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Growing Indoor Plants

The Martha Stewart Show, January 2011

What's the No. 1 cause of houseplant death? The answer may surprise you: It's overwatering.

Most common indoor plants come from desert or dry environments, so they're used to dry conditions and can't tolerate too much water, says the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Uli Lorimer. The trick is to be disciplined and water them only when necessary -- usually every couple of weeks.

Gnats on Plants (And Other Issues)
Overwatering is just one of many causes of early houseplant demise. Other culprits include bugs, pot-bound roots, climate factors, and lack of nutrients. Address common indoor plant issues with these easy solutions:

Infestation
Be sure to inspect plants often so you can address bug issues at the first signs of trouble: sticky spots, holes, and frayed edges. If you see a bug, squish it with your fingers, a sponge dipped in soapy water, or a cotton swab soaked in rubbing alcohol. If you must use insecticide, try a natural solution, such as Indoor Pharm concentrate from Pharm Solutions.

Pot-Bound Roots
If you see roots wrapping around and over the surface of the soil, that's a sign you need a bigger pot. Try re-potting with new soil for a fresh start.

Dead Leaves
Yellowing or dead leaves, called chlorosis, may be a sign that your plant is not located in the ideal climate. After cleaning the plant of dead leaves, you may need to relocate it to a sunnier spot and/or keep it in a warmer place. Chlorosis may also indicate a lack of nutrients -- try treating your plant once a month with an organic fertilizer, such as Neptune's Harvest.

Plants for Shady Rooms
Add life to a shady corner of your home with any one of these easy-to-grow varieties:

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)
This glossy-leaved houseplant tolerates very dry conditions -- in fact, it does not like to be kept wet. Like most houseplants in low-light conditions, it grows slowly.

Rhino Grass (Sansevieria Deserti)
Rhino grass grows out like a fan, and its cylindrical leaves give it a unique shape and texture. It's among the most drought-tolerant houseplants -- during winter, it can be watered just once a month.

Snake Plant or Mother-in-Law's Tongue (Sansevieria Trifasciata)
Named for snakeskin-like banding, the snake plant features sword-shaped leaves and greenish-white flowers. During the winter, the plant only needs enough water to keep the foliage from wilting.

Ruffles (Anthurium Plowmanii)
With large, coarse leaves, this Brazilian native plant has a distinct tropical feel. In the wild, its leaves can grow up to 6 1/2 feet wide. Ruffles plants are shade-tolerant, but prefer some light.

Plants for Sunny Rooms
Got a sunny spot that could use a pick-me-up? Try one of these sun-loving houseplants:

Crown of Thorns (Euphorbia Milii)
The crown of thorns only grows to a height of 1 foot, so it's a great choice for small spaces. It flowers freely throughout the year and is very drought-tolerant.

Haworthia (Haworthia Sp.)
The haworthia is small and compact -- an excellent choice for a sunny windowsill. It only needs water once a month and is said to thrive on neglect.