For some of us, cold weather is just around the corner and I, for one, am already mourning the death of all the lively green plant life that summertime brings with it. Urban gardens are a fun and beautiful alternative to outdoor plant life, and they hold the power to keep your spirits up no matter the season.
Aside from bringing color and allure into your life, house plants can benefit your physical health by purifying and naturally humidifying the air in your home. These benefits will ultimately allow you to breathe easier and potentially even eliminate ailments such as a dry cough or a sore throat. If improving your physical health is your primary reason for wanting to begin urban gardening, aloe and eucalyptus plants both have huge health benefits in addition to cleaning the air in your home. Aloe is known to expedite the healing process in the event of a burn, and eucalyptus helps to relieve congestion, so if you’re a sucker for home remedies, these plants will likely meet your desires.
So now let’s talk about what specifically you might want living in said garden. If you’re looking for low maintenance plants, the aforementioned Aloe plant is a good choice, and here are a few other low maintenance options to consider:
- Spider Plant
- Rubber Tree
- Exotic Angel Plants
- Areca Palm
- Jade Plant
If you’re looking for easier and more forgiving house plants, these are definitely the way to go, as none of them has a particularly demanding feeding/watering schedule, and mostly they thrive in non direct sunlight (with the exception of spider plants, which in my personal experience, grow beautifully out of control when in direct sunlight).
Not all plants are so easy going though, and perhaps you’ve got a little extra time in your schedule, and are seeking more challenging inhabitants for your urban jungle? Here are some of the indoor plants that consume a bit more of my time than the rest:
- Cacti & Succulents (Fun Fact: All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti)
- Elephant Ear
- Banana Plant
- Autumn Fern
- Zebra Plant
Each of these plants require varying and particular care methods, and if you’re planning to include them in your collection, you must be willing to factor in weather change, soil preference, sun exposure, feeding, watering, and so on. High maintenance plants are strenuous, but the vibrancy and charm they can bring to your home makes them absolutely worth every bit of extra effort, and as I have close relationships with each of these plant varieties, here’s what I’ve learned thus far:
Cacti & Succulents
- Unless you’re mixing your own soil, always use soil formulated specifically for a cactus plant.
- Keeping succulents or cacti in unglazed planters helps to promote easier drainage for excess water, which is absolutely vital in caring for these plants.
- The higher the temperature and light level in your home, the more often watering is necessary. As a general rule, it’s best to monitor the soil and water these plants when the soil becomes dry (mine usually require watering about every 3 weeks).
- The richer the soil, the healthier the plant.
- Periodic use of a humidifier (about 4 times a week, in my case) in this plant’s environment can keep it from becoming overly dry.
- The proper amount of sunlight is absolutely key in the case of this plant. Direct sunlight is not your friend, so when choosing a place for your Elephant Ear in your home, try to place it in the vicinity of a well lit window, without placing it directly in front of said window (aim for at least 5 feet of space between the plant and window).
- Water requirements vary based on plant size and environment, but a good starting point is once every week.
- Thriving in humidity and direct sunlight, this is the ultimate indoor tropical plant, and much like the aforementioned Elephant Ear, it benefits greatly from periodic use of a humidifier. Their differentiating factor is sunlight, as a Banana Plant does best when receiving as much sunlight as possible, so a happy home for a plant such as this is directly in front of a well lit window (preferably void of any heavy curtains).
- Fertilize once a month.
- Like a cactus or a succulent, the best way to go about watering a Banana Plant is to monitor it’s soil and water when the soil becomes dry, lightly spraying the plant’s foliage between watering.
- As you may have guessed by it’s name, this fern does best in full shade.
- Avoid letting soil become dry by regularly watering (my Autumn Fern requires watering once a week in order to keep it’s soil consistently moist).
- Bringing us back to plants that prefer a lot of sunlight, this herb is at it’s healthiest when it has full access to the sun.
- Pinch back the basil about every two weeks, doing so encourages new leaves to continuously grow.
- Fertilize bi-weekly, with a fertilizer containing high levels of nitrogen (my basil plants do best when given a mixture of 2 parts water, 1 part fertilizer).
- Yet another tropical plant, the Zebra Plant, benefits from using a humidifier in your home at least 4 times a week.
- Regularly spray foliage in between watering this plant, which most Zebra Plants require roughly every 10 days, or when the soil begins to dry. These plants are at their best when in soil that is kept consistently damp, but not wet.
- Try fertilizing using a diluted, basic fertilizer at least once a month.
*Taking into account that not everyone will be thrilled by the idea of spraying water around their home in order to spritz any necessary foliage, it should be noted that there is an alternative to regular spraying! If it’s more convenient, the other method I’ve used is keeping the pot containing your plant inside a shallow tray containing rocks and water. Much like spritzing your plants regularly, this method allows moisture to get to your plant without the risk of excessively watering soil and roots.
No matter how advanced your green thumb is, incorporating a sort of urban jungle into your home decor can bring life to your space, better your mood, and even boost your health, so it’s my hope that the above information will help you achieve all of your natural decor goals, and give you a thriving, personal jungle to enjoy from the comfort of your sofa.