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Taking the "House" out of Houseplants

organic houseplants
Organic Houseplants

You might read that title and go WHAT? What does that mean? Well, I’m going to tell you…

I am blessed enough to get to do classes on gardening, specifically organic gardening, all over the country and the “houseplant” issue is one that I always bring up in class. I’ve often thought that there should be a twelve step program for houseplants. After all they are the most abused forms of life in many of our homes. I ask, “How many of you have houseplants?” Ninety-nine percent of the class raise their hands. I then ask, "and what are you feeding your plants?” No-one wants to answer this question. So, I push the class a little, “C’mon, this is a class on organic gardening! You’re all allegedly organic gardeners… What are you feeding your houseplants?"

Finally, the answers start to sheepishly come. “Water!”

I retort, “Not a food!”

I stare down my class, the room or the garden is deadly silent. We are in a stand-off. It’s an - I’m-not going-to-tell-you-what-I-feed-my-houseplants-because-I’m-embarrassed, standoff! “Well,” I finally say, breaking the painful and torturous silence. Finally, someone in the back, whose hiding behind a larger organic gardener, whispers out, “M-m-m-miracle Gro.” I smile and look out at the eyes staring back at me. We have just unlocked a secret truth. My class feels as if they have betrayed me. Betrayed their organic allegiance to the republic for which it stands.

“So what,” I say. "Everyone’s used Miracle Gro at some point in their gardening life. I was a landscaper. A microbe killer! A destructor of soil! It’s not a crime. And, frankly, I don’t care.” The class eases in their seats. They relax with the fact that none of them are going to be tortured at the Miracle Gro inquisition or sent to gardening jail. “I just want to give you some options. Hopefully, get you to see that houseplants are plants. In fact, all plants are plants.” I pause a nice dramatic pause and finish my houseplant segment of the organic gardening class with this, “I’m not even going to ask you guys if you compost your houseplants, no, I’m not going there, or even dare ask, when was the last time you changed the soil or upsized the containers on your houseplants?” Everyone is now smiling a super-guilty smile. I continue, “I’m sure it was when Reagan was president!” Everyone laughs and we move on.

Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan

I want to be perfectly clear that I am writing this piece on houseplants as an organic gardener and farmer. That is important because it gives you, the reader, a perspective from which to judge the merits of what I am about to say. I look at everything in terms of soil and soil health. Usually, that’s the last thing on anyone’s mind when it comes to indoor plant care. It should be the number one thing, because that is the home to your plants, your houseplants.

Most of the plants that we are growing inside our homes grow in soil. Let’s look at a random list that I just pulled off the internet of the 10 best houseplants to purify the air in the home from: › life › best-indoor-plants

The 10 Best Indoor Plants To Purify The Air In Your Home

1) Snake Plant

2) Pothos

3) Dracaena

4) ZZ Plant

5) Spider Plant

6) Rubber Tree

7) Bird's Nest Fern

8) Peace Lily

9) Philodendron Green

10) Aloe Vera

All of these plants grow in soil. I have several of these plants in my house. I have a couple of them in my yard. Hmmm. Houseplants in the yard? Outside? Wait! What?

Yes, I have spider plants and aloe vera growing in my yard. As odd as that may sound, none of the plants that are growing right now in your house came from a climate or environment anything like your living room. Generally many of them are tropicals, while others come from the desert and some even hail from the forest, which is a far cry from the den with the tv blasting in the background, and the a/c or heater cranking out artificial climate.

CAFO Chicken Farm
CAFO Chicken Farm

My point. Plants are plants! And houseplants are plants that we are forcing to adapt and grow inside. So, how can we help them? Besides watering them correctly, giving them enough light and plenty of airflow, and watching the thermostat to not freeze them or dry them out, we can start to look at them as plants. We can put them in really good soil, and compost them and give them things like compost tea instead of fertilizers made of salts or bone meal that comes from slaughterhouses and the poor GMO-fed animals that ended up there.

You can also grow your houseplants organically. We use the organic gardening protocols that we have discussed on The Healthy Garden podcast episode #9 Organic Houseplant Care Part 1 for our plants that are growing inside of our homes. And, it’s true what's written in the article in Women’s Health about houseplants purifying your air. They are our allies in cleaning the environment both outside as well as in.

If plants are an environmental control in your home, then why wouldn’t we want to grow them as organically as possible?

Of course we would, but most gardeners don’t think that organic practices from the outside apply to the indoor space, and I am here to say that’s hogwash. Anything you can do outside to your plants, you can do inside. If you learn how to take care of your plants by taking care of the microbes, then they will take care of you. How?

How do I make this transition to growing organically inside?

Salt Ring on Houseplant Container
Salt Ring on Houseplant Container

One, quit using salt-based fertilizers that are outdated and that kill off the microbes in your soil. Stop falling for “natural” fertilizers that have poultry manure, tankage and bone meal in them, that are not clean sources of organic matter, come from the horrific slaughterhouse industry and bring really bad energy to your plants and home from the pain and suffering that the animals had to endure.

Also, don’t get fooled by soy meal and alfalfa meal as they are just more of the phony GMO scam that is being played on everyone. Unless those products are listed and tested as organic, they’re not, and they are full of herbicide residues from RoundUp. You don’t want any of that garbage inside your home.

No, instead, you’ll want to start utilizing the following organic protocols. First, bring a beautiful finished compost into your sanctuary. No more using the el cheapo-crappo de los Depot in the house or in the garden, but using only real, good quality, one hundred percent finished organic compost that is free of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Start composting your indoor beauties at 1/4” every spring and fall.

As far as fertilization goes, amend in the summer and winter with a 1/16” dusting of organic kelp, green sand and rock phosphate in your containers, and then cover with 1/16” of your safe, clean one hundred percent finished organic compost.

Start drenching the soil of your plants with a good compost tea every 60-90 days. A drench is equal to a good watering.

You can’t go wrong if you start to bring this type of gardening into your home. It will create the type of environment that you are actually seeking when you buy the houseplants that you love at the nursery. Houseplants have become a national craze right up there with mushroom infused cocktails, the 30-hour workweek and the comeback of flip phones. So, help these wonderful specimens of life look and feel their best, and they’ll do the same for you.

Mushroom Infused Cocktail
Mushroom Infused Cocktail

This blog is an exercise in letting go of everything that you’ve ever learned about taking care of houseplants, which begins by taking the word “house” out of houseplants, looking at them like plants, and tending them organically. Do this and I promise you they will love you back and shine up your home like the rock stars they are!

© Randy Ritchie 2019

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