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Yonatan Ya'akobi is a qualified garden designer and horticulturist with over 20 year's experience. A former head gardener of the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, he specializes in creating gardens suitable for a Mediterranean climate. In addition, he teaches and lectures on gardening at professional and amateur gatherings.
For those who have no space for a garden, or for those who yearn to be surrounded by greenery all year long, indoor gardening is an ideal solution. Indoor plants can transform a dull room into a vibrant living space. If you are used to outdoor gardening, you will find that there are similarities between indoor and outdoor gardening. The principles of good design - simplicity, variety, scale, balance, unity and emphasis - apply equally to indoor and outdoor gardening. Just as landscaping elements, such as raised beds or water features, are integral to an outdoor garden, so too are decent pots and containers indoors. Trying to save money by buying plastic containers is not an advisable option - after all, you wouldn't buy a plastic table for your living room, would you?
There are, however, several differences between indoor and outdoor gardening. This article explains these essential differences and informs readers about the techniques required for indoor gardening.
Plants require adequate light in order to perform the most basic function of photosynthesis. Only those plants that can tolerate low-level light intensity can be grown indoors, so don't try growing a rose bush in your living room! In light of the above, where you place your plants is crucial. Remember that the light levels drop exponentially the further the plant is from the window. In places without natural light, it's necessary to provide, at the very least, the light from two 150 Watt bulbs.
Water and Oxygen
We know that all plants require water. What is not so obvious is that the roots require adequate oxygen for respiration. There are two factors which determine whether the plant has access to the right balance of water and oxygen: One is the potting soil and the other is the way the plants are watered. Never use ordinary soil in a pot. Always use an artificial potting medium. They are readily available at plant nurseries. Secondly, irrigate until excess water flows out of the drainage hole and then wait until the top 2 cm or so of "soil" have dried out before the next watering This rule-of-thumb method holds good for most plants, although the tricky plants such as Fittonia may not thrive under this regime.
Plants grown in pots are absolutely dependent on fertilizer as a source of the mineral nutriment essential for their development. Excluding flowering plants, perhaps (which are not easy to grow indoors anyway), an annual feed with a 12-month slow release fertilizer is often enough.
Ferns such as the mainstay Nephrolepis are effective when massed. They are particularly sensitive to the lack of humidity caused by heaters and air conditioners, so remember to spray them with water regularly.
An alternative method to ordinary containers (i.e., containers which allow water to drain out) is the hydroponic method, whereby the plants are grown in a sealed container. A specific water level is maintained in order to create the necessary balance between air and water. Overall, the hydroponic method is simpler and more satisfactory than the usual method.
What Plants Should I Buy?
So what plants are worth buying? The range of flowering plants is very restricted. African Violets are difficult to maintain beyond a year or two. Poinsettias are a possibility. In my opinion, it's better to create form and color with such foliage plants as Epiremnum, Shefflera, Dracaena, Spathipyllum (also provides white flowers) and Aglaonema. For vertical emphasis, one can try Ficus benjamina (never to be planted outdoors because of its aggressive roots) and palms such as Chamaedorea.
Although there are certain similarities between indoor and outdoor gardening, there are far more differences. If you are only used to outdoor gardening, you have to make sure that your plants receive the appropriate care suitable for indoor plants. Remember, also, that plants that can be grown outdoors cannot necessarily be grown indoors - there are those plants that cannot tolerate low-level intensity. If you make sure that you select the appropriate plants for an indoor environment, and see to it that they receive proper care, you can create your very own beautiful indoor landscape.
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Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal or professional advice but rather a discussion of general issues. Readers are advised to receive professional advice before making any decisions or entering into transactions.