Gardening indoors — watering, pruning, repotting houseplants and being in contact with greenery — has a positive effect on both our mental and physical well-being, reportedly boosting not just morale but creativity, productivity and focus, and even lowering blood pressure.

Time spent nurturing plants in the home offers psychological comfort, a chance to de-stress and calm overly wired nervous systems and is just as gratifying as outdoor gardening, but less strenuous on knees and backs, and a tad less messy than working in garden beds.

Anyone, young or old, can partake in indoor gardening activities, including apartment dwellers who want to feel connected to plants but don’t have a yard in which to garden.

The one difference between gardening outdoors and indoors is that houseplants are completely dependent on the caregiver for their needs, so adequate watering and proper siting is imperative, particularly in typically inhospitably, bone-dry home environments over long Montreal style winters.

So, if your home is dimly lit, supplement with grow lights. To raise humidity, mist houseplants regularly and group plants together in one location such as in a cozy, ’houseplant corner’ where you can read quietly and unwind. Growing plants in terrariums or on a tray of water filled with pebbles are other ways of controlling humidity.

Houseplant divisions can also be grown in water-filled jars placed along a visible, sunny windowsill. There are so many ways to reap the therapeutic benefits of houseplants during a long cold winter.

Grow Christmas cactus

Some houseplants are a real mood lifters, blossoming on the dreariest of days. Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) is one such plant, displaying vibrant magenta blossoms on the tips of cascading, succulent stems just as outdoor temperatures and day lengths plummet, toward the end of November.

This festive plant makes a great holiday gift and is easy to propagate, providing, of course, it receives proper care. A brightly lit bathroom or kitchen where humidity is high and cold-air drafts are non-existent is a suitable spot for Christmas cactus.

Grow herbs

Growing herbs is easy, attractive and rewarding, even if you don’t actually cook with them. Select three to five pots with your favourite herbs placed on a kitchen counter under a hidden fluorescent tube light. Rubbing the foliage will release their scented oils unleashing pleasant summer memories.

Make Time for Plant-Care

Schedule time during the week for houseplant care just as you would for exercising, cleaning or meditating. Try listening to your favourite music so that plant-care feels less like a chore. Water houseplants only when required, and ensure pots have drainage holes to prevent excess water from rotting roots.

Use a damp cloth to clean dust off large leaves to make them shine. Thoroughly clean small-leaved plants using a spray from the shower nozzle rather than trying to dust off every leaf. Examine plants for mites and other common indoor plant pests and trim off any dead foliage. Listening to your favourite music will make plant care feel less like a chore.

Black thumbs take note. The trick to a greener thumb is to persist at it, ideally with a will to succeed, even if a plant or two is killed along the way. Houseplants need light, water, and air to survive, but adopting a one-way-fits-all approach is not a good strategy. Get to know your plants’ unique needs, just as you would a new puppy.

Remember the old adage, ‘Talk to your plants’? When you talk to your plants, you will naturally be close enough to learn what they need from you. So do ‘talk’ to your houseplants regularly — just make sure no one else is in the room listening while you do.

Elaine Sanders can be reached at solutionsjardins@sympatico.ca

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