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Low Light Plants Grow Well Indoors
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Low light conditions make it hard to grow some plants indoors. A bright sunny day may register as much as 10,000 foot candles of light while indoors may be 500 or less.
When we want to have plants in those low light areas, it makes sense to select wisely. We can choose plants that will perform well under such conditions.
Two of the best are the Mauna Loa and the Chinese evergreen. As their names suggest, the Mauna Loa is from Hawaii while the Chinese evergreen is native to tropical Asia.
The Mauna Loa, known also as Peace Lily, is elegant when grown in a decorative container. Its other name, "Closet Plant," refers to its ability to tolerate low light conditions.
While not really suitable for a closet, Mauna Loa is an excellent indoor plant requiring little from its grower. The most critical is temperature, which must stay at 65 degrees or above.
The Mauna Loa does not require a lot of water. Keep the soil slightly moist and mist occasionally in dryer conditions. Its gorgeous white spathe flowers are really the icing on the cake for an already fine plant. Encourage yours to bloom by keeping the plant warm and humid.
The Aglaonemas or Chinese evergreens are equally good low light plants. Most Chinese evergreens sold have slightly variegated foliage.
Like the Mauna Loa, the Chinese evergreen needs warm, moist conditions, but it is more tolerant of bright light. This tropical plant really complements the interior decor much like an end table or lamp.
Do not confine these plants to just the living room. Both the Mauna Loa and the Chinese evergreen would enhance and thrive in the warm humid environment of a bathroom.
Other good choices for low light areas are the Nephthytis or Arrowhead vine, Sanseveria or Mother-in-Law's tongue, Bamboo Palm, Lady Palm, Parlor Palm, Pothos Ivy and Philodendron Selloum.
Over watering is the No. 1 cause of death in houseplants. Feel down about one inch deep to see if the soil is dry, and if you can feel moisture, do not water. When it feels dry and the plant needs water, apply it evenly until water comes out the drainage hole.
While humidity may be important in the winter with the central heat running, the plant is not growing and should need much less water.
Since the proper amount of water is so vital, I place great importance on good potting soil. Much of the cheap potting soil is very heavy and holds too much water. This is the one time not to skimp. Your mixture should be light, allowing for good air movement through the soil, and yet have good water and nutrient holding capacity.
Fertilize lightly in the spring and summer. In other words, feed when the plant is growing and not while it is on hold. Follow your fertilizer label instructions because too little is better than too much.
Try growing or placing your houseplants in groups. This natural setting looks good "a la the rainforest" and also adds to the ease of creating humidity.