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I love foliage houseplants. Sure there is the practical side to them, from aesthetically filling space to cleaning indoor air. They are nature’s oxygen generating and filtration system for our indoor living spaces. When our windows and homes are sealed tight for the frigid winter months they improve the quality of our air as well as our visual landscape. January is a long month and if you’re not into winter sports or shoveling the driveway you’re going to be spending a lot of time indoors. You’ve got a friend in foliage. With some light and a little bit of care foliage is the gift that keeps giving year around. I like to talk to my plants. For some that might feel strange but remember the carbon dioxide from your breath can be converted into oxygen by these nature’s miracles.
An understanding is needed to successfully grow foliage in our Michigan homes in winter. First of all remember that foliage plants are native to tropical areas. That means they don’t appreciate cold drafts. No I’m not talking about beer I’m talking about drafty blustery doorways. They also do not like being near heat sources like a furnace vent. The dry indoor air is unlike their environment in the tropics. A brightly lit window in a cool part of the room will suit them just fine for the winter months. Your job is to not overwater them. Water is the number one killer of houseplants, too much or too little. Nine times out of ten it’s too much not too little. We kill them with kindness. With the lack of transpiration in the winter months, the foliage demands much less moisture supply from the roots. If you’re adding too much water to the roots without the demand of the foliage the roots rot and choke.
In addition fungus gnats develop and multiply like, well, fungus gnats. That’s no fun. Keep your soil on the dry side watering only when needed. Remember your houseplants are just trying to get through winter like you and are also experiencing cabin fever.
The fun part is picking out some new foliage for your home or office. It’s not as expensive as furniture and certainly easier to move. The choices in foliage are far greater than the typical Ficus tree with half of its foliage fallen off and lying in the pot or on the ground. Some foliage plants are just plain tough and can put up with some neglect and abuse. Plants like Chinese Evergreen, Sanseveria, Hoya, Pothos, Philodendron, Aspidistra and ZZ plant are tough and tolerant. Ideal for office environments they’ll stand the test in your home climate.
Orchids, Anthurium and Spathiphyllum can provide some long lasting blooms in your home. Moth or Phalenopsis Orchids are easy to grow and the blooms are long lived. Draceana and Crotons can provide colorful foliage.
Some varieties of Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Pothos and Aglaonema as examples have quite interesting and colorful foliage. If you can discipline yourself not to overwater, Succulents and Cactus thrive on neglect in a bright spot and will provide living interest in your home. If you need something very basic pick up some Catgrass seeds and sow them on some potting soil in a windowsill pot. Even if you don’t have a cat in the home, you can occasionally cut your indoor lawn with a scissors to get your green fix.
Don’t forget to talk to them. Like my friend “Phil”-odendron has told me, relax, you’re among fronds.