Index > Garden Blog

Date: 5 Apr 2016, Entry id: 1459851902

Jungle on Windowsill 101

Q: I got a Jasmine Sambac and a Tahitian gardenia as presents, they are very cute plants with flowers and flower buds. I would like to be able to keep them alive and hopefully happy for a long time, but I don't know much about growing tropical plants, and I am not sure if my thumb is green enough to make everything right. What do they need? How much sun? How much water? What kind of soil? Sorry for all these (maybe silly) questions, but I want to keep them alive, please help! I live in Wisconsin and we had some snow again last week.

A: Growing tropicals is not a hard work, it is a lot of fun! These plants are actually a good starters for a beginner who wants to try growing tropical plants, no matter if you live in a mild frost-free climate, or up North where you can have these beauties as houseplants. Below are a few simple steps for you:

1. Read. Follow planting instructions included with your plants. Check plant names on the tags and learn more about them from our online catalog.

2. Soil. Plant in quality potting mix - it must be porous and well-drained, never use heavy soils (top soil or garden soil are no-no), in a pot exactly the size of the root system. You can step up your plants in the next size container once you notice vigorous new growth. Next size means: 4" pot can go into 6" pot, 6" pot into 10" pot, etc. Too big of a pot may create rotting environment, root system must fill the entire container to use all the moisture from the soil. Container must have good hole(s) for excess water to drain through. Put the pot in a saucer and get rid of excess water every time after watering.

3. Light. Most tropical plants require lots of light in order to produce flowers. If you ever visited Florida, remember the bright sun? - these are ideal light conditions for tropicals. Up North, provide as much light as possible: a bright spot on a windowsill of Southern or Western exposure would work the best. If the sun gets too hot in summer afternoon, you may shade the window a little bit with a sheet of white paper to avoid leaf burn.

4. Water. Keep soil slightly moist but not soggy. The best way is to wait until the top of the soil feels dry to touch - this is time to water again. Jasmines prefer to stay on a dry side; gardenias do not like soil to dry out - keep them slightly moist as long as soil is very porous and well-drained. The main reason of most problems with potted indoor plants is over watering. With experience, you will feel the right balance of moisture in the soil: the brighter the light, the more water is consumed by a plant; the less light, the less frequent you should water.

5. Trimming. In low light conditions, plants tend to become leggy. Trim branches as they become too long: the more you trim, the busier the plant gets. New growth promotes more profuse blooming in many species.

6. Fertilizing. Fertilize indoor plants with slow-release granulated fertilizer from march to November.

7. Insects. Check for insects at least once a month, especially underneath the leaf. If notice any problems (deformed leaves, residue, holes, or tiny insects) - clean the leaves/stems with a solution of warm water (1 cup), vegetable oil (2 table spoons), and a few drops of a dish soap.

8. Fresh air and air humidity. As soon as air temperature gets above 65F, bring your tropicals outside in the sun and fresh air: porch, balcony, outside in the yard. Air circulation is essential for your plant health. Bright light and high air humidity will promote vigorous growth, and lots of flowers for you to enjoy!

For more information on growing Tropical Plants 101, see Problem solving with potted plants - how can we help them?.