Indoor Plant Care

Indoor plants on display at Cactus and Tropicals

A selection of beautiful houseplants at Cactus and Tropicals. 

By Lizzi Brosseau

Keep Your Indoor Air Fresh During the Winter With a Variety of Indoor Plants

Do you have an indoor plant, or are you considering adding a few to your home? They seem to be enjoying a heyday on Pinterest and Instagram, where beautiful photos of “plant babies” such as succulents, Pileas, and the majestic Monstera populate news feeds. But the reasons why indoor plants are so popular has to do with much more than just their picture perfect forms and colors. House plants are a great way to freshen up the home, especially during the winter months when doors and windows are kept shut. And who wouldn’t want a fresher home? While the jury is still out about the potency of chemical filtration that houseplants can offer in a typical household, there can be no denying the refreshing and calming experience of living in a home with well-cared for houseplants.

We recently visited Cactus and Tropicals, a local plant and garden center in Holladay, Utah to talk with Plant Buyer Cory Cumming about some of their most popular indoor plants, and how to care for them.

Caring for Houseplants is Also a Great Way to Keep your Green Thumb Active During the Winter

Cory says that one of the most important parts of caring for an indoor plant is to make sure it is properly watered. To do this, make sure you are getting the whole root ball moist, rather than dribbling a little bit of water on the surface of the soil. This can be done by cycling the water poured on the plant soil until no more water comes through the bottom of the plant container.

However, thoroughly watering your plants means that you have to be careful that they aren’t overwatered. There shouldn’t be standing water in the pot tray. If there is, you’re likely to see mold growth and fungus gnats on your indoor plants. Never let water stand in the plant pot. Let the water drain free of the root ball.

If you find that your are watering your plants more often than usual, and especially if they are wilting despite getting a good watering, you may need to repot your plant so that the roots have more space. It’s safe to go up a couple of inches in pot size to allow the plant to continue to grow at a pace they can manage.

On the topic of repotting, we were surprised by our indoor plant expert’s advice! See the video below to find out when and how to repot, along with other useful household plant tips.

Video: Indoor Plants with Cactus and Tropicals

Beautiful and Popular Indoor Plant Varieties

Here is a list of the plants we talked about in the video, with more information about how to care for them properly:

  1. Maranta Leuconeura (Prayer Plant)

This beautiful plant is colloquially called a Prayer Plant because it’s leaves fold together at night as though the leaves are hands coming into prayer. They make beautiful hanging plants, perfect for a macrame holder that allows the leaves to cascade down. They do need a lot of water- at least two good waterings a week. Don’t let the soil get dry. Medium to bright light is good, but no direct sunlight on these tender leaves!
 

  1. Pilea Peperomioides (Chinese Money Plant)  

The current darling of Pinterest and Instagram, the Pilea Peperomioides has recently become more widely available in the United States after it exploded in popularity in Norway and Scandinavia. Pileas love bright light, so don’t put them in a dark corner. A little bit of direct sun is okay. Let the surface of the soil dry before watering thoroughly.
 

  1. Platycerium (Staghorn Fern)

In their native environment these ferns grow on trees, which makes them an epiphyte, or a plant that lives on another plant. They grow a pronounced protective shield at their base to protect their roots, which lends unique visual interest to the Staghorn. The shield starts out a bright, green color and fades into a chestnut brown. A popular way to display this indoor plant is to mount it on a vertical wooden plaque to mimic it’s natural growing environment and show off it’s shield (follow #staghornfern for inspiration). To further mimic their native environment, mist the soil and fronds of your Staghorn Fern. Since they absorb moisture through their leaves. They will be grateful! Water the soil once a week, ensuring that water is draining out. These tropical plants love bright, indirect light, so be sure to put them in an area of your room that receives a lot of natural light throughout the day, keeping an eye on them when first placing them in your home because they can burn in direct light.
 

