Houseplant Husbandry Cultivating Your Inner Green Thumb

Still a few paychecks shy of that country cottage? Cubicles got you down? If that's the case, you might consider bringing a little whiff of the outdoors inside with some lush, green houseplants.

"But wait," you say. "I can't keep a miniature cactus alive - plants die when I so much as look at them." If you think a well-watered green thumb is a prerequisite for cultivating a private indoor garden, think again, because while some plants are temperamental and best left to professionals, there are plenty of nearly bulletproof varieties that even the most absent-minded caretaker can manage. All it takes is a little know-how and a modicum of commitment, and soon you'll be reveling in your own little slice of nature twelve months a year. Whether you're planning on turning your living room into a fully landscaped floral wonderland, or simply considering a few plants for your bedroom window, with a little help and some sound advice, you'll be repotting and pruning in no time.

Know Your Plant

The first thing you need to understand is that plants are designed to grow outside. This may seem obvious, but bear in mind that when you bring plants into your New York City apartment, they're like fish out of water. Also consider the wisdom of Madelyn Simon, an interior landscaper based in Manhattan who's been in the business for 25 years: "Houseplants can only survive between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit," she says. "That means they are actually tropical plants."

But don't let that intimidate you - just respect the fact that your tropical guests are relying on you as their sole provider of what they would normally get from Mother Nature, so you're going to have to simulate their natural environs to a degree.

So where do you begin? According to David Protell, president of Manhattan's Chelsea Garden Center - an indoor and outdoor landscaping firm and plant retailer - the key to thriving houseplants is the quality of the plants and their suitability to your space. "You have to shed the so-called "black thumb" stigma, and realize that if you do your homework and really choose the right plant for your environment, it will do fine," he advises.

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