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Houseplants Don't Adapt Easily to New Digs

By Sheri Hunter, master gardener, Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, Denver County

If you think moving to a new home means trauma for you, consider what it means for your houseplants.

Typical is the Denverite who moved to a home with vaulted ceilings and tall southeast-facing windows.  Come mid-winter, the room was warm and flooded with sunlight.  What more could a houseplant ask?

A lot more if those particular houseplants do not like sunlight.  When you move your houseplants, consider the microclimate to which they have been accustomed, as well as that to which they will move.  Plants that thrived in a cool room "back home" will need similar circumstances in their new surroundings.  While people can adapt to the changes a move will bring, houseplants can't.

A lot of factors contribute to the health of indoor plants, including humidity, duration and intensity of sun exposure.  Even within a room, these factors can vary.   Some plants are temperature-sensitive, requiring steady warmth or coolness.   Others may require a drop in nighttime temperatures.  Still others may require a winter rest, with a constant thermal environment of 45 to 50 degrees from late fall through early spring.  Your assignment is to know the conditions under which your plants will thrive.

When you buy plants, ask about their needs.  Be realistic.  If you can't provide for those needs, look for another type of houseplant that fits your situation.   Here is a list of houseplants and their preferred microclimates to get you started:

Warm and sunny (direct sunlight, near a south, east, or west-facing window--60-70 degrees all year. 

  • Flowering maple, abutelon hybridum
  • Amythyst violet, browallia speciosa
  • Christmas pepper, capsicum annum
  • Poinsettia, euphorbia pulcherrima

Warm, filtered sun (same exposure and temperature; light filtered by a leafy tree or translucent curtain)

  • Gloxinia, sinnengia speciosa
  • Begonia, begonia elator hybrids
  • False aralia, dizgotheca elegantissma
  • Devils' ivy, epipremnum aureum
  • Polka dot plant, hypoestes phyllostachya

Warm, shady (same temperature but no direct sun exposure; near north-facing window or to the side of a sunny window)

  • Painted leaf begonia, begonia rexcultorum
  • Angel wings, caladium hortulanum
  • White sails, spathiphyllum clevelandii
  • Staghorn fern, platycerium bifurcatum

Cool, sunny (50-60 degrees all year, direct sun)

  • Italian bellflower, canpanula isophylla
  • Beadplant, nertera granadensis
  • Regal geranium, pelargonium domesticum hybrids
  • Cineraria, senecio cruintus
  • Calamodin orange, citrofortunella mitis

Cool, filtered sun (50-60 degrees, bright but filtered light)

  • Algerian ivy, hedera canariensis
  • Florist's chrysanthemum, chrysanthemum morefolium
  • Spider plant, chlorophytum comosum vitatum
  • Cyclamen, cyclamen perisicum hybrids

Photograph courtesy of Judy Sedbrook.

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010