popular and can be a great feature in the kitchen – bringing beauty, fresh scent and interest. While many herbs are easy to grow outdoors in the West Texas climate, it is important to remember that most herbs are not naturally suited to be houseplants. That’s not to say it can’t be done – start by finding the right spot where they can get six to eight hours of direct sunlight, like a south-facing window.
Just about any herb can be grown indoors, but not all can be grown permanently in small containers. many herbs grow into tall plants, such as sage and rosemary. So either stick to smaller plants like basil, thyme, and parsley, or if you’re growing larger plants, just plan to start over every now and then to keep the plants small and manageable for an indoor garden. . Once they have outgrown their container, they can be planted outside or given away.
Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Horticulture Extension Agent for Tom Green County. Contact her at [email protected]