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Gardening: busy? There’s still time for indoor plants

Indoor gardening is a learning process that thrives on trial and error. To recognize changes in your plants and adjust your care accordingly, you need to observe them.

For the busy professional or beginner gardener, checking on your leafy green friends is probably last on your to-do list. Do not worry; we’ve prepared a list of simple and helpful gardening tips for you to peruse on your lunch break.

Get this: Some plants thrive on neglect and low maintenance. That’s great news for a busy jet-setter like you. You don’t have to resort to fake plastic plants. Instead, you can carefully select the types of plants that will thrive with the amount of care you can give. If you feel like you’re spreading yourself too thin with the types of plants in your collection, it might be time to replace them with something faster.

Zanzibar gemstone, snake plants, palms, pothos, and asparagus ferns are all notoriously hardy houseplants, but there’s plenty more to consider. Succulents are a popular craze, and many beginners choose a few because of their attractive colors and accessibility. However, it is essential to note that most succulents do not thrive indoors.

Succulent varieties that require more direct light will wither and lose color without it. Etiolation or “stretching” is an unhealthy and stressful condition for your pal, and it doesn’t look the best.

Succulents that do well in indirect light or near a windowsill include haworthia, aloe, gasteria, kalanchoe, and burro’s tail varieties. Variations of these plants all react slightly differently to low light, so it is imperative to check new plants regularly.

what’s in a name

Many people like to anthropomorphize their plants with names, which is fine as long as they remember their Latin or English nicknames. Keeping track of plant types can get confusing, especially when your collection grows in number.

However, knowing your species is essential when troubleshooting specific plant problems and diseases. It’s also just plain fun to build a mental catalog of species and their intricacies.

Research is such an important tool for developing your plant’s IQ. However, books and some simple Google searches should not be underestimated in their value. Another good idea that most people never consider is to browse Facebook groups or Reddit pages. There are hundreds of plant groups to share species information.

There are even pages specific to beginners or certain types of plants. Learning from other people’s mistakes is so much faster than just learning from your own.

Lighting

If you find the right lighting conditions for each of your plants, your freedom to leave them with minimal maintenance increases dramatically. But lighting is such a vague topic. Online guides and labels that come with plants will use confusing phrases like “indirect bright light”. But how does all of this translate into the lighting in your home?

Direct sunlight is light that travels directly from the sun to your plant’s leaves in a direct line. East-facing windows will provide direct morning light, less intense than afternoon light. West-facing windows will provide harsher, more direct light, scorching succulents and many other plants, especially if not properly acclimatized.

Indirect sunlight is light that is deflected and cast onto another surface, such as curtains, furniture, or other plants. You can spot indirect light if a room is well lit, but nothing is covered in the warm orange light of the sun.

High, medium, and low light levels can be thought of as the amount of Lux (lumens per square meter) your species needs to grow healthy and strong. High ranges from 1,614 to 10,764 Lux. Average ranges from 807 to 1614 Lux; low from 270 to 807 Lux.

Note that light levels are not the same as light type (direct/indirect), as some plants need a lot of indirect light. This would mean that the plant gets indirect light for a longer period of the day. You can use portable light meters to help troubleshoot.

Lighting is tricky; sometimes you won’t recognize a plant is stretching for light until it’s too late. When moving a plant to a brighter area, do so gradually. A sharp and sudden increase in temperature and light can shock plants and often burn them from the sun.

Be sure to rotate your plants a quarter to half a turn every week or they will only grow in the direction facing the sun. Finding the right lighting for a species is often the hardest part, but it’s easy once you figure it out.

To prune or not to prune

Indoor plant pruning is often overlooked, but it can help your collection stay healthy and beautiful all year round. To understand when and why to prune, it helps to understand the growing seasons. Most indoor varieties will benefit the most from pruning early in their growing season, which can be from late winter to early spring.

Plants need a lot of energy to produce and maintain flowers and leaves, so any aging or dying flowers or offsets stunt growth potential. A good cut of old and dying plant matter can allow your plant to focus its energy and resources on new growth for the season.

Additionally, decaying plant matter is an ideal home for pests and mold, so you’ll want to remove it quickly. For flowering varieties, be careful not to prune new growth before it has flowered or you risk cutting off a potential bud.

Some species, such as bonsai varieties, require pruning for aesthetic purposes only. It can also be used to encourage balanced and full growth, especially for trailing plants that want to grow tall and spindly. Thoughtful trim can create offsets that produce a thicker foliage wall.

Some people reduce offsets for propagation purposes. This is especially popular for succulents and tropical plants. However, when succulents wilt, they can only develop thicker new growth once the sunlight has been corrected. For this reason, many enthusiasts choose to cut off healthy new growth and propagate an entirely new, healthier plant.