sun loving plants
Rob Karosis
These sun-lovers, including a medicine plant (top), a croton (middle) and a ponytail palm (bottom), thrive with at least a few hours of direct light each day. Place them next to a window facing east or west.
Here's some good news for those of you who have trouble growing houseplants: The problem could lie in where you put the plants rather than in your being short a couple of gardening genes. Light, temperature and humidity have a lot to do with whether a plant thrives or dies.

We'll help you choose the right plants for your home, and then help you find the proper location and care for them.

Right Plant, Right Place

Light levels, humidity and temperature vary throughout every home. Match plants to specific conditions. Light. "Light is clearly the most limiting factor to growing plants indoors," says Deborah Brown, University of Minnesota extension horticulturist. "All plants need light to manufacture food, but the amount needed varies from one plant to another." Most houseplants thrive in moderate to bright, indirect light. Flowering plants and those with colored leaves usually need higher light levels than plants with green leaves. And a select group of plants, including the popular Chinese evergreen and cast-iron plant, will tolerate very low light levels. Plants show signs of stress when light levels are too low or too high. Weak, spindly growth indicates insufficient light. Variegated foliage will lose all or part of its markings. Signs of too much light are bleached or wilting leaves on plants like scheffleras, philodendrons, ferns and peperomias. Quick foliage drop, most dramatic on figs (Ficus species), can result from a sudden move from bright light to low. Even when you find what seems to be the ideal spot for your plants, it might be necessary to move the plant as the seasons—and light levels—change. Plants that thrive in the direct sun of a south- or west-facing window in winter might sunburn if left in the same spot in late spring or summer as light intensifies. In this case, move plants farther from the glass or filter light with a sheer curtain. Humidity. Most houseplants originate in tropical or semitropical regions, where the air is moist. Many of these plants can adapt to the drier air in our homes, but they do better when humidity is increased?especially during winter when most homes are heated. With insufficient humidity, leaves turn dull and papery. Brown leaf tips are another common symptom.
"One solution is to locate plants that need more humid air, such as ferns, in the kitchen or bathroom, where humidity tends to be highest," says Matthew Gardner, owner of The Wright Gardner, a San Francisco-based interior-plantscape company. Another option is to place a humidifier in the room where most of your plants are located.
There are several other ways to raise the humidity around plants. Grouping plants keeps the moisture level higher than if air freely circulates around each plant. Another way is is to place plants on a shallow waterproof tray of pebbles partially covered with water. The pebbles provide lots of extra surface area for evaporation. (But don't let the plants sit in the water, or roots could rot.)
Many people mist plants to raise the humidity level, but it's not effective. The water evaporates too fast to benefit plants.
Temperature. Houseplants are "houseplants" because they need the same conditions we do to survive. Most like daytime temperatures ranging from the upper 60s° to the mid-70s°F, and nights that are about 10°F cooler.
But be aware of cold or hot spots. For example, on extremely cold winter nights, temperatures on a windowsill could be considerably lower than elsewhere in the room. Tender plants can freeze unless you protect them. Keep foliage from touching windows and provide protection with a heavy curtain, or place a piece of cardboard between the glass and the plants.
Few plants tolerate cold drafts or hot air blowing on them. So, don't place plants next to an exterior door or heating duct.
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