Care and How-To Articles - Houseplants and Indoor Gardening

Ox Tongue (Gasteria 'Flow')

Ox Tongue (Gasteria 'Flow')

Succulents are a diverse group of plants and there are many different species to choose from. Outlined below are common and popular species of succulents.  Species are listed in groups based on their overall growth habit or use.  Within each group species are listed by relative size from smallest to largest.  For some genera or species, the size varies widely. 

When light is insufficient leaves of succulents like Echeveria will often lay flat and develop a pale color

Succulents have relatively few pest and disease issues.  Scout plants frequently to catch problems early and treat them before they become severe.

Over Watering  |  Under Watering  |  Root Rot  |  Insufficient Light  |  Sun Damage  |  Mealybugs  |  Dead Lower Leaves  |  More Information

Mother of Thousands (Kalanchoe delagoense (syn: Bryophyllum delagoense))

Most succulents are easy to propagate vegetatively by offsets, stem cuttings, or leaf cuttings.  The type of propagation you choose depends on the species of plant and how it grows. 

Offsets & Division  |  Stem Cuttings  |  Leaf Cuttings  |  Propagation Method by Species  |  More Information


Like many seasonal houseplants, shamrocks appear in floral shops, garden centers and other retailers for a short time.   While many seasonal plants are discarded after flowering, shamrocks can be long-lived houseplants with proper care.  

Petunias have been one of the most popular flowering annuals for years. Their popularity can be attributed to several desirable traits. Petunias are easy to grow, bloom reliably all summer, and are available in a wide range of colors, flower forms, and growth habits. 

Most gardeners buy petunias at their local garden center or greenhouse in spring. However, petunias can also be started indoors in late winter. 


Sow petunia seeds indoors about 10 weeks before the intended outdoor planting date. (Petunias should be planted outdoors after the danger of frost is past.) Late February or early March is an appropriate sowing date in Iowa. 

Impatiens are excellent plants for shady areas in the home landscape. Impatiens are ideal for flower beds, planters, and hanging baskets. Their versatility and adaptability to shade have made impatiens one of the most popular annual bedding plants in the United States. Impatiens are relatively easy to grow from seeds.


Impatiens are slow growing. Home gardeners should sow seeds in early to mid-February to produce stocky transplants by spring. 

Used plant containers

Reusing plastic, clay, and other containers is a great way to save money and reduce the amount of plastic waste that goes into landfill.  Plastic containers cannot be recycled in traditional single-stream home recycling programs and, unfortunately, programs to collect and recycle plastic pots are not common.

Proper cleaning and disinfecting of pots requires just a minimum amount of effort, yet can mean the difference between the success or failure of containerized plants, plus it allows you to reuse containers and reduce plastic waste. Follow the steps below to clean and disinfect used containers.

Mum Photo by Hanna Tor Adobe PhotoStock

Many florist's plants can serve as long-lasting flower arrangments in the home and make excellent gifts.  What distinguishes florist's plants from other blooming indoor plants is their length of time in the home.  Florist's plants (like mums, poinsettias, and azaleas) are intended to be temporary indoor plants, whereas flowering houseplants (like African violets, orchids, or holiday cacti) are intended to remain in the home season after season.

Learn more about how to care for your florist's plants below.


Geraniums have been a popular bedding plant for many years.  Most gardeners purchase plants from garden centers and greenhouses.  However, geraniums can also be grown from seeds.  Se

Daffodils forced indoors

Bulb forcing can bring the bright colors and fragrances of spring indoors during winter. Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocuses, and other spring flowering bulbs can be started indoors in September for forcing from December through March.  Learn how to force bulbs indoors below.


There are over 100 genera in the Gesneriaceae or Gesneriad family. Most are tropical plants, such as African violet and gloxinia, and are native to Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Approximately 300 species are cultivated, many as houseplants. All are excellent houseplants with showy flowers or foliage.  A few of the most common cultivated species are listed below.

purple African violet bloom

African violets are one of America’s most popular houseplants. They belong to the Saintpaulia genus and are one of the most commonly grown members of the gesneriad (Gesneriaceae) family.  Under the proper growing conditions, they will bloom almost continuously indoors. Care and hoe to address potential problems are covered below.

red anthurium flower with yellow spadex (rod in middle)

Aroids or arums are members of the Araceae family.  The Araceae family is large, with more than 100 genera and 3700 species of mostly sub-tropical monocots.  Many species are popular as houseplants, and a few are distinctive landscape plants. 

cut flowers

Cut flowers are a welcome gift in any home, whether you receive a bouquet for Valentine's Day, a Birthday, Mother's Day, or you just decided to treat yourself to something beautiful.

When buying them from a florist, there are several things you can do to prolong the life of cut flowers. 

