The temperatures in the Midlands in September can be stifling, so turn your gardening talents to the interior of your home and get a healthy benefit as an added bonus. Research has shown that adding live plants to home interiors and offices not only adds aesthetic beauty but also improves the quality of the air. Houseplants absorb toxins that are found in the air and trap them in their root zones. Those toxins are then turned into beneficial nutrients that help the plant grow. The color green is a soothing color, and the gentle rustle of leaves near an entrance, or the architectural beauty of a tall plant in a sunny corner of a room bring serenity and peace to the environment. These additions to the home interior are good for the mind, body and soul.
How Do They Help?
- Living green plants remove carbon dioxide and toxins from the air.
- They supply oxygen that improves concentration and focus.
- The transpiration process can add humidity to a dry room.
- They add beauty and a soothing element to any space.
Most people spend a good deal of time inside, so why not improve that time with better air quality? Or embellish the ambience of an office or workspace at home with the beauty of an easy-to-care-for plant that is suited to live indoors? Start with one or two and choose varieties that are pleasing and cohesive with the design of the room. Research has found that two to three plants per 100 square feet provide the most benefit. Apply the same design principles that work successfully in the garden. Put tall plants in the back, medium sized plants in the middle and the smallest ones in the front.
If the plants are going to live on top of furniture, make sure they are in a waterproof tray. Also make sure that floors are protected with a waterproof tray. The same rules apply to interior containers as outdoor containers. Choose the largest one possible that will be in scale with the plant. Plants are more likely to thrive if they have room for their roots to grow and for moisture to penetrate the soil. Also choose a lightweight potting soil because good drainage is an absolute necessity.
Another good practice is to add medium to large river rock or pebbles to the top of the soil after the plant is planted. If there are animals living in the house this will make it less likely that they will dig in the soil. It also makes the planting look more finished. Spanish moss is also a good cover for the soil if there are not animals for cats do love to play in it!
The Fun Part: Which Plants to Choose
We are so fortunate here in the Midlands to have so many wonderful, locally-owned nurseries and greenhouses that specialize in houseplants. Spend an afternoon exploring these nurseries and ask questions. Take a drawing of the room layout to get good advice about which plants to take home and be aware of the sun exposure in the room. Some houseplants thrive in direct sunlight, but others do not.
Peace Lily (Spathaphyllum) — The Peace Lily was named by NASA as one of the top 10 household plants for cleansing the air. They are dark green with long fronds similar to aspidistra with a white ‘bracht’ bloom. The blooms can last up to two months if the plant is given proper care. Peace Lilies require little to no fertilizer. If you decide to fertilize, use a weak solution of water-soluble 20-20-20 fertilizer once every two weeks. Another wonderful trait of the Peace Lily is that it wilts when it needs water. So when the leaves start to droop, give it a good soaking making sure that it is able to drain.
Dracaena — Dracaena are grown for their interesting texture and carefree nature. They have long, pointed, strap-like leaves that can be dark green, reddish or variegated. The old leaves fall off as the new ones emerge causing the trunk to have an interesting texture. These carefree plants are forgiving if watering is sporadic. They prefer a little more light than the Peace Lily and can tolerate a little direct sunlight. If the tips of the leaves become brown the plant is getting too much light. If the foliage becomes dull and less vibrant, it requires more sunlight. Dracaena respond well to a consistent fertilization plan in the warmer months and prefer a weak solution of 20-20-20, just as the Peace Lily does.
Philodendron — There are hundreds of varieties of philodendron with new hybrids added every year. Most gardeners recognize the climbing or trailing varieties, but there are also some varieties that are more tree-like. There are dark green varieties and variegated varieties. They thrive in bright light and with a consistent watering regimen. It is recommended to let the soil dry out between waterings.
Pothos — These are one of the most popular houseplants due to their ease of care and rapid growth. The ‘Golden Pothos’ is a popular variety with green leaves painted with yellow. ‘Marble Queen’ is a green and white variegated variety, and ‘Jade’ is a reliable solid green variety. They thrive in bright light and with consistent watering. One way to incorporate pothos into the interior plantscape is to plant three to four at the base of a tall dracaena. This combination looks beautiful in the corner of a room lit by bright natural light.
Spider plants — Spider plants can be used like ferns in the interior plantscape. They have strappy trailing leaves that cascade over the lip of the container. They are the most carefree of all the plants on this list. They prefer bright light and require no extra fertilization. Water regularly, and they should thrive. They also look great planted at the base of an indoor tree and add texture to the bottom of the container just as ivy does to the base of an outdoor container planting.
Ferns — Ferns are the most temperamental of all the plants on this list. Any fern grown indoors will need more attention than the other plants listed. Boston ferns are usually the most successful but even they can be temperamental. Ferns prefer constant moisture and regular fertilization. They also tend to drop leaves or fronds regularly so they can be messy. Boston ferns demand bright light and consistent watering and fertilizing regimens. It is recommended to put ferns outside during the warmer months so they can recuperate from growing indoors. These would be the last on my list.
Palms — Areca and Bamboo palms are the easiest to grow inside. They both prefer bright light and consistent watering. They provide a beautiful tropical feel to the interior plantscape. Both of these palms mix well with an under planting of philodendron or spider lily. This lush combination can add beauty and a tropical feel to an empty corner of a brightly lit room.
Orchids — Chapters and chapters can be written about this gorgeous plant! There are thousands of varieties but there are four that are the easiest to grow indoors. Phalaenopsis, Cattleya, Cymbidium and Dendrobian are the varieties that thrive in a home environment. They require bright light, constant humidity and consistent temperatures. One way to incorporate these varieties is to place the orchid with the plastic pot it is sold in, to a larger porcelain or clay pot that blends with the style of the décor. They can also be incorporated into a mixed planting of ivy and philodendron and used as a centerpiece for a dining room table if there is bright light. Always buy a plant with four to five open blooms and as many closed buds that are ready to open. With proper care, these blooms should last four to six weeks.
Interior gardening can be a very rewarding and successful pastime if the right plants are planted in the right place. The exact principles that apply to outside gardening apply to the inside. My mantra: Right plant, right place, right container, right soil and right water and fertilization regimen. If these rules are followed, the interior garden will flourish and add beauty and healthy benefits to the interior plantscape. Be creative. Try new varieties. If they don’t thrive in one area of the home or office, try another. Use interesting containers and try different plant combinations. The beauty of this is that it can be done in the comfort of your own home during these hot, sticky days of September. So take this list with you to one of our wonderfully stocked nurseries and greenhouses and start your interior gardening today.
Chores for the September Garden
- September is a great month to find perennials on sale at the nursery. If your choice doesn’t look its best, prune it and fertilize it before planting. It will thrive next spring.
- Deadhead annuals such as impatiens and begonias for one or two last bursts of bloom before frost.
- Remove any dead annuals or vegetable plants and add to the compost bin.
- Record successes and failures of the summer garden. Begin to record bloom times of fall blooming plants. Take photos.
- Prune branches that are shading out sunny perennials or annuals.
- If the perennial border looks messy, pull out or prune any ratty-looking plants, and add soil conditioner or mulch to make it look much neater.
- Edge the beds if the grass or border grass has invaded. Nothing makes a garden look better than nice, crisp borders.
- Plan your September salad garden (Columbia Metropolitan Magazine, September 2013)
- Continue to monitor watering needs and check irrigation.
- Take a list of interior plant selections to your favorite nursery and begin your interior plant scape.