Success with all houseplants rests on one basic rule–Know What You Grow! This means starting with the names of specimens, then finding out their origin. Was it indigenous to a swamp, a desert, a jungle, a mountaintop, foothills, a forest, or a meadow? Once a plant’s natural environment is known, there can be no doubt about its indoor climatic requirements. Houseplants are adaptable to a degree, but the odds are against growing a jungle specimen that needs high humidity in a hot, dry room. And expecting a sun loving desert cactus to prosper in a gloomy northern exposure is asking nature to be too accommodating.
Plant selection should first of all be based on what degree of light, temperature and humidity can be made available in the growing area of a room. Then buy plants for the indoor climate you have to offer–provided it is not excessively hot and devoid of humidity.
The best lighting conditions are in rooms with windows facing south, east or southeast. These locations can be very bright; certain plants may need something  to filter the light. An area that is relatively cool is ideal for many plants. A bathroom with a south-facing window is a friendly environment for plants that need humidity. Or use shallow pans partially filled with gravel to set potted plants in. Keep the pans filled with water to a level just below the top of the gravel. The pots should be setting on dry gravel, not in the water.
We suggest that neophyte gardeners put off buying until they have visited first-rate plant stores or, better still, have toured a nursery or botanical garden and acquired growing information from knowledgeable salespeople or a skilled professional gardener. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and take along a notebook for jotting down answers. This browsing is bound to pay dividends.
In the interim between looking and buying, do some internet or book research on the specimens you liked most. We stress these preliminaries because the purchase of plants is an investment in the future; the more you know in advance, the sooner you will become competent with the plants you buy.
Dorothy Brandon, Alfred F. Scheider and Almanac Staff

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