Cut flower garden

Spring, summer, and fall are a great time to bring the garden indoors with cut flowers.  No prior experience is necessary to harvest flowers for bouquets.   
If you cut flowers from your own garden, there are several things that can be done to condition those flowers to ensure they stay fresh, colorful, and vibrant for as long as possible.

basil, chives, thyme growing indoors on a sunny windowsill

Even while the weather is cold outside, it is still possible to enjoy fresh herbs for cooking. Taking advantage of a sunny window in your home can allow for herbs to thrive all year. Learn more below about how to grow herbs indoors. 

cut flowers

Nearly every sentiment can be expressed by flowers. It’s been said that, “Flowers are a perfect replica of human life: Planting, growth, bloom, withering.”

The following list includes some of the most common flowers and their meanings, realizing there are multiple sources with this information and sometimes flowers can have multiple meanings.

Next time you give flowers to someone, consider selecting particular ones to express your sentiment.

Cut flowers

Valentine's Day is a day to recognize our loved ones.  Many different plants serve as wonderful gifts to show that special person how much you love them!  Cut flowers, orchids, and florist plants are just a few of the plants that are popular gifts on February 14th and the rest of the winter season.

Below are a few resources to help keep these special plants healthy and attractive all season.

Potted plants on a cart at the garden center

In spring, many gardeners will be at nurseries, greenhouses, and garden centers looking to buy plants. Selecting the right species and cultivar of a plant for the landscape by matching sun, water, soil, winter hardiness, and other growing requirements is important. Equally important is selecting high-quality plants. Below is advice on how to purchase high-quality plants from the garden center.

section of rooted sansevieria leaf section

Leaf section cuttings produce new plants utilizing a segment of the leaf blade. New roots and leaves form at the base of the cutting buried in the media, eventually creating a small plantlet.  Leaf section cuttings work well for species such as snake plant (Sansevieria). 

Propagation utilizing this method is easy when you follow these steps.

Leaf vein cuttings are produced using a large leaf blade pinned flat to the rooting media to produce a new plant. New roots, leaves, or cluster of leaves that looks like a small plantlet emerge from the areas on the leaf blade where leaf veins have been cut and come in contact with rooting media.  Leaf vein cuttings work well for species such as begonia, among other plants.  

To successfully propagate houseplants by cuttings, there are several factors that have to be considered, such as the rooting media, rooting hormones, decreasing water loss, and finding the right environmental conditions (humidity, light, and temperature).

Leaf petiole of African violet cut off plant

Leaf petiole cuttings produce new plants utilizing a leaf that contains both the leaf blade and petiole (the stem-like structure that connects the leaf blade to the stem).  New roots and leaves form at the base of the cutting buried in the media, eventually creating a small plantlet. Leaf petiole cuttings work well for species such as African violet, peperomia, and Zz plant, among other plants.

Stem section (or cane) cuttings are produced using a section of thick, leafless stem that has buds on it to produce a new plant. New stems and roots emerge from the buds on the thick stem.  This form of propagation is particularly useful in propagating plants with lanky and leafless canes.  Cane cuttings work well for species such as dracaena and dumb cane, among other plants.  

Several factors have to be considered to successfully propagate houseplants by cuttings, such as the rooting media, rooting hormones, decreasing water loss, and finding the right environmental conditions (humidity, light, and temperature).

cutting of pothos Photo by Adobe Stock

Stem cuttings are produced using the tip or section of a stem with leaves and buds on it to produce a new plant.  New roots form from buds on the lower portion of the stem.  Stem cuttings work well for species such as dracaena, weeping fig, English ivy, philodendron, and dumb cane, among other plants.  

Learn about how to propagate houseplants by cuttings below.

air layering of a houseplant Photo by Adobe Stock

Layering is a form of propagation where new roots are formed on stems while the propagule is still attached to the parent plant.

There are several methods of layering.  The method best used depends on the species of plant and not all species are propagated by layering.  Many houseplants are successfully propagated by air layering or simple layering.

Steps to propagate by air layering and simple layering are below.

Rooted ficus cutting

Propagation is the creation or growing of new plants. When houseplants get large or more plants are desired, many can be easily propagated using cuttings.

Propagation by cuttings involves taking a vegetative piece of the plant (stem, leaf, root) and placing it in environmental conditions that allow new roots or shoots to develop and grow into a new plant.

Learn about the various types of cuttings that can be used to propagate houseplants

Dividing a zz plant Photo by Adobe Stock

Propagation is the creation or growing of new plants. When houseplants get large or more plants are desired, many can be easily propagated by division or offsets.

Division is a method of propagation where the entire plant is separated into smaller, whole pieces that contain all vegetative parts (leaves, stems, roots, etc.).

Learn more about the steps to take to divide your houseplants below.

Propagating African violets

Propagation is the creation or growing of new plants.  When houseplants get large or more plants are desired, many can be easily propagated. Propagating houseplants doesn't have to be intimidating.  Many species are propagated at home utilizing techniques like cuttings, division, and layering. 

Step-by-step instructions on many of the different forms of propagation that can be used on houseplants are outlined below.


Terrariums are closed transparent glass or plastic containers used to create a mini-environment or ecosystem for plants.  They create a jungle-like atmosphere of high humidity, warm temperatures, and no drafts, which are perfect for many houseplants.  Find steps on how to create your own terrarium, lists of plants perfect for terrariums, as well as a little history, in this article.

houseplants on a shady porch

Many of our houseplants enjoy a “summer vacation” spending the warm summer months outside in a full or part-shade location. There are several important factors to consider before bringing your indoor plants outside for the summer.

