Information Center

  • Garden Knowledge

Foliage Plant Basics

Foliage plants can clean the air in your home and make it a brighter and healthier place for your family. In today’s society, buildings and houses alike are made from a variety of different materials and often have massive air circulation systems. These systems can bring harmful chemicals into our living spaces and cause indoor pollution issues. Fortunately, there is a simple yet effective solution to this problem: house plants. Due to air intake through their leaves, plants act as a natural filter. All manner of chemicals and compounds move through plants and exit through their roots. During this process, bacteria and other microbes digest and break down these toxins, releasing clean air.

A primary factor in growing indoor foliage plants is providing the appropriate intensity and duration of light for a specific plant since they tend to differ greatly in their light requirements. Foliage plants are classified by the amount of light necessary for optimum growth:

High light plants – Most desirable for flowering plants, succulents and cacti, high light refers to sun filtered through a curtain or window surface; bright light without direct sun. Some foliage plants can tolerate direct sun if they are gradually introduced to it or in the winter months when the sun isn’t as strong. An example of proper indoor plant placement would be on a window sill with filtered light, by a north-facing window or in a room with windows all around.

Medium light plants – This type of light is produced by sunless windows or human-made lights. The majority of foliage plants can adapt and will thrive in areas where fluorescents are kept on most of the day.

Low light plants – Loosely referred to as light that is “bright enough to read by”, plants in this type of setting may require additional light sources for most vigorous growth. These plants are capable of tolerating very little light but will be healthier if given more light exposure.

Without sufficient humidity, leaves turn dull and papery; pointed leaves will turn brown at the tips. There are a few ways to raise the humidity around plants. Grouping plants keeps the moisture level higher than if air circulates freely around each individual plant. Other ways may be a home humidifier or putting plants on a tray with rocks and water.

The ideal temperature range for most house plants is between 60 and 80 degrees F. Avoid placing plants on cold window sills or areas where there may be warm/cold drafts from opening doors or heating/air conditioning vents. Drastic changes in temperature can damage the foliage and negatively affect overall plant health, however plants can adapt to temperatures changes over a period of time as long as they are gradual..

Symptoms of cold damage to plants include: leaf spots or blotches, downward-curled foliage, slowed growth and root rot. Excessively high temperatures cause yellowish-green foliage which may have dry, brown edges/tips or spindly growth.

Overwatering a foliage plant is a leading cause of plant death. Roots that are surrounded by water and have little oxygen available to them will soon rot, eventually killing the plant. Although there are individual exceptions, most foliage plants flourish best when the soil dries slightly between watering.

The best way to determine when a plant needs water is to feel the soil mix with your fingertip. If the soil mix is slightly moist or questionable, it is best to wait another day or two and re-test before watering.