Create your own indoor garden, using houseplants

A popular trend from Victorian times is making a comeback: Growing houseplants.

If you look online at image-sharing websites, apps, and boards and you’ll find that indoor plants are very popular.

In fact, a new term called “jungalow style” incorporates the use of plants inside homes and offices. Jungalow style brings the beauty and life of plants indoors by integrating them in living areas.

An easy-to-care for “ZZ plant” growing in Nicole Pinson’s office. 

Plants may be grown indoors — both for their beauty and their air quality benefits.

A study by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted regarding air quality and houseplants concluded that a plant is “very important in removing indoor air pollution either directly through its leaves or indirectly through the root/soil pathway” (Wolverton, Douglas, and Bounds, 1989, pg. 10).

Plants tested by NASA include bamboo palm, English ivy, peace lily, Sansevieria laurentii, spider plant, golden pothos, and philodendron.

As with any plant, be sure to follow the first principle of Florida Friendly LandscapingTM: Right Plant, Right Place. This means selecting plants suited to your landscape (or home) based on light, water, temperature, and soil conditions.

My grandmother grew about 20 different African violets. She placed them in the perfect spot in her living room – a north-facing windowsill.

African violets grow well in bright, indirect light. A south-facing window would generally be too sunny for African violets.

You don’t need many plants to create an indoor garden.

Choose easy-to-grow plants such as spider plants, Aglaonema spp., and hoya.

One of my favorite indoor plants is called a “ZZ plant” or Zamioculcas zamiifolia. ZZ plants have shiny, dark green leaves. They thrive in low-light environments and are drought-tolerant. ZZ plants have no significant pest or disease problems. The main concern is proper watering. ZZ plants need soil that drains well. Water your ZZ plant and let it dry out between waterings to reduce the chance of root rot, which can be caused by too much water.

Generally, you should have few pests with indoor plants, but you may occasionally encounter mealybugs and whiteflies. If this happens, remove the pot from your house or office and place it outside in a similar environment. Often, natural predators will eat the pest insects. You may also use least toxic pest control methods, such as horticultural oils and insecticidal soaps. Some pests, such as mealybugs or aphids, may be treated by wetting or removing the insects with a cotton swab dipped in a solution of one-half water and one-half rubbing alcohol.

To avoid disease problems, water appropriately. This requires some care and monitoring of your plants. Plants grown indoors don’t dry out as quickly as plants grown outside.

Monitoring your plants to provide sufficient – but not too much – water can be tricky at first. But, over time you’ll know your plants’ watering needs. For example, I have an English ivy in a windowsill. It requires more water during the summer months than it does during the winter months. Additionally, some months I water it every two weeks because that is all the water it needs!

A word of caution: Some houseplants may be considered invasive when planted in the landscape. Be considerate of the growing characteristics of houseplants and check their status prior to planting them in the ground.

You can look up plant names and view pictures of invasive plants on the UF/IFAS Assessment website found at https://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. For example, searching for the plant Sansevieria will yield results for three plants included in the Assessment. You will see that Sansevieria cylindrica is not considered a problem species at this time. However, Sansevieria trifasciata is listed as invasive in Central Florida and throughout the rest of the state.

Get creative with your indoor garden by choosing flower pots that match your décor, or try growing plants in a terrarium.

I enjoy searching for vintage or antique pots in thrift stores, yard sales, and antique shops.

Keep an eye out for unique finds when traveling. I spotted the geometric flower vase — now hanging in my office — at a garden center in Nashville, Tennessee. You may find other creative containers such as pottery, vases, jars, concrete planters, baskets, wall pockets, and galvanized buckets.

The UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County office can help answer your gardening questions. We are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Our office and gardens are located at 5339 County Road 579, Seffner, Florida 33584.

For additional information, contact or (813) 744-5519, Ext. 54145.

Nicole Pinson is the Urban Horticulture Agent in Hillsborough County. The author gratefully acknowledges Master Gardener Nancy Ham for contributing to this article.

Published Oct. 18, 2017

 

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