From the Stacks: Exploring Indoor Plants

“The conditions with which living plants have to contend when brought into our ordinary living rooms are trying indeed.” – Parker T. Barnes, House plants and how to grow them, 1915.

I recently moved into a new apartment and of course, my houseplants moved with me. My new place has high ceilings, lots of space, a backyard to garden, and overall, it’s a dream come true. However, after the first few weeks in the new apartment, I began to realize that my houseplants weren’t loving the new place as much as I did. Leaves yellowed, petals dropped, my African violet shrivelled  and even my Portulacaria afra succulent looked weak. It broke my heart to see my old friends fall away, and I concluded that it was due to the lack of natural light in my new place. Although spacious, my new apartment has little to no direct sunlight, and a large, north-facing bay window. It was time to acquire new plants that would be better suited to my home.

Many indoor gardeners already know it’s important to understand the orientation of one’s windows and the sun exposure they receive, as this can dictate which plants will do well. Before you go shopping, why not research suitable plants for the various conditions in your home, be they direct sun or low light.

As a relatively new gardener (indoors and out), I decided to hit the books in my own library to learn about the world of indoor plants. When I started my research I found a handful of books that helped me answer some basic questions about indoor plants: what they need, where they like to be, and how they grow. I began to consider my new home and where I could better use plants, given the light that exists and the space that I have. From the books I read, I was blown away with the plant possibilities for low-light areas. For help and general information, Easy plants for difficult places in apartments, homes, and offices and The indoor gardener’s first aid book written by Jack Kramer were especially helpful. Although published in the 1970s, these books read well, and offer timeless information on plants that thrive in unusual or difficult spaces. For inspiration, colour photographs, and design ideas, I consulted the many encyclopedias at the library, including The houseplant encyclopedia by Jantra and Kruger.

The Weston Family Library has an abundance of literature on the topic of indoor plants. Below is a list of useful titles related to choosing houseplants for various light conditions and other indoor gardening considerations.

  • Complete guide to houseplants, by Ortho Books (635.965 Com)
  • The complete houseplant survival manual: essential know-how for keeping (not killing!) more than 160 indoor plants, by Barbara Pleasant (635.27 P47)
  • Easy plants for difficult places, by Jack Kramer (635.27 K67.5)
  • Eco-friendly house plants: 50 indoor plants that purify the air in homes and offices, by B.C. Wolverton (635.965 Wol)
  • The facts of light about indoor gardening, by Ortho Books (635.27 O69)
  • Growing indoor plants, by Jane Courtier (635.27 C594)
  • Hanging plants, by Gary M. Spahl (635.965 Spa)
  • The healthy indoor plant, by Charles C. Powell (632 P596)
  • House plants, by Paul Williams (635.965 Wil)
  • The houseplant encyclopedia, by I. Jantra and U. Kruger (635.27 J13)
  • Illustrated encyclopedia of houseplants, by Anna Skalicka (635.965 Ska)
  • An illustrated guide to popular houseplants, packed with practical advice on how to grow over 450 exciting and colourful plants to enhance your home, by Peter Chapman (635.965 Cha)
  • The indoor garden book, by John Brookes (635.27 B68)
  • The indoor gardener, by Noel Kingsbury (635.27 K39)
  • The indoor gardener’s first aid book, by Jack Kramer (635.27 K67.6)
  • Indoor gardening, by Diana Yakeley (635.27 Y11)
  • Indoor gardening the organic way: how to create a natural and sustainable environment for your houseplants, by Julie Bawden-Davis (632 B136)
  • Indoor plant gardening in Canada, by Laura Peters (635.27 P261)
  • Indoor plants: the essential guide to choosing and caring for houseplants, by Jane Courtier (635.27 C594.1)
  • Large floor plants, by Gary M. Spahl (635.965 Spa)
  • Once upon a windowsill: a history of indoor plants, by Tovah Martin (635.09 M13)
  • Plants for warm rooms, by Kenneth A. Beckett (635.965 Bec)
  • Tempting tropicals: 175 irresistible indoor plants, by Ellen Zachos (635.27 Y11)
  • The toughest houseplants, by Gary M. Spahl (635.965 Spa)
  • The urban gardener indoors: how to grow things successfully in your house, apartment or condo, by Sonia Day (635.27 D168)
Happy reading and gardening!

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