Cultivating a Thriving Indoor Jungle

Cultivating a Thriving Indoor Jungle

Growing houseplants is something of a fine art. With a little bit of time, energy, and finesse, you can cultivate a beautiful and thriving indoor jungle that brims with character. A few basic steps are vital to the process if you wish to create a space that’s colorful, abundant, and reminiscent of the flourishing plants and blossoms outside.

Establishing the proper temperature, ensuring there’s adequate lighting, watering on a regular schedule, and fertilizing as needed are all vital to the indoor gardening lifestyle. While the rules aren’t set in stone and depend primarily on the types of plants that you grow, these steps are fundamental to the process and vital to the long-term health and longevity of your jungle.

Establish the Temperature

Temperature has a strong influence on your plants’ growth patterns. In homes with central heating, the average standard temperature for success is 72° Fahrenheit. There’s flexibility where this is concerned, however, as many indoor plants fall into the subtropical and tropical categories. Heat and humidity, then, can help those particular varieties thrive in temperatures as high as 80° F. Be mindful of what your plants can and cannot tolerate. Varieties that don’t perform well in low temperatures or drafty conditions should be kept away from doors and windows.

Elevated humidity levels also work to your indoor jungle’s benefit. A single plant alone can increase moisture in the room simply through its natural photosynthetic process. Grouping several plants with one another, however, amplifies the effect. They’ll all release the water they ingest, creating a comfortably humid environment that safeguards their long-term health. Be sure to place them close to each other for optimal effect. You can also use a humidifier in the room if you’re concerned about dropping levels.

Check the Lighting

Almost nothing matters more than providing your plants with proper lighting. For each one in your indoor jungle, you should focus on their origins and environment. Some tropical houseplants may prefer direct light, while others might benefit more from indirect lighting if they grew under a canopy of trees. Many of those may even be relatively tolerant of slightly dimmer environments, provided they receive enough occasional light.

At a bare minimum, most of the plants in your indoor jungle will benefit from up to eight hours of light a day. You can usually tell if they haven’t received adequate illumination in a while by their overall condition. Common signs include leaf shedding, pale leaves, and little to no new growth. If all of the plants in the jungle suddenly appear lackluster, with leaves that wilt, green colors that look faded or weak, stems that become long and droopy, and patches of yellow or scalding marks, it could be that they’re getting far more than they need. Try adjusting their position to improve their appearance and health.

To ensure that your plants thrive, it’s helpful to take your home’s lighting situation into account before you purchase anything. Can you accommodate plants that require partial sunlight and some shade? Do you have the space to accommodate bright lighting without the need for direct sun exposure? These factors matter and can help you cultivate an indoor jungle that looks as healthy as possible based on what you can provide it.

Water as Needed

You may be tempted to feed your indoor jungle a constant supply of water in your efforts to ensure that it thrives. But, as many newcomers are surprised to learn, that can backfire. It’s a bit of an imperfect science because there’s no rulebook when it comes to providing water to indoor plants. Often, you need to determine the right time to do so and the amount that’s needed by focusing on the condition of the soil. At a bare minimum, soil should feel moist throughout, but never so wet that it becomes spongy and soggy.

It’s easiest to determine when watering is necessary by simply touching the soil. The top inch or so should feel relatively dry before you water again. When you do so, water the soil evenly, taking the time to ensure that moisture begins to seep out from the drainage holes situated at the bottom of the planter.

As with sunlight, you need to be aware of signs of watering too much. This is a serious problem that can leave your indoor jungle vulnerable to premature failure. Among the most common indications are mold or fungus that form on the surface and standing water that pools at the base of the container. You may also notice that both aging and fresh leaves start to fall. They may also develop a brownish tinge or look like they’re rotting. You can investigate the bottom of the container, too. If the roots look thick, mushy, or have an odor, the plant may be overwatered.

By contrast, too little water can also produce some serious problems that affect the health and longevity of your plant. Leaf production may diminish significantly, for example, and when they do finally grow, they might appear sheer. Note, too, if the leaves start to take on a brownish or yellowish color. They might also curl upward along the edges, and begin to fall. The same might occur with any flowers that grow in your jungle.

It’s a balance, and it may take some time to learn how and when to properly water your plants. As a general rule of thumb, check the plant’s soil a couple of days after watering to ensure that it still feels fairly damp. Remember, too, that watering also plays a role in helping keep humidity levels up. If that’s your goal, you need to spritz only the leaves very lightly at least once a day. Less is always best where water is concerned — you can always add more as needed, but you can’t take back what you apply.

Fertilize When Necessary

It’s good to keep some fertilizer handy to ensure that the indoor jungle remains its healthiest and receives all of the nutrients that it needs. During its earliest growth phases, it’s best to use a balanced product — an all-purpose 20-20-20 fertilizer is enriched with equal amounts of nitrogen, which assists in the photosynthesis process, phosphorus, which bolsters root production, and potassium, which protects plants and makes them less prone to suffering disease.

If you’re concerned about overfertilization, consider a formula that contains reduced percentages of the macronutrients instead. A 7-9-5 product, for example, is a suitable choice for a beginner largely because it prevents you from adding too much to your indoor jungle. Adding more nitrogen than necessary could cause plants to grow abnormally, with abundant space between the leaves. That promotes a less healthy, less abundant-looking plant that takes away from the beauty of your jungle.

A 16-16-16 blend is generally appropriate, too, if you know that your houseplants could benefit from a little more of each macronutrient. The leafiest of plants, like ZZ plants, definitely need enough nitrogen to look their best, so you may need to seek the guidance of a horticulturist or a knowledgeable garden center professional to help you make the most appropriate choice if you’re stumped.

That calls to attention the need to help flowering plants thrive. Given that nitrogen’s primary role is to help with leaf growth, you might not want to use something too rich in that particular micronutrient when you have blossoms in your home. Once the plant has established leaves and stems, it’s time to focus on the flowers. With a low-nitrogen fertilizer, you can establish plants for your indoor jungle that produce the type of bountiful blooms you’ll stare at for hours at a time. To make life simpler, you can even opt for spray versions to reduce the likelihood of overapplying the product, and to ensure that your plants receive just enough of what they truly need to thrive.

Similar rules apply to cacti and various other types of succulents. There are cactus-specific fertilizers that play a significant role in helping the plants thrive. In general, they don’t require as much nitrogen either, so treat them much as you would your flowering plants. As for going organic, you don’t really need to worry about it given that the plants are established in an indoor setting. However, if you want to help the soil thrive, adding an organic product to your jungle care routine can be helpful. There’s also generally less danger of overfertilizing when you use an organic product, as they tend to contain lesser amounts of the macronutrients.

But don’t add fertilizer indiscriminately. Indoor plants that appear lackluster may not need it at all — watering might be all that it takes to help them recover and regain their integrity. You might also need to make adjustments to their lighting environment. Assess both of those factors and test different variables before you add fertilizer.

Once you have your care program established, you can start to focus on developing a stylish indoor jungle that brings your home to life. You might arrange different sizes together to create an eye-catching focal point, or stick with several small or mid-sized options for a less dramatic look in a smaller space. The right plants make a statement and breathe new life into the home.