How to choose your first indoor plant

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succulents

I couldn’t wait for a big snow. My daughter and I both got new snowsuits and new sleds. We had been talking about building forts and snowmen and sledding since November. And we did after the first big snow in Northeast Ohio in mid-January. 

And then came another. After that, it seemed like the piles of snow and ice lining the driveway and every edge of the yard created a barrier to nature. The snow was so deep and heavy, trudging through it became a chore. Then it melted a little and got slick.

My friend reminded me there are only 34 days until spring yesterday and it made me feel hopeful. I’ll be starting seeds for my vegetable garden soon. That will make me feel a little more connected to nature, while the snow and ice take their time thawing.

If you don’t have the time or space to start a vegetable garden, maybe an indoor plant is a better option for you. If you’re new to caring for your own plant altogether, there are some considerations before choosing the perfect indoor plant. The location, maintenance and species of indoor plants all play a role in determining success for a first-time plant owner.

Location

Before you purchase an indoor plant, you’ll need to consider where you’ll put it. You’ll need to consider the temperature, sunlight, humidity, space and pets and children that may come into contact with your plant before settling on a specific plant for a specific location.

Temperature. Check for vents or drafts near windows and doors. Temperature extremes can stress plants and cause damage.

Sunlight. Excessive light can burn leaves and cause damage. However, too little light can cause plants to be spindly and weak.

Humidity. If you want a plant that likes a humid environment, you may have to choose a location in your bathroom.

Space. The amount of space you have for your new plant will help you narrow down which species would be good. If there is not much space, stay away from vining varieties and species that grow much larger over time.

Pets and children. If you have pets or children, make sure you choose a location that is out of reach or research types of plants that can cause adverse effects to pets or children before placing it somewhere they could come into contact with it.  For example rubber plant. Can irritate skin if a small child comes into contact with it or cause stomach upset if a pet eats it. It would not be an ideal choice for a house with pets or children.

Maintenance

Once you’ve determined what kind of restrictions you have because of the locations you have available for a house plant, you need to consider how much time you have to take care of the plant. If you travel for work, you’re probably not going to choose plants that need frequent watering.

Each plant has its own watering requirements. You choose a plant that you have the time to maintain correctly. Overwatering can result in root rot and underwatering results in weak plants.

The best way to determine when a plant needs water is by checking the potting media by lifting the pot to check the plant’s weight or by pushing your finger into the media to see if it’s cool and moist. For gardeners who do not have a lot of time or spend periods of time away from home, a plant that needs to be watered less frequently would be a better selection.

Avoid diseased or unhealthy plants

A thorough inspection before bringing your new plant home is key to success. Plants can be weak or diseased when you purchase them. Check the following before making a selection:

Roots. You can check the roots of a plant you’re interested in by gently removing it from its pot. Firm, white roots are healthy. Roots should not be mushy.

Insects. Look for sings of insect damage such as changes in leaf color or texture. Leaves may be spotted or yellowed or they may become missahpen or cupped. Look for webbing on the undersides of the leaves and stems.

Color. Color is also an indicator of plant health. Avoid plants with a lot of dead leaves or brown tissue.

Choose the right plant

Some plants are easier than other to grow indoors, especially for a first-time plant owner. Here are a few varieties that are commonly selected:

Rubber plant. Rubber plants work well for a larger area. They tolerate bright to moderate light and moderate to high humidity. If they are grown in a cool location, they have reduced watering requirements.

ZZ plant. This plant is easy to find at most greenhouses, garden centers and home and garden stores and can tolerate neglect. It is also available in dwarf varieties if space is a concern.

Jade plant. This plant prefers warm temperatures and low humidity. It dislikes cold windowsills but can be grown in sunny windowsills. Water must be reduced when grown in cooler conditions.

Snake plant. This is another plant that is tolerant of neglect and prefers infrequent watering. It has rhizomes that store water for periods of drought and will rot and drop leaves if it is overwatered. It likes bright to moderate light and warm temperatures. It does not like moisture.

Pothos. This is a vining plant, so it requires space or a hanging basket to spread out. It prefers bright light but not direct sunlight, moderate to warm temperatures and moderate to high humidity.

Living stone. Living stone or Lithops are tiny succulents perfect for small spaces. They grow to under 2 inches in height and only need to be watered when their potting media is completely dry.

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