Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens


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I beat the winter doldrums by surrounding myself with tropical houseplants and regular fresh-cut bouquets on my dining room table.  My theory is if you can’t be in the garden, might as well bring the garden to you!  I have a tendency to go overboard with houseplants in every room (that is no exaggeration) but even a pot on your kitchen counter or bedroom dresser can do wonders.  Along with their aesthetic appeal, houseplants help create a more relaxing environment as well as improve air quality (through photosynthesis).

A friend recently emailed me asking suggestions for houseplants for her home.  As a beginner, it can be a bit overwhelming – I just googled “houseplants” and 1,370,000 results popped up!  Gosh, where do you even begin??

Here are the main factors you need to consider when choosing houseplants:

  • Light Do you have high, medium or low light?  Outside we have perennials and annuals for both shade and sun – it’s just the same for houseplants.  To learn more about houseplant lighting, check out this PDF from Iowa State Extension http://www.extension.iastate.edu/publications/rg402.pdf (2 pages).
  • Temperature Most of our homes are fairly well regulated so this is not often an issue.  But placing houseplants in cooler areas near exterior doors or drafty windows can be problematic.
  • Humidity Like temperature, the humidity in our homes is fairly consistent.  A bathroom might be more humid than other rooms and areas in front or near a heat vent might be less humid.
  • Water Watering is mostly a maintenance issue.  Are you willing (and will your remember) to regularly water?  Thankfully there are houseplants that thrive with both regular watering or more dry conditions.

These days you can find houseplants in almost every florist, supermarket and big box store.  Most do a descent job of including plant tags with correct light, temperature, humidity and watering needs but few stores have the staff on hand to help you in any deeper detail.  If you have found a houseplant you like, it is best to start looking online for more specific information.  You might even consider ordering this booklet from ISU Extension https://www.extension.iastate.edu/store/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=12054&SeriesCode=&CategoryID=&Keyword=PM%20713.

Here is a list of my favorite, low maintenance houseplants (that are also easy to find in stores):

  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema species)
  • Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior)
  • Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)
  • Ponytail Palm is actually not a palm at all,
  • Spider Plant (chlorophytum cosmosum)
  • Philodendron (Philodendron scandens oxycardium)
  • Snake Plant (Sanseveria trifasciata)
  • Umbrella Tree (Schefflera species)

Have little kiddos or pets at home?  There are a variety of resources online listing toxicity levels – take a look before purchasing.

Interested in having houseplants but regular watering is an issue?  Consider purchasing succulents and/or cacti.  They won’t provide the same lush, tropical feel but will certainly bring a bit of green into your home!

Do you have a plant or gardening question you would like answered?  Add a comment below and I’ll try to answer!

See you in the gardens.


Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

March 9, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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