Thursday, September 2, 2010

Growing Plants Indoors

I have always been lucky enough in New York City to have outdoor space for growing herbs and other plants...until now. I am also no longer at the mercy of plant-devouring dogs, so my move has been a useful reminder that we can in fact raise and enjoy plants indoors. In addition to being pretty and often useful in the kitchen, indoor plants improve air quality, which is something we can all benefit from, given the prevalance of toxic chemicals hiding out in our homes. The Green Phone Booth explains this in greater detail, along with an an extensive list of the best plants for air purificiation.

I was unable to bring my tomato plants, but the herbs did find a home in my new sunny living room. Unfortunately, this picture was taken a few weeks ago, and many of those small pots have since dried out, which is a common problem I have with growing indoors, even if I keep the plants watered regularly. I think they must need even more light than they can get through these windows. The oregano, basil, and rosemary are still doing okay, however.

The tall plant on the left with the skinny stem and broad leaves is an avocado tree, which are fun to grow yourself from the pit of an tasty avocado you have just eaten. In looking up this how-to for you, I discovered that you should pinch off the newest top shoots to help it grow bushy rather than tall, so clearly this rapidly rising plant could use a little bit of that before it reaches the ceiling!

Tropical plants tend to fare well indoors, and unlike herbs, do not generally need to be watered every day. Remember this canna which sprouted during a neglected winter in my basement? It's now happy next to my bedroom window.

My friend Jamie has done an excellent job of filling her home with plants. Every time you turn around, you will discover another pot of greenery in each corner. She uses cuttings to propagate plants around her home cheaply, by cutting a healthy stem from an existing plant and placing it in a water-filled glass jar, sometimes with store-bought rooting hormone, until roots emerge. I gave her parsley and rosemary to add to this windowsill to thank her for leting me stay on her couch for a week, and they are going strong, unlike my herbs. I suppose her windows get enough light to make it possible for the parsley to happily grow out of control. She also has a cute and smart cat, who knows not to eat the plants.

What has your experience been with indoor growing? Have you learned any tips along the way?


  1. How interesting that you posted this today. Just last night, as I was tossing the pit of an avocado out, I was wondering if I could make that sucker grow. Hmmm. Plant food for thought.

    The biggest problem I have with indoor plants is getting them to re-bloom. I don't have much luck with it.

  2. I'm the touch of death for indoor plants, I'm convinced. But that doesn't stop me trying.

    And no way! Avocado? I am so going to try that.

  3. wow fun! i didn't know you could grow an avocado plant indoors.

    our plants aren't fairing too well from the move, not a lot of light here. also, little kitten likes to chew on plants.

    i'm thinking that in the next few months we'll figure out a low-light plant system :)

    (love your plants and cute kitty!)

  4. Beautiful! Do you have success growing basil indoors? I can barely get it to grow OUTDOORS, lol! I'll have to try it.

  5. Great post - needed some pep talk. My experience would = blog post entitled "Don't people know I'm just gonna kill this poor thing?"

  6. Hey Julia, when you were growing your herbs outside, how did you prevent them from freezing in the winter? I'm just getting started with my first herb garden (pot) outside, and I'm scared that I'll kill them all in the first few months...

  7. Green Spell - i don't really know what to tell you about basil, since my basil is going black at the stems :-(

    Kara - oh ha in new york you can't keep plants from freezing over winter, so in october i bring herb pots inside and try to keep them alive, but what sadly seems to be my experience is that they start drying out, and then i will turn the basil into pesto and dry the other herbs for spices. not sure what seattle is like in the winters, but you will probably need to do the same?

  8. Excellent read. I like your style...have a good one!/Nice blog! Keep it up!
    Growing Plants

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