Tips for gardening with indoor plants

Tips for gardening with indoor plants

by Lorene Edwards Forkner

Today, savvy indoor gardeners cultivate compositions with bold form and contrasting textures and color in the same way we put together our dynamic outdoor plantings.

Toss in their well-documented air cleansing properties and the way plants bring life to a room and you've got stylish and healthful decor.

Creating a fresh look for your indoor garden

Be bold! It wasn't until I visited the tropics, from whence most houseplants hail, that I understood why I had such sorry luck with tiny potted plants. It's easy to forget that little 4-inch tall rubber plant (Ficus elastica) is actually a large tree native to India and Malaysia where it grows 40 to 60 feet.

The glossy, dark green foliage and stout structure of the rubber plant makes it an excellent indoor tree that can easily get 6 to 8 feet tall under the right conditions. In addition to their visual impact, large plant specimens are easier to maintain as their hefty containers allow for ample root growth and don't dry out as quickly.

Get rid of any sorry specimens lined up like soldiers on the windowsill. Most plants thrive in mixed company. Contrast foliage, texture and color for a cottage-garden effect combining the fine texture of a variegated spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) with a broad-leafed philodendron.

Or pair a lacy fern with the broad colorful leaves of a croton (Codiaeum variegatum) for a rich, almost Victorian look. If that's too fussy, consider grouping multiples of the same plant in matching containers for a clean, modern approach. Plants love the increased humidity these mini plant communities create, responding with lush growth and vigor.

True houseplant confessions

Most of my houseplants are simply outdoor plants I bring indoors during the northwestern winter. Presently, my Meyer lemon tree is heavy with fruit just beginning to ripen - OK, two fruits, but it's a start.

However, with temperatures now in the 40s, those precious lemons would never ripen at all if I didn't invite them in out of the cold. I can't wait to sip my mid-winter lemon drop amidst fragrant blossoms as the plant begins to produce next year's crop.

Oh, if only I'd protected my abundantly mixed funky succulent plantings last year before our big freeze. I won't make that mistake again. In protecting my plants, I'm protecting my investment as well; like the exotic imports they are, succulents cost a pretty penny here in our chilly part of the country.

Whether you're gardening indoors or out, success lies with "right plant, right place." Match the conditions you have to offer with the right plant and nurture its particular needs, watering and feeding when appropriate. Soon enough, you'll be breathing easy in your verdant indoor garden.

Lorene Edwards Forkner is a Northwest based freelance writer, plant enthusiast and garden designer. She's the author of "Growing Your Own Vegetables" and "Canning & Preserving Your Own Harvest" and has killed more houseplants than she'd like to admit.

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