Hosting houseplants:

Alabama Living Magazine

Indoor plant care for the holidays and beyond

Caring for your houseplants can reduce stress levels.

“I already have a houseful and now more are coming. I don’t know where I’m going to put them all!” 

When a friend made that comment to me recently, I thought she was talking about an overabundance of holiday guests, then I realized she was talking about plants. 

It’s a conundrum many gardeners face this time of year, especially those of us who have beloved potted plants that live outside most of the year but must come inside for the winter. Just as we get them settled in their favorite indoor overwintering spots, more plants — the holiday kind — begin to arrive, which means we have to make room for all these houseplant “guests” and still have room, and time, for the human ones. 

It’s a good problem to have. After all, houseplants give as much as they take. They add beauty and warmth to the décor and many infuse the house with pleasant floral and evergreen scents. Caring for and sharing company with houseplants also helps reduce physical and mental stress levels, which we all can appreciate during the holidays. 

But indoor plants can also add to our stress, particularly if they’re messy guests that drop their leaves, needles and blooms everywhere or leave water stains on floors, tabletops and other surfaces. Some may also have toxic qualities, which can pose a threat to people and pets, and others can be demanding and persnickety about their lodging arrangements. 

Luckily, there are ways to make plant guests feel at home without spending all our time worrying after them. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Do a quick background check on unfamiliar plants. How much light and water do they need? Can they tolerate particularly warm or cool rooms? Are they potentially poisonous? 
  • Use this information to match plants with rooms — for example, sun-loving plants typically do best in rooms with south-facing windows while shade-loving plants prefer interior rooms or ones with only filtered light. 
  • Group plants with similar needs in the same area. This helps ensure the room can meet their temperature, humidity and lighting needs and can also make watering and other maintenance chores more efficient. 
  • Potentially toxic plants should be placed out of reach of children or animals, or, if they’re too dangerous or too much trouble, send them packing.
  • Place water-tight and sweat-resistant plant bases or trays (boot trays are great for this) under the plants and don’t rely on decorative foil wrappers often used around holiday plant pots to contain excess moisture. Be sure to wipe up any spills as you water, too.
  • Invest in a mobile planter or plant stand. These make it easier to move large plants or large groupings of plants around in the house, move them outside for a bit of fresh air on particularly pleasant winter days and can also facilitate moving them back outdoors this spring.
  • Don’t forget to invite culinary plants into your home. Citrus trees and perennial herbs such as rosemary make lovely houseguests. Many annual herbs, leafy greens, microgreens and a surprising number of small fruits and vegetables can also be grown indoors in the winter using DIY or purchased garden kits. 

Lots more information on growing and caring for indoor plants is available through books, online resources and local and state experts such as Alabama Cooperative Extension agents, Master Gardeners and local botanical gardens and nurseries. Make sure you’re getting advice and information from credible sources so you and your houseplant guests can enjoy one another’s company throughout the holidays and beyond.

Katie Jackson is a freelance writer and editor based in Opelika, Alabama. Contact her at katielamarjackson@gmail.com.

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