Buying interior plants may seem simple, but if you want them to survive in your home, you need to respect certain basic rules. When you first buy a plant, there is a number of factors to consider such as the plant's health and its size i.e.: one that will adapt easily to your house. But, most importantly, you must ensure that you can provide the right environment for the plant to grow.

Size

Plants are sold in different sizes. Some prefer buying plants when they're small so they can adapt to their new environment more easily than larger plants that grew in ideal lighting, humidity and temperature. When you first take a plant to your home, it may suffer a major shock leading to yellowing, drying and leaf loss. The weeping fig, for example, is known for having that type of reaction. In this case, time takes care of things.

Lighting

Most problems in raising interior plants come from poor lighting. Therefore, when you choose a plant, you must take room lighting into account. Pigmentation in the leaves of a plant trap light and give the plant its colour. If they lack adequate lighting, plants loose their panache. That's why you should know from the start just how much light your new plant actually needs.

Generally, variegated leaves require more light than green leaves. Plants with darker leaves, such as the spatiphyllum, snake plant, dracaena and philodendron need less light. And remember that you can't replace natural light with the light that comes from an ordinary household light bulb.

South- and east-facing windows

They offer maximum lighting, and that suits most plants. However, it's possible that the light may be too intense causing leaves to pale, discolour and dry up. In such situations, you must filter the sun's rays using sheer curtains or place the plants away from the window.

West- and north-facing windows

They're ideal for plants requiring only a few hours of sun every day. However, winter lighting conditions are often inadequate even for certain plants that do well in summer.

Humidity and water

Each plant has different needs when it comes to water. Some thrive in a slightly humid soil, while others need soil that dries completely between waterings. As a general rule, plants need more water in summer than in winter. If you tend to water generously, choose plants, such as the papyrus, that live well in humid soil.

On the other hand, if you're among those that tend to water only when the leaves go limp, in the middle of cooking dinner and helping the kids with their homework, you should choose plants that don't require too much watering attention. And don't overlook the humidity in the air. It's an important factor in the growth of your plants. Ambient air humidity should stand around 40 to 60%.

Insects and diseases

The greatest threat to interior plants is insects. It often happens that, a few weeks after you take a new plant home, insects make an appearance. To avoid this, be sure to inspect leaves and stems, mostly under leaves where insects love to hide! And even if the nasty little critters are often hard to find, there are always clues as to their presence. Cobwebs are often a sign that mites have elected domicile, while the presence of small white woolly pustules or pocks on the stems usually indicates that cottony cushion scales have invaded your plant. That's why it's recommended that new plants be quarantined (kept away from other plants) for two to three weeks to avoid infecting other plants around the house. Before using a pesticide, give preference to methods such as a cotton swab soaked with rubbing alcohol to kill mealybugs, and pruning of shoots to destroy aphids. And don't be discouraged. As last resort, if these methods are not enough, use an eco-responsible product such as insecticidal soap that can control most insect pests.

A plant for each gardener

The variety of houseplants available on the market is too great to enumerate. Some of these lovely plants are easy to grow, while others need some extra special care. With that in mind, houseplants can be divided into three broad categories: those for beginners, intermediate, and those for the avid experienced gardener. But how can you tell whether a given plant fits your level of experience? Usually you can get a good idea by looking in a gardening book, but the easiest way is to talk with the specialists at your gardening centre. In a matter of minutes they'll be able to line you up with the right plants for your level of expertise and interest. Have a look at the table below for a few ideas.

Plants for the Beginner Gardener

Plants for the Intermediate Gardener

Plants for the Experienced Gardener

Legend

Watering will vary from one plant to another. If you don't have time to pay attention to such details, you might consider buying plants that don't need a lot of water. But if you are around to tend to your plants, then the more thirsty types should do just fine in your home or office.

Watering will also depend on the season. "G" indicates the growing season, from March to September. "D" indicates the dormant period from October to February.

Watering Description
Light Water when the soil is dry down two thirds of the pot.
Moderate Water when the first two centimetres of soil are dry.
Generous Water when the surface soil appears dry.

The amount of light a plant gets will have a direct effect on its growth and its health. So before you buy, make sure the plant will be able to adapt to the conditions in your home or office.

Orientation of the window Light
West or North Light
South West or North East Moderate
South or East Abundant

Plants are available everywhere. It's best to purchase them in shops or stores with a department that specializes in home gardening or in a garden centre, if only to have access to the advice of a specialist.

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