  1. Sansevieria (Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Snake Plant)

These are some of the most popular indoor plants around because of their reputation as being impossible to kill, their beautiful variegation and structural beauty. Sansevieria prefer low light and are drought tolerant. You can let them get really dry before watering thoroughly. They come in many varieties and heights, so don’t stop at one—decorate and beautify your home with multiple varieties of Sansevieria!

 

  1. Pothos Epipremnum (Neon Devil’s Tongue, Creeping Charlie)

This bright chartreuse Pothos has little variegation and boldly stands out among other deeper green indoor plants. Like the Sansevieria, these happy plants are easy to care for and they require little water and light. Our indoor plant expert admits that he rarely waters his Pothos. He waits until the leaves start to droop before giving the root ball a good soak.

 

  1. Little Hope Philodendron

These are another indoor plant that are enjoying increased popularity recently. Closely related to the popular Monstera plant, Philodendrons also love bright light and are relatively easy to maintain. Let their soil surface get dry before thoroughly watering.

 

  1. Spathiphyllum (Peace Lily)

Long thought of as your grandmother’s indoor plant, Peace Lilies are growing in popularity. They have a white flower that comes out amid long and luxurious, deep green leaves. Because of this, Peace Lilies are water thirsty. They will start wilting quickly so you’ll have to keep a close eye on their soil and make sure it is always moist. Keep them in a well lit area, but out of direct sunlight.

What We Are Doing Wrong With Our Plant Babies

We brought in some of our own houseplants to have Cory take a look and tell us what we could be doing to help our own indoor plants grow healthier, stronger and more beautifully.

Alaynia’s Pilea

Cory said this Pilea should not have been repotted into a larger pot. Cory explains that this is a very common mistake indoor plant parents make—you buy a beautiful new plant and immediately want to get it into a more beautiful and spacious pot than the plastic container it came in. However, repotting a plant into a container that is too big introduces new soil that doesn’t have roots in it, so the plant will overextend itself trying to fill the soil with its roots at a pace that is often too much for the plant. If you have wet soil in the pot that the plant isn’t using, the soil tends to lose oxygen and it becomes a problem for the plant. For this specific Pilea, Cory says it might be worthwhile to very carefully repot the plant back into a smaller container.

In general, Cory recommends keeping plants in the plastic container they come in for awhile, even for a couple of years. These containers are usually selected by growers because they are a good fit for the plant. Only repot a plant into a bigger pot when you can’t seem to keep it properly watered. Plants that are crowded become very thirsty. As we mentioned above, if it is time to repot your plant, it would be a good idea to select a new pot that is only a couple inches bigger than the pot they were purchased in.

Lizzi’s Aloe

Cory says that this Aloe is most likely not getting the bright sunlight it needed during the winter time. Rather than having chunky leaves like most Aloes of this type, Lizzi’s plant has long growing leaves, which means that the plant is searching for light. Cory says Aloes want bright light, and it’s helpful to be mindful of the seasons. In the summertime don’t let the plant get sun all day long or else it will burn. (Considering that we are at such a high elevation, succulents are especially prone to sunburn in Utah). In the wintertime, however, put your Aloe in a south-facing window where they will get sun all day long.

Some Final Considerations When Selecting an Indoor Plant of Your Own

Make sure that your indoor plants aren’t toxic to the other babies in your home, whether fur or human. Lilies and Aloe are toxic to pets, among many other common indoor plants. Protect your pets from toxic indoor plants by double checking this plant toxicity list provided by the ASPCA.

We hope you are inspired to find a houseplant of your own! And if you want to show us some of your favorite indoor plants, or have other tips, please follow us on Facebook and Instagram so that you can tag (brand hashtag?) and share your plant photos with us. Happy indoor planting!

Lizzi Brosseau

Lizzi Brosseau, Digital Producer at KUED Channel 7.
Modern Gardener Host and Author

Lizzi works for KUED Channel 7 as a digital producer and host of Modern Gardener. Read more