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Selecting Houseplants by Kurt M. Jones, Chaffee County Extension Director



            Houseplants add to the décor of any room or office.  Look at any magazine photograph of a room, and plants will be visible.  In today’s lifestyle of high technology and fast pace, many people are re-discovering the joy of raising houseplants.
            Houseplants play a dramatic role in the design of a room.  Office lobbies have utilized plants to help the visitor feel more comfortable and to give the impression that this space is lived in.  Plants offer a unique contrast in many homes and offices.  Adding plants to a high-tech work environment offers a contrast or highlight to these areas.
            Plants can vary in looks, size, and shape.  It is important to consider not only the size of the plants you wish to decorate with, but also the growing conditions for the plant.  Plants requiring full sunlight will not be as productive in hallways.  Some houseplants are also adversely affected by cold drafts, thereby limiting where they can be placed in the home.  Give some thought about where you would like plants in the home. Choose plants that will be able to grow within the space while considering the available light, presence of heat registers or drafts in hallways, and what the mature size of the plant will be in confined spaces.
            Houseplants only offer a feeling of comfortable living if they are healthy and flourishing.  Houseplants in poor health will suffer browning leaves and stems and become eyesores.  Careful plant selection and some common-sense plant care can aid in the success of home horticultural projects.
            First of all, start with the healthiest plants possible.  Purchasing plants from reputable retailers can help the novice gardener have success.  Knowledgeable horticulturists can also assist with plant selection for your home.  Closely examine the plants that are displayed to choose the healthiest ones.  Look for the plant with small spaces between the leaves.  Large spaces between leaves can be in indication of over-fertilization, overcrowding in the greenhouse, or inadequate light for long periods of time.  Plants should have few brown-edged leaves and few trimmed leaves (particularly on new growth).
            Buying a small plant and hoping it will grow into a large plant to fill a particular space can be a lengthy and frustrating process.  It is difficult to achieve greenhouse growing conditions in a home or office.  Mature plants also tend to be better at adapting to new growing conditions.
            Houseplants can also be a neat activity for children to get involved in.  Learning about how to care for plants will help to develop important life skills such as responsibility and life-long learning.  Parents can encourage these skills by allowing the children to care for household plants or through establishing small home gardens where the youth are involved in the planting and care of the young plants.

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