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The Greener View: Plant Survival

Jeff Rugg on

This is the third article in a series of five helping millennials take care of houseplants.

The tropics have wet, humid jungles and dry deserts. Both areas have many kinds of plants that will easily grow indoors. They also have many plants that will grow in homes but require a little extra care by an experienced gardener.

The best thing a beginner gardener can do is to only buy plants that completely meet the conditions that already exist in his or her home. Don't buy too many plants, and only buy more plants after you are used to taking care of the existing ones.

Here are some easy-to-take-care-of foliage plants. "Easy to take care of" doesn't mean you can't kill it; it just means the plant is tolerant of several attempts on its life before it succumbs. Aloe vera, agave, aglaonema (Chinese evergreen), aspidistra (the well-named cast-iron plant), cactus, cycads, dracaena, dieffenbachia, ivy, small palms, philodendron, pothos, schefflera, sansevieria and spider plants are all good foliage plants. (The great thing about ivy is that it may still look alive after it is dead.)

Many of the foliage plants will bloom if given the right conditions, but the following plants are good long-lasting bloomers: African violet, anthurium, begonia, geranium, Phalaenopsis orchid and spathiphyllum (peace lily).

The best place to buy houseplants is a greenhouse or nursery that has employees trained in plant care. Explain your room's lighting conditions and temperature range to them, and have them help you decide which plants you should try.

One of the major concerns that millennials had in the OnePoll survey was whether or not a plant should be grown indoors or outdoors. If the plant is small enough to move outside during the summer, it will probably benefit from going outside. Just don't move it into the sun too fast. Imagine the sunburn you would get by being indoors for six months and then being set in the sun for eight hours on the first day. Ouch! Plants should only be getting the amount of sun they would get in their natural habitats, so a low-light plant should stay in low light, indoors and out. The low light level outdoors will be brighter than the low light level indoors, but that is OK. Move an indoor bright-light plant out into low light. After a week, move it into medium light, and after another week, move it into the bright light outside.

If you are putting the plants on a high deck or another windy location, be careful to not let them blow off the deck. Plants set on railings should be anchored in place. The leaves of some plants cannot take a lot of wind whipping them around, so they may need a little more shelter.


In the fall, most people wait until the last minute before bringing in the plants. They wait until there is a frost warning that will kill the plants. By then, the weather has been getting too cool during the night, and maybe even the day, for tropical plants to thrive.

Houseplants that have been outside over the summer should be brought indoors during the few weeks that the outdoor temperature matches the indoor temperature. That is the time when you don't have either the air conditioner or furnace on. Moving plants at this time will reduce the temperature shock.

Before bringing them indoors, wash off the plant. Get rid of as many insects on the leaves as possible. If the plant is small enough to pull out of the pot, check the root system to see if it is harboring pill bugs, earwigs, spiders or other creatures that you don't want indoors. Spider mites, aphids, whiteflies and other very small insects can build large populations because there are few predators and no rain to wash them off the plants.

Next week, we cover repotting houseplants.


Email questions to Jeff Rugg at To find out more about Jeff Rugg and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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