A Guide to the Best Indoor Plants For Your Home

An illustrated guide to help choose the best indoor plants for your home. Includes plant illustrations and detailed indoor plant charts with plant information.

| November/December 1987

Bring the blessings of living greenery by choosing the best indoor plants for your home.

A Guide to the Best Indoor Plants For Your Home

Houseplants are good for us. Their presence eases much of the stress that leads to disease and may even lower blood pressure and blood sugar. Some, such as the spider plant, actually act as air purifiers, absorbing formaldehyde and other toxic indoor fumes. Beyond the health benefits, houseplants provide a living link with nature, make pleasant winter companions and lend softness and warmth to our surroundings. The problem, though, is that most indoor environments are not good for plants after all, homes are designed to provide human comfort. Modern interiors are generally very dry, whereas many houseplants are tropical and subtropical natives that require high humidity. And indoor environments often rely on artificial lighting, which may be insufficient for many plants. So indoor gardening is not simply a "pot and forget" proposition. A lot of houseplants fail to flourish because of inappropriate environment or inadequate care. To increase your own chances for success, I'm going to recommend a variety of very durable, adaptable specimens and then offer a commonsense approach to caring for them. (See the indoor plant illustrations in the image gallery.)

How Bright Is Your Light?

From sun-blazed savannas to shady, canopied rain forests, the varied natural habitats of tropical plants have caused them to develop differing light-intensity needs. Accordingly, the most important rule of indoor gardening is to select a plant appropriate to your light situation.

Remember that radiant energy triggers photosynthesis, the process by which plants produce nourishment and build tissue. The blue and violet waves of the light spectrum promote foliage growth, while the longer red and far-red rays control stem length, leaf size and flowering.

The most common artificial light in homes is provided by incandescent tungsten filament bulbs. Incandescent light is rich in red and farred waves, but it does not contain enough blue and violet rays to provide a complete light source for plants. Natural outdoor light from windows can help supplement incanment incandescent illumination.

Some homes (and most offices) contain overhead fluorescent tubes. These fixtures can be used to achieve a balanced spectrum. Cool white tubes are inherently balanced, or you can combine daylight lamps (high in blue waves) with warm white bulbs (high in red). Still, fluorescent lighting does not exactly duplicate sunlight—and it's certainly not as intense.

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