Plants make homes out of houses

By Ben Stark, Staff Writer

Despite the cold, it is quite pretty outside this time of year. All the Christmas lights reflecting off another dusting of fluffy snow. Green lawns and Christmas decorations just never looked right back when I lived in Southern California. But there were some trade-offs. This is Minnesota, and the snow eventually gets old. Why not brighten up your living space this winter with some tropical house plants for your dorm room or apartment?

There are hundreds of different plants that you can grow indoors, but some varieties are better than others. Every plant needs a specific amount of light. Since the sun typically goes down before five o’clock in the winter time, lighting is the most important consideration. Southfacing windows are the only natural spots for plants that require a lot of light. During the holidays, the best plant for a high-light area is the Norfolk pine, a tropical Christmas tree. As an added bonus, Bachmann’s, Home Depot, or Menards will have them pre-decorated for you. Other high-light alternatives are the spineless yucca elephantipes or the dracaena marginata. Both of these options will flourish with minimal maintenance.

Succulents are popular indoor plants. They thrive in medium to full sun and require little maintenance. You can purchase them as decorations or grow them from cuttings. Make sure that the cuttings sit for a day or two to prevent rot and disease in the new plant. The most common problems with succulents are overwatering and inadequate sunlight, so be sure to only water them weekly or so and get them plenty of sun. Adding rocks to the pot also makes a nice contrast.

Some of the best low-light plants are also great air purifiers. Peace lilies have broad leaves and white flowers. They are hardy plants that will survive for years. A variety of ivies grow well in low light and require little maintenance, just occasionally cut back the stray shoots to keep the ivy neat and strong. The Heart-Shaped Philodendron is one of my favorite plants for indirect lighting. It grows in all directions with dark green heart-shaped leaves.

Green plants are great, but flowers can change the atmosphere of a room. Orchids are popular indoor flowers that are usually pink or white. They bloom for two to four months and can be watered with melting ice cubes. It doesn’t get much easier than that. I also enjoy paperwhites, bulb flowers that takes four to six weeks to bloom. Their white flowers give off a fresh scent and look good in glass vases.

Regardless of the temperature outside, house plants will thrive indoors as long as they receive the right growing conditions. Every plant is different, but almost all of them need soil, water and light. Read the labels and research specific growing guides online to help care for your plants. Nothing makes a dorm look and feel like home more than a healthy plant.

*Featured photo by Ben Stark

This article first appeared in the Friday, December 15, 2017, Edition of The Echo.