Hot summer weather is a good reason to try indoor gardening

2022-07-30 02:29:31 By : Mr. Victor Xie

The extreme weather this summer has forced landscapes (and gardeners) into survival mode, just trying to hang on until rain and cooler temperatures arrive this fall. It’s a good time to try out some house plants and indoor gardening. Buy seeds and start your own fall vegetable transplants inside, buy a houseplant like a philodendron, or try cultivating some herbs with an indoor kitchen garden.

For permanent house plants, choose those that are adapted to low light levels – selection and care are quite different for plants that stay inside the home than typical the landscape plants. Some of the toughest house plants that work well in most homes include Christmas cactus, philodendron, ficus, pothos ivy, sansevieria, ZZ plant, dracaena, and aglaonema.

Two major factors to focus on with house plants are light and water.  Plants that are known to be good for inside a building are generally tropical plants native to areas with very dense canopies that can handle lower light levels; but all plants need some light to grow – and even house plants need more light than is usually available in the home to grow well and thrive.

A simple test to measure light levels and to help choose the best spot for houseplants can be done by holding your hand about 12 inches above the surface in question (floor, table, etc) during the brightest time of day.  Look for the hand’s shadow – if it is a clear and distinct dark shadow, that is a high light level.  If it has a fuzzy outline and is a light, faint shadow that is low light.  Match plants with the proper amount of light that they need based on the label directions.

Watering houseplants can be tricky; many plants do best when they can be watered thoroughly and the excess water is allowed to drain away well, but houseplants tend to be watered lightly and more frequently; and there is usually a tray underneath to catch the excess water which can create standing water for long periods of time.  If possible, place houseplants in a sink or tub, water thoroughly and allow to drain well before returning.

Indoor herb gardens are very popular and can be a nice feature in the kitchen – providing beauty, fresh fragrance and interest. While many herbs are easy to grow outdoors in the west Texas climate, it’s important to remember that most herbs are not naturally suited to be houseplants. That’s not to say it can’t be done - start with finding the right spot where they can get six to eight hours of direct sun, like a south facing window.

Just about any herb can be started indoors, but not all can be permanently grown in small containers; many herbs grow to be large plants, like sage and rosemary. So either stick to smaller plants like basil, thyme and parsley or if growing larger plants just plan to start over every so often to keep plants small and manageable for an indoor garden. Once they outgrow their container, they can be planted outside or given away.

Allison Watkins is the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent for horticulture in Tom Green County. Contact her at