Indoor plants and herbs pose many benefits for your home. Aside from their aesthetic charm, houseplants make breathing easier, they purify the air, improve your health, sharpen your focus and release moisturizing vapor. In this issue of San Joaquin Homes and Gardens, we encourage you to ditch the lingering plastic plants of the 90s, and get your hands dirty! We’re not going to say there isn’t a learning curve, but our Houseplant Guide will serve as your reference along the way.
Nothing is quiet as enchanting as welcoming guests with flower scents, creative décor and humidified air. The creativity and uniqueness that houseplants bring to your home allows for an embellishment all your own. These living organisms interact with you, your guests’ and your families’ mind and body, enhancing not only your home, but also your life!
Here’s how: When we breathe, our bodies take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide; and during photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. These patterns make humans and houseplants nature’s perfect roommates. Another aspect of photosynthesis improves our indoor air, adding moisture. Plants release roughly 97 percent of the moisture they take in, this means adding them to our home allows the plants to act as a natural humidifier, aiding in the care of colds, dry skin, coughs and sore throats.
According to NASA researchers plants remove up to 87 percent of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) every 24 hours. VOCs are organic chemicals that possess high vapor pressure at ordinary room temperature. This means these compounds have large numbers of molecules evaporating or sublimating from the liquid or solid form of the compound, entering the air. One common VOC, formaldehyde, can be found in carpeting, paint, grocery bags and smoke. Other VOCs are commonly apart of many man-made fibers and substances found in our home and office. Now that we understand the power packed in these beautiful bulbs, buds and greens, let’s talk implementation. We don’t expect you to turn your home into a green house over night, but plant-by-plant, you’ll get there. Marceline Sousa, San Joaquin UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator, points us toward a few different species of houseplants that are best for the beginner in San Joaquin.
Among her suggestions are the Philodendron, Pothos, Snake Plant, Bamboo Palm, Spider Plant, Red-Edged Dracaena, Golden Pothos, African Violet, Elephant Ear, Aloe Vera, Ferns (Boston), Bromeliads, Orchids, Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Weeping Fig (Ficus), English Ivy, Jade Plant, Rubber Tree and the Peace Lily.
Sousa suggests each houseplant be given a generous container filled with rich, all-purpose soil that provides good drainage. When it comes to watering, Sousa says to do your research and cater your watering schedule to each individual plant, as they all have different needs. “Overwatering is one of the most common causes of houseplant death,” she continues, “In general, plants grown in
well-drained soil, in an appropriate sized container, should be watered when the top half to one inch of the soil feels dry.” Additional upkeep for healthy houseplants
includes monthly, complete houseplant fertilization treatments (available at home and garden stores) and clipping of dead foliage. Sousa suggests spraying foliage with tepid (lukewarm) water to rid plants of dust that accumulates in your home every few months, as needed, and the repotting of plants with new soil every two to three years.
Of all the factors affecting plant growth, adequate light is by far the most important. “Light conditions change throughout the season,” says Sousa, “So seasonal repositioning of plants inside your home may be needed to keep adequate light.” Windows that face south or southwest are your best shot at sun throughout the season. “Temperature, another seasonal influence, is also important to regulate,” says Sousa.
“Most foliage plants prefer day temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees with night temperatures usually 5 to 10 degrees lower. Avoid extreme temperature changes, such as cold and hot air from windows, radiators, heating and air conditioning vents. Beware of cold glass windows in the winter months, which can damage or burn foliage.” Sousa also notes the importance of humidity during winter months, “During the winter, most homes have less than 30 percent humidity and some houseplants may suffer. Humidity can be increased with a humidifier. Setting plants on pebbles in a water-filled tray will also increase humidity.”
• Three to four inch pots work nicely for windowsills
(remember you will need a saucer to catch water!)
• Herbs need as much natural light as possible. Place them
in a sunny spot, near a window, where they’ll get at least four
hours of sun per day.
• Regularly rotate the orientation of your pots with respect to
the source of sunlight so that they don’t lean in one direction.
• Herbs prefer 65 -70 degrees F.
• The two most common problems of potted plants are over-
watering and under-watering. Water most culinary herbs
thoroughly, but let the soil almost dry out between watering.
Most need about one inch of water per week once established.
Insert your finger in the potting soil to determine when
irrigation is required.
• Make sure your pot has drainage holes and a waterproof
• Most herbs require fertile soil; potting soil meets this need.
Be cautious with the use of fertilizer on culinary herbs. Over-
fertilization will interfere with the development of oils that
impart desired flavors.
• Regular harvesting of potted herbs will promote new
growth. Do not strip all the leaves off the plant. Instead, use
scissors or pinch off two or three stems, leaving at least half
the growth in order to stimulate new growth. In general, do
not allow herbs to flower. If you are unable to use potted
herbs on a regular basis, keep them pruned.
• If you plan to move potted herbs outdoors this spring, slowly
acclimate them to the change before leaving them outside
for the entire day and night.
• Herbs need air circulation, so don’t crowd them too close on
your windowsill or counter.
For More Information:
UCCE Master Gardeners
of San Joaquin
2102 E. Earhart Ave., Ste. 200
Stockton, (209) 953-6112