House plants can transform a space. Look at any home décor magazine, and you’re sure to see a few plants in each spread. I’ve always had orchids in our home. But the last eight months saw a sudden demise for all of them. (A few were over seven years old, and three were the grown and flowering babies of my first orchid. I was quite sad when I finally had to admit they weren’t just resting). I’ve been left with a plantless house and several empty feeling spaces.
I feel a great deal of responsibility when I take on any living thing, including house plants. I like to plan and prepare to ensure it will thrive under my care. I’ve never really had typical houseplants—just orchids and a few climbers like spider plants. So I did a bit of research before deciding which varieties to take to my house in the mountains at about 7,000 feet elevation.
Wispy plants with thin leaves like palms and ferns tend to prefer humid climates where they can draw the readily available moisture from the air. Unless you’re running a humidifier 24/7, humidity is not an element in Albuquerque-area homes. Go for house plants with thick, waxy leaves that can retain and store moisture.
Some good options are: peace lily, succulents, sansevieria.
Phalaenopsis/moth orchids have wide, waxy leaves, and cymbidium orchids have thin, wispy leaves. I never had luck with the latter but my Phalaenopsis thrived for years until recently . . .
Resist the urge to overwater! Living in such a dry climate can make you want to water your house plants too often—don’t. Soak them about once every week or week and a half. And don’t water them unless they are actually dry. (Stick your finger into the dirt all the way to your knuckle and check). The potting soil and medium in most house plants retain moisture really well.
Phalaenopsis or “moth” orchids are easy to care for and come in a variety of colors. Trader Joe’s is a great place to buy them!
Treat them right! I think of houseplants like pets. They need regular care and love. At least once a month, dust them with a damp cloth. Rotate them 90 degrees with each watering to keep the growth even and re-pot them at least yearly. Take care of them and they’ll take care of you and your family. They will filter carbon dioxide and improve the air quality in your home by adding a bit of that much-needed humidity to the air.
What are your favorite local places to buy plants?
Originally published February 2017.
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