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POV: The Pleasures of Indoor Gardening

The writer is a Community Educator with the Albany County Cornell Cooperative Extension

Winter has a habit of being very long in the Northeast so having a few plants indoors can bridge the gap between the seasons, especially for the gardener.

The term “houseplant” is a misnomer as most houseplants are tropical foliage plants that grow outside in warmer climates but readily adapt to life indoors as long as their caretakers know what it takes to make them happy. Check out the light exposure where you want to have a plant and if in doubt, choose something that will tolerate low light levels. An eastern (morning sun) exposure is ideal for many plants. Things get complicated when people want to use plants decoratively which often means placing them in a corner or away from the window.

If you are new to indoor gardening, stick to the easy going plant choices such as pothos, philodendron or snake plant. If you need a plant with some size for a dim area then look for the Cast Iron Plant, Aspidistra elatior. A favorite of the Victorians, this humble plant can survive very low light and cool temperatures.

The Chinese Evergreen, Aglaonema, is another good low light choice and it will tolerate very dry air. Assess your environment as well as the light exposure to fine tune the right plant for the location.

Try to purchase plants on a temperate day but if the temperature is close to freezing then insist that your new plant be wrapped for protection. Wrapping plants is not done automatically at many stores today so the consumer needs to be wary. Careful wrapping is crucial at holiday time especially when purchasing poinsettias as they are extremely intolerant of cold and the damage will begin to show within a few hours after exposure. It would be wise to warm up the car if it is very cold as even that dip in temperature can affect a wrapped poinsettia.

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