Get the Most out of Your Flowers, Indoors and Out

A pretty flowerbox with starfish affixed

There is something about growing flowers that is extremely therapeutic, and that is why so many people enjoy having flowers both inside and outside of their home. Flowers add color, charm and character and provide endless opportunities for interaction with nature. There are some basic principles of plant care that can make the experience so much more enjoyable and the plants so much healthier.

Indoor Plant Considerations

Humidity - Dry air is harmful to plants grown indoors, especially those like the bird of paradise, which requires high humidity. African violets and orchids are also tropical beauties that only thrive when their humidity requirements are fulfilled. Many homes and offices have very dry heat, and it is imperative to provide extra humidity for certain indoor plant species. Be sure that you understand the humidity requirements of your plant before you bring it home. Some plants will do better in bathrooms or if misted daily.

Water - More houseplants are killed due to over watering than anything else. For some reason, people get a plant home and completely disregard the tag that states that it only needs water once a week. Too much water causes root rot and is fatal to most houseplants. Many plants, like the rex begonia, don't need to be watered until they are almost completely dry. A good rule of thumb is to stick your finger, to your knuckle, into the soil, and if the soil is moist, don’t water, if it is dry, water until the water drains out of the bottom of the container. Never allow an indoor plant to sit in water, always drain the excess away immediately after watering. Always use distilled water, as tap water contains harsh chemicals that can harm plants.

Fertilizer - Most houseplants benefit from a dose of fertilizer, but only during the growing season. Liquid or powder fertilizers made specifically for houseplants are the best choice. Research the type of plant food that is best for your plant before fertilizing.

Outdoor Plant Considerations

Plant Choice - Getting the most out of your outdoor plants begins with understanding which plants grow best in your particular growing region. If you are unsure of which plants will do best, visit your local Cooperative Extension Office for information. Making the wrong plant choice truly takes the fun out of gardening.

Planting Requirements - Pay particular attention to planting requirements. Some plants thrive in acidic soil while others prefer a more neutral base. Some plants like full sun while others will burn up unless they get some shade. A soil sample will reveal what you may need to add to your soil to make it as healthy as possible. You cannot go wrong with adding organic compost, which will help improve the soil structure immensely.

Care and Maintenance - Some people bring plants home and get them into the ground but fail to follow through with any maintenance. Although plants vary on the amount of care they require, most require a particular amount of water weekly, fertilizer, and many need pruning in order to maintain their appearance and/or health. The knockout rose is a good example of a plant that does not require extensive pruning for its health, but does for its shape. However, it is imperative that pruning be done correctly so as not to injure the plant.

Seed Collection - Enjoying annual plants does not have to come an end with the season. Seed collection and preservation allows you to enjoy the offspring of your favorite plants year after year. The moonflower is a beautiful and fragrant vine that produces large, easy-to-harvest seeds. Collecting moonflower seeds in the fall allows you to enjoy the plant repeatedly. Follow specific seed collection and preservation instructions for each plant for best results.