Garden Dirt

What Plants Work Best Indoors?


By Ray Greenstreet

As the days continue getting shorter, we spend more time indoors—away from fresh air and gardens we have cultivated over the last 6 months, but you don’t have to leave nature out in the cold. There are lots of good reasons for keeping houseplants from aesthetics to improving your health, but if you are like us, needing to be surrounded by plants is reason enough.

Aside from the labels we attach to plants, it can be difficult to draw a hard line between what separates a houseplant from plants that go outdoors. In nature, there is no such thing as a houseplant, and nature is, of course, where all plants come from.

Plants that do well outside in areas with cold winters, like here, actually need winter as part of their life cycle, so tropical plants tend to do far better with temperature-controlled environments, but that’s the only factor. All plants need light, but some need a lot more than others. In a tropical forest, the treetops can get over 1000 times more sunlight than plants at ground level. Typical office buildings are about 1/200th as bright as a sunny day outside, so only plants that can cope with extreme shade can thrive. Even in a sunny window, as much as half of the sunlight could be blocked or reflected away. Other factors including humidity requirements and how many leaves or petals the plants drop also limit which plants make good houseplants. Altogether, good houseplants tend to be tropical plants that live in less light than normal outdoor plants, are able to take some neglect, and stay clean and tidy with little maintenance.

That’s not to say all plants sold as houseplants are easy and good in low light areas—Each plant has unique care requirements, but they can be separated into a few categories based on light and water needs. High, low, or medium light corresponds to directly in a sunny window, only office-like artificial light, or somewhere in-between, respectively. It’s safe to water most potted plants as soon as the soil is mostly dry, but some plants like their roots to dry out completely. Many of the most popular houseplants like snake plants, ZZ plants, philodendrons, aglaonemas, and pothos gained their prominence by thriving under almost any light level they are place in. Others like dracaenas, anthuriums, and bromeliads are forgiving of almost any level of water they are given. There are no rules that are without exceptions, but no common houseplant wants to be standing in water or stay wet all the time and of them need light. They are living creatures and just as dependent on their caretakers as any dog or cat, and though they won’t bark or meow when they need something, there are subtle, quite ways plants can tell you when they are not happy.

Trying to figure out proper plant care leaves many feeling defeated, or like a plant serial-killer. At Greenstreet, we encounter this sentiment frequently as we coach and advise both new and experienced plant owners. Everyone should to be able to succeeded with plants in the homes or offices, and we have a new smart planter that will simplify the care and remove the guesswork from growing plants indoors. We call it Brēth (pronounced “breathe”) because of the unique way the system continually infuses air and water into the soil around the roots. The extra air around the roots keeps them healthy without drying them out and allows dust and airborne chemicals to be trapped or absorbed so the plant can break them down and use them to grow. Most plants will clean air a little bit, but the patented Brēth system supercharges plants’ natural ability to remove Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) by 200 times.

We grow plants because we love them, but getting fresh, clean air from your houseplants is one more way to make your inside spaces, this winter, a bit more like the outdoors you love.

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