There are many benefits to having houseplants
There are many benefits of having houseplants, winter or summer. In addition to the joy of having living plants in our homes, we benefit from their capability of filtering pollutants, adding moisture to the dry winter air, providing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide. Many homes today never have an open window. Houses are built tight to reduce loss of heat and cold, so many pollutants just stay in our homes and we inhale them.
NASA research has shown that plants can remove up to 87% of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). They also release 97% of the water they take in. NASA suggests about 15 plants in an average size home for purifying the air. But even one plant can uplift the spirits in dreary winter weather.
Having house plants does not have to involve 8 foot ficus trees. A few plants in six to eight inch pots can do the job nicely. Very little work is needed to maintain most houseplants: a little water, some grooming to remove dead blossoms or leaves, and an occasional application of fertilizer. Leaves may get dusty (doesn’t everything?).
On a smooth leaf plant, you can just wipe the leaves (top and bottom) with a damp paper towel. If it is a hairy leaf, such as African violet, you can brush lightly or use canned compressed air to lightly disperse the dust. Smaller plants may be set in the kitchen sink and gently sprayed, or place large ones in the shower.
There are choices to please everyone. Plants may be flowering, vining, ferns, or succulents (cactus). A good garden catalog will help you find the right plant for your needs. Please ensure the safety of your family by avoiding plants that may be poisonous to children or to pets.
My home was built recently and I find the window sills very shallow. Also I don’t always have the exposure I want for the plants I would like to have. Most of our living area windows face west. In the summer the western sun is very hot. However, the prospects are improving. We now have deciduous trees growing that provide some shade in summer and give more light during the cooler months. I set plants on small benches near windows and can move them around readily.
There are many houseplants to choose from and many outdoor plants that can be brought in and repotted or new plants started quite readily. If you repot plants, be sure that there is a drain hole in the bottom of your planter. Plastic holds water longer than terra cotta. Another attractive choice is an indoor window box, providing your window sills will accommodate one. Some plants will need to be watered frequently, others not too often.
My favorite houseplant is the rabbit’s foot fern (Davallia fejeensis). It has lovely lacy leaves and intriguing rabbit’s foot rhizomes that grow and will eventually hang over the edge of the pot. These are a light brownish color, and if stroked the way the rhizome is growing, they feel soft, like rabbit fur. If you brush them backwards, they are stiff and unyielding. This is a plant that is well suited to be planted in a hanging basket, if you have a place for one. When they get very large, the rabbit’s feet may hang over the edge of the pot up to 2 feet. You will often see a green branch coming up from the rhizome. These are what I have used to start new plants.
If your plant outgrows its container, you can divide it and make several plants. They make wonderful gifts. A recommendation for re-potting is to use 2 parts peat and 1 part sand or perlite. I have had good luck just using regular potting soil. If you are repotting because your plant is too large, use a very sharp and very clean knife. Be careful! Cut the plant into about 4 sections. Don’t worry about cutting through the roots. There will be plenty to grow your new ferns. Place your new plants in containers a few inches larger than the root section.
To start a new plant from the old one, lay the “rabbit’s foot” on the top of the soil. Anchor it down with a hairpin or piece of flexible wire. Keep it slightly moist, and you will soon see new fern fronds appear. As soon as our frost-free date comes along, I place my ferns on our deck where they get some sun but not full sun. We enjoy them all summer and I have not had a plant any easier to maintain.