The Perfect Formula for Healthy Gorgeous Houseplants

| February 18, 2013

Ok, I admit it. I’m kind of a houseplant nut! I just love growing, tending to and being surrounded by green things, both outdoors and in. So the number of potted plants in my house at any one time is often more than a couple of dozen.

I’ve been cultivating indoor plants for most of my life, ever since I was a young girl. And over the years I’ve gotten pretty darn good at it, if I do say so myself.

My plants are all really healthy, lush, full and thriving. And maybe most importantly, they’re completely pest free.

Indoor Plants Purify and Detoxify the Air

Did you know that NASA conducted a scientific study to test the ability of some of the most common indoor potted plants to remove toxins from the air in an enclosed space? They were looking for things that could help purify the air in closed, artificial environments both on earth and in space habitats.

What they found is that certain plants have the ability to take poisons such as formaldehyde, benzene and trichloroethylene, and other pollutants out of the air, into their leaves and down into their root systems where these toxins are neutralized and rendered harmless.

Green Plants Emit Pure Oxygen

Indoor plants – and all green plants for that matter – also take in carbon dioxide, while giving off oxygen. So we have a perfectly symbiotic relationship with them because they absorb the gaseous waste product we exhale, and they emit life giving gas we inhale.

Plants Add Beauty, Color and Life to Your Space

I love growing plants indoors, not just for the very practical reasons above, but also because they’re colorful and alive, and because I find their shapes and forms to be very pleasing aesthetically.

The Formula

So what is my formula for lovely, lush, flourishing, healthy houseplants?

It’s quite simple really, and pretty much boils down the 3 things: light, water, and fertile soil that’s rich in nutrients and biological organisms.

• The right amount of light

This is critical, as too much light can damage delicate, low light loving plants, while too little light will cause most plants to wither, languish and fade. If you’re not familiar with the light needs of any particular plant, it’s important to do some research so you know the approximate ideal levels of light under which that plant will thrive.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the cardinal directions in your location, so you know which direction your home’s windows face. Windows on the north side of your house provide the least amount of light, while south facing windows let in the most. And east and west windows, which get early morning and late afternoon light respectively, will average somewhere in the middle. (Of course if you live down under in the southern hemisphere, more light will come through your north facing windows and less through those facing south.)

• The right amount of water

Watering your plants correctly is also crucial to their good health. Too much water and a plant’s roots will rot, causing all sorts of problems in the leaves and stems above the soil; while too little water will cause the plant to wilt, wither, and eventually die.

Each plant is different, so for instance things like ferns tend to thrive with ‘wet feet,’ while cacti and succulents are happy to be left to dry out almost completely between waterings.

Just as with light requirements, it’s also very important to know your specific plant and it’s particular watering needs. So be sure it find out your plant’s name and do some research on how much water it requires, rather than trying to guess what it needs.

• Fertile soil – I think this is the real secret to my success at growing indoor plants!

After many years of experimentation, here’s my formula for the best potting soil I know how to make, which can also be used as a top dressing on potted plants to improve fertility and add extra nutrients to their existing soil.

These amounts are flexible and if you don’t have all these ingredients, that’s certainly ok – just use what’s available to you, listen to your intuition when mixing up your soil, and have fun with it!

• Start with a good quality packaged potting soil. One of my favorites is Black Gold Organic. For this recipe, you can use an entire 8 quart bag. Dump it into a large bucket or other container so you have room to mix the other ingredients in with it thoroughly.

• 3-4 handfuls of earthworm castings. This provides fertility in the form of lively soil microorganisms, along with all kind of bioavailable nutrients.

• 2-3 handfuls of guano – that’s another word for composted animal poop! I particularly like bat guano and seabird guano, but you could also use composted chicken, horse, cow or sheep manure etc. Just be sure it’s well aged and not fresh, otherwise it can burn the roots of your plants. Well composted manure adds biological activity and nutrients to your soil.

• 3-4 good handfuls of perlite, which is a white, very light crumbly substance of volcanic origin that adds porosity and helps lighten heavy soils, as well as promoting good drainage.

• 3-4 handfuls of vermiculate, which helps with soil aeration and retention of moisture, minerals and other nutrients in the soil.

• 2-3 handfuls of fine powdered rock dust, which adds trace minerals.

• 2-3 handfuls of fine powdered agricultural grade charcoal, which has a massive surface area comprised of tiny, micro-sized nooks and crannys to provide a perfect space for soil microorganisms to colonize. Charcoal also purifies the soil by drawing out any toxins or other impurities, and helps soils retain moisture and nutrients.

As far as fertilizers go, my preference is always to feed my plants with things that are completely natural, organic, and non-toxic.

I never buy those commercially prepared fertilizers, like those blue crystals or even those slow release fertilizer sticks that you stick into the soil. Rather I love to make worm casting or compost tea and add a bit of that to my watering can. I also often add a few spoonfuls of guano or well composted manure and mix them well into the water I use to water my plants.

Be sure to fertilize your plants only in the spring and summer, tapering off when the days start getting shorter in the fall, and stop all fertilization completely during the winter. This gives your plants a chance to rest and gather their energy for the growing season when the days begin to lengthen and the sunlight becomes more prominent throughout the spring and summer months.

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Category: Air, Biochar, Communion With Nature, Compost | Manure, Earth, Fertility | Bioactivity, Fire, Houseplants, Organic Gardening, Plant Health, Remineralization, Soil Ferility | Bioactivity, Soil Health, Soil Mineralization, Sunshine, Vermiculture, Water

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