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Houseplants for the Future:
Can't Live Without 'em

Rubber TreeHorticultural speaking there is no such thing as a houseplant. Every plant originates and is native somewhere in the world. There it lives happily where it is improving it's own natural environment.

Thank goodness for the British who, after conquering the world, then went on to conquer the plant kingdom. With the creation of the 'glasshouse' they were able to bring us the benefits and beauty of plants into the home.

The Chinese for centuries have taken care of plants to create "living energy" into their homes and workplace. We all should be doing the same.

Now, scientific tests have proven that houseplants are good for us, physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Plants 'breathe' in carbon dioxide exhalations and 'breathe out' vital oxygen. That in itself makes them our perfect partner. They also cleanse harmful chemicals and emissions from the atmosphere such as carbon monoxide, benzene, trichlorethylene, and formaldehyde. 

Which are the best plants? All will do part of the job but some of the hardest working houseplants are:

Spider PlantAnd, most importantly, the spider plant (chlorophytum comosum varigata). It can remove 96% of carbon monoxide  under laboratory conditions. Imagine what it can do for your home.

What else can plants do for us in the 21st century? Just about everything, they have done in the past but we need to utilize them more. They absorb and buffer noise. In hospitals, they help patients recover from illness faster, with less medication. Plants will lower blood pressure, aid in concentration and help memory recall and, in general, plants promote a feeling of relaxation and wellness in the home and office. In return, plants demand very little.

Taking care of plants is very basic. The number one killer is over watering. It is easier to bring back a dying plant from under watering than over watering.

The Flower and Plant Association recommends the following simple tips. 

If you are fortunate enough to receive flowering holiday plants as gifts, here are some familiar favorites and how to take care of them.

Poinsettia: Best conditions are indirect or bright-diffused light. Moderately moist soils are preferred. Keep away form high heat and drafts. Enjoy for 2-3 months. Watch out for white fly. A reflowering poinsettia will not be as attractive as the original plant.

Poinsettia in GreenhouseTake care of the plant indoors or in a greenhouse until the danger of frost is past. Repot, and cut back stems to encourage new growth. Summer the plant outside till night temps fall to 40 degrees. To initiate the colorful bracts again ( 10/1-11/15) provide the poinsettia with 14 hours of uninterrupted darkness followed by 10 hours of brightness.

Remember poinsettias are sensitive to even a lamp or street light.

Amaryllis: Best conditions are indirect or bright light. Cool or moderate temperatures. Be sure to drain the water from the decorative wrapper. Each bloom is 3-4 days and normally in a 1-2 week period. Do not forget to support the blooms. After flowering cut off the flowering stalk, grow as a foliage plant. Re-flowering will occur in about 8 weeks. Create dormancy periods for next flowering by providing cool temperatures.

Gloxinia: indirect or bright light. Moderate watering. Do not allow plants to stand in water. Warm temperatures will bloom for 2-4 weeks. For the next series of blooms withhold water and fertilizer and keep in continuous darkness for 6-8 weeks. Repot in porous mixture. Water normal levels, should flower in 3 months

Cyclamen: Indirect light or diffused light. Moderately moist soil. Keep cool to moderate temperature. The blooms will last 2-4 months. Each individual bloom will be 2-3 weeks. Be careful not to rot the crown with over watering. After blooming the plant will die down normally. When all the growth is gone dig up the beetle like corm and repot in new medium. Continue watering. Second year plants will have smaller flowers, but more blooms.

Holiday Cactus/Thanksgiving/Easter/Christmas: keep moderately moist soil. Keep cool. Blooms 4-8 weeks. Prefers rich soils. Buds will drop from under watering, over watering, low light, high night temps, or sudden temp changes. Summer outside. Bring in after temperature drops to 40 degrees.

Easter Lily: indirect or bright diffused light is best. Moderately moist soil is preferred. Water when top of soil is dry. Lasting quality of bloom is about 1-2 weeks. Keep in cool location 50-60 degrees. Remove anthers to prevent pollen stains. Watch out for aphids. In the late spring, plant the entire lily in the garden. It will re-flower in August of the following summer.

Some sources:

Here is an Indoor Apartment Guardening website that is full of basic information.

Plant Care .com - Encyclopedia and extensive database of houseplant information. World's largest database on "How to Care for Houseplants".

Tip: Buy hardware, tools, and books on sale. They never go bad.