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Grouping plant together can help create a more humid environment conducive to good plant health.

Houseplants are a great way to bring the outdoors in. With the right light, water, soil, temperature and humidity, plants can make a lovely addition to your decor and have a positive impact on your health.

According to a report by the National Initiative for Consumer Horticulture, plants in our homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces and places of worship improve air quality by removing carbon dioxide, particulates and harmful chemicals. The presence of plants in classrooms has been shown to improve test scores and create a relaxed and calming environment.

Studies also have shown that patients who have a view of the outdoors or have plants in hospital rooms spend less time in recovery, go home sooner, take less pain medication and experience less fatigue.

At work, plants have been shown to make workers more productive, feel less tired and experience less anxiety. The bottom line is, plants can make you feel happy and help fight mental fatigue.

Light and water are perhaps the two most important factors to consider when selecting and growing indoor plants. Different plants have different needs.

Light is how plants make their food, so those that need more light grow best in a window facing south or west. Plants that do not get enough light will become leggy and spindly. You may need to bring them outdoors on occasion in warm weather to reinvigorate them.

Plants also differ in their water needs. Succulents and cactus require less water than other herbaceous or woody indoor plants. 

It’s a good practice to water indoor plants weekly. Pick one day of the week and check your plants. Plants that are in ideal growing conditions with ample light will likely require more frequent watering.

The best way to tell when plants need watering is to stick your finger in the soil. If it dry, it’s time to water.

The type of soil will affect how often you have to water. The ideal potting mixes for indoor use allow for adequate moisture, drainage and suitable nutrient retention.

Plants also prefer some humidity, which can be difficult to provide in homes that are controlled by central heating and cooling.

You can increase the humidity by grouping plants together. When water moves through a plant, it evaporates from aerial parts, such as leaves, stems and flowers. By grouping small numbers of plants together, you create a micro-environment of elevated humidity. You can also place saucers of water beneath pots, using small rocks to elevate the pot above the water to prevent uptake by the roots. The goal is to provide moisture for humidity not to water plants.

Indoor plants require less fertilizer than outdoor plants. For the best results, use a water-soluble fertilizer each season at half the recommended rate.

Here are some good indoor plants: ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia), mother-in-law's tongue, pothos ivy, arrowhead plant, dracaena, calathea, bird’s nest fern, dieffenbachia, schefellera, fiddle-leaf ficus, money tree, parlor palm, spider plants, Chinese evergreen, peace lily and dragon tree.

Succulents and sedums, which are trendy right now, also do well indoors and make great patio plants. They will need to be brought indoors or protected in freezing weather, and they cannot be placed in direct sunlight.

Finally, don’t forget about temperature. Most indoor plants like it between 60 and 80 degrees. 

Email questions to gardennews@agcenter.lsu.edu.