Most of the plants we grow indoors are simply outdoor plants from warmer countries. They have their origins in rain forests and deserts, mountainous regions, and wide, open plains. They have the same likes and dislikes in terms of light and water as the plants we have in our own gardens, the main difference is that they usually have a higher requirement for warmth and humidity.
The effect of trying to grow a plant in unsuitable conditions is the same indoors as out — it will become stressed as it tries to cope, vulnerable to attack by pests and diseases, and will ultimately give up the struggle and die. Unfortunately, as far as indoor plants are concerned, this happens so often that they have come to be regarded as short-term and expendable.
Indoor plantings tend to develop on a much more casual basis than outdoor ones, with most plants being bought because they catch the attention. We have all succumbed to the “impulse buy” at the garden center or nursery, when a glorious display can tempt the most resolute, especially at those special times of year, such as Christmas or Mother’s Day. For a few weeks, the plant looks lovely, then it fades and is thrown away — but is this really all there is to it? How much longer would the plant flower if its growing needs were really attended to? Could it survive to flower again next year? Could that one plant produce others to fill out the display or to share with friends?
All the tender, loving care in the world will not help a plant which has been poorly treated before you buy it. It is much better to buy from a nursery or garden center where attention has been given to the plants’ well-being. Some centers grow their own plants, so there is no stress from transportation, drying out in a storage area, or sudden changes in temperature. Even centers without growing facilities can generally be relied upon to keep the conditions as good as possible until the plants are sold.
At the opposite extreme, a plant sold from a garage driveway may have been subjected to cold wind and exhaust fumes, which will already have put the plant under stress from which it may never recover.
Take the time to find out where your plant prefers to live. Most houses have a variety of conditions available, from a warm, humid kitchen to a cool bedroom. Whether it is bright or dark, warm or cold, there is almost always a plant to fit the situation. The key is finding out which one. On this website, we have tackled each area in turn, giving a list of suggestions for plants in each case. Whether you want a lush foliage plant or a pretty flowering one, something to climb or something to trail gracefully from a hanging basket, there is a plant for all but the most inhospitable of situations.
Having chosen your plant, the next step is to keep it alive and thriving, and the key to success is to take time to get to know the plants in your care.