= needs little water (applies primarily to cacti and succulents; these plants store water in such a way that the soil can be completely dry for a week or two without their being adversely affected)

= water regularly but not excessively; wait until the potting medium surface is dry to the touch before watering

= immerse pot in water for a few minutes each week and water frequently, never allowing the potting medium to become dry; do not, however, leave the base of the pot standing in water

= little to regular = regular to frequent

Minerals in hard water are taxing on house plants, and commercial water softeners do not improve water for the plants. Use rain water or filtered water if at all possible; otherwise repot more often.


I = cool. Maximum 13°C-16°C (55°F-61°F); minimum 5°C-7°C (41°F^5°F)

£ = cool to medium. Maximum 18°C-21°C (65°F-70°F); minimum 10°C-13°C (50°F-55°F)

& = medium. Maximum 22°C-29°C (72°F-84°F); minimum 14°C-17°C (57°F-63°F)

«= medium to warm. Maximum 30°C-32°C (86°F-89°F); minimum 18°C-20°C (64°F-68°F)

 = warm. Maximum 33°C-37°C (91°F-99°F); minimum 21°C-24°C (69°F-75°F)

Many house plants are native to the tropics, where they thrive under year-around warm temperatures, while cacti and succulents thrive in warm summers and cool winters, with wide daily temperature fluctuations. The closer one is able to imitate a plant's natural environment, the better the plant will grow (see Table A4.1).


= needs shading or indirect daylight

^^ = prefers bright light but needs to be screened from direct sunlight

= prefers direct sunlight

IP = shading to bright

^ = bright to direct light

As mentioned previously, improper lighting is second only to overwatering as a cause of problems for house plants. They are frequently given too little light or occasionally too much. A south-facing windowsill may be ideal for certain plants in midwinter but excessively bright in midsummer; conversely, a north-facing windowsill may have enough light for certain plants in midsummer but not in midwinter. Adjustable screens permit manipulation of daylight to suit the plants involved.

Humidity will tolerate dry air dry to regular will tolerate the air in most houses provided it is mist-sprayed occasionally

= regular to humid

= needs high humidity; use a humidifier if possible

Virtually all plants with i^r symbols benefit from having a pan of gravel with water beneath the pot.

Potting Med ium

= requires a porous, slightly acid medium that drains immediately

= requires a loam that is slightly alkaline (e.g., a mixture of sand and standard commercial potting medium)

= requires a peaty potting mixture and acid fertilizer

Stern-Jansky-Bidlack: I Appendices I 4. House Plants and Home I I © The McGraw-Hill

Introductory Plant Biology, Gardening Companies, 2003

Ninth Edition

House Plants and Home Gardening

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