Our new column Space It Up! is here to provide you tips and tricks for your home and garden. Its authors and topics will bring you fresh info for Sierra home care.
Like many, you’ve probably glanced at your garden, only to find that squirrels dug up the seeds you planted, or you forgot to water them three times a day. In the Sierra Nevada, outdoor plants face an extreme environment with low overall moisture and high sunlight. But in indoor gardening, our homes provide a temperate atmosphere that’s suitable for succulents and tropical plants.
“A lot of tropical plants are adapted to being down in the canopy and at lower elevation, so they like really bright light but not hard, direct sunlight,” said Eric Larusson, 34-year co-owner of Villager Nursery in Truckee. Even succulents prefer diffused light, and will turn a purplish-brown if left in direct sunlight. Larusson’s solution to this is to move indoor plants to a position where they’ll get a lot of light, but not direct sunlight. This can change with the season, so you may want to move the plant around to different windows.
Plus, you can pot any indoor plant in “cactus mix” soil, which is aerated and offers good drainage. “Since we’re a little higher in elevation with less oxygen in the air — roots need lots of oxygen — it helps with that,” he said. “More people kill their plants from overwatering than under-watering. So the cactus mixes are designed to hold moisture, be well drained, and hold nutrients.”
You should water your indoor plant “when the soil is dry, or when it’s wilting. They wilt as they dry out,” Larusson says.
Larusson picked three houseplants that will thrive and beautify:
Heart Leaf Philodendron
This dark green leafy hanging plant is tolerant of less attentive care, grows attractive full vines, and doesn’t need a ton of watering. Move the philodendron cordatum around the house depending on sunlight, and water it when the leaves wilt.
“Every single person should grow aloe vera … there’s nothing better for burns,” Larusson says.
Aloe vera gel has been shown to be more effective in burn treatment than the traditional competitor, silver sulfadiazine cream. This plant requires diffused light and minimal watering, and the waxy leaves will remain full and supple as long as it doesn’t get too dry or too hot.
The spathiphyllum is a favorite houseplant, native to the tropics, due to majestic, long-lasting white blooms. “It needs minimal sunlight to thrive, and is happy when watered once a week. It can survive only being watered when the leaves wilt,” Larusson says. Plus, a NASA Clean Air Study found that the peace lily cleans indoor air of certain environmental contaminants, including benzene and formaldehyde.