A variety of indoor plants

Due to improved construction methods, buildings are better sealed to maximize energy efficiency. Yet, these "sealed" buildings often trap gases from synthetic materials that can pollute the indoor air. These air pollutants can cause problems for inhabitants especially during the winter when people are forced to spend a great deal of time indoors.

Air plants in hanging globes

Air plants are unusual, unique, and popular houseplants.  They grow and reproduce without any soil. This distinctive growth habit means these fun houseplants have some special considerations.  

Find more information below about how to grow, water, fertilize, and propagate air plants.

various houseplants

Growing houseplants is a rewarding and popular hobby. Indoor plants help create a welcoming, calming, aesthetically pleasing environment in homes.  Plants have been shown to make people more creative and productive, improve their overall health, improve indoor air quality, and make people happy!  

Follow these tips to successfully grow healthy and attractive houseplants.


There are many traditions associated with the holidays. Many involve plants. Evergreen trees, poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe played important roles in ancient legends and rituals, but have evolved into traditions associated with the Christmas season.

Wreath made from fresh cut evergreen branches

A wreath is an attractive decoration for the holiday season. Making a wreath isn't as difficult as you might think. Follow these steps to create a holiday wreath using evergreen branches from your own yard.


December brings many holiday celebrations and traditions.  Poinsettia, Christmas trees, and amaryllis are just some of the plants that play a role in many holiday activities.

Here are all the resources you need to help keep these special plants healthy and attractive all season.


Cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum) is a popular houseplant in winter. They have attractive marbled or mottled heart-shaped leaves that skirt bright pink, lavender, red, or white flowers. The flowers themselves are unique because the petals curve backward, each blossom somewhat resembling a butterfly or badminton birdie.

Learn more about the selection and care of cyclamen as well as what to do once the blooms fade to have the plant rebloom next year. 

Forcing flower bulbs indoors is an excellent way to brighten the cold, gray days of winter. Paperwhite narcissus can be forced indoors to bring cheer to winter. Paperwhite narcissus are easy to force. Unlike tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and crocuses, paperwhite narcissus don't require a cold storage period to flower.

Learn how to grow paperwhite, what to do with them when they finish blooming, and the many cultivars and varieties available to the home gardener. 

Mistletoe photo by Adobe Stock

Using mistletoe and holly as decoration during the holidays is a long-standing tradition.  These classic evergreen plants are not commonly grown or found in Iowa, but their use and traditions around the holiday season make them familiar plants.  Learn more about these interesting plants and the traditions and folklore that surround them.

red and white amaryllis

Amaryllis are popular flowering bulbs that are forced indoors for their large, spectacular blooms during the winter months. The trumpet-shaped flowers can be as large as 8 to 10 inches across and are produced atop an 18- to 30-inch-tall flower stalk. Flower colors include red, pink, orange, salmon, white, and bi-colors. Single-flowering, double-flowering, and miniature amaryllis varieties are available.

Thanksgiving cactus in flower

Holiday cactus is the collective name used to refer to a group of closely related flowering houseplants including Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, and Easter cactus.  These easy-to-grow indoor plants can be very long-lived sometimes being passed down from generation to generation.  The long life of these plants is due to the fact they are easy to grow. They thrive on benign neglect, have few insect and disease problems, and don’t require frequent repotting.

Red and white poinsettia

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is one of the most popular potted flowers in the United States and one of the most beautiful symbols of the holiday season. These colorful plants can be found in nearly every household or business during the December holiday season. Careful selection and proper care of these festive plants will insure enjoyment during the entire holiday season.

Taking a cutting

By the end of the growing season, many of our annual plants in the garden are gorgeous to overgrowing! It is hard to watch these prized flowers die after the first frost. Fortunately, some annuals can be propagated from cuttings and brought indoors during the winter. This is a great way to extend their beauty inside and reduce the cost of annual flowers for next spring.

Picture of heuchera with frost

Some plants in the landscape need a little extra protection to make it through the winter months.  Here is what you need to know to successfully overwinter plants in Iowa.

Wilted Peace Lily

Growing indoors plants is a rewarding hobby that yields beautiful results.  But when problems arise with your indoor plants, it can be difficult to determine what to do to fix the problem.  Learn what to do when your houseplants have problems.

Echeveria (Echeveria)

Succulents are a popular group of houseplants but their care looks a little different than the typical tropical foliage houseplant.  Succulents are plants with thick, juicy stems and/or leaves.  Succulents generally make good houseplants because they require little care.  They are grown for their attractive leaves, stems, growth habit, and/or flowers.  The many different colors, shapes, and sizes of succulents and the fact that many are small in size make them highly collectible.  Regardless of the species, nearly all succulents thrive in the same environmental conditions. 

white moth orchid

The orchid family (Orchidaceae) is one of the largest plant families on earth with more than 28,000 known species.  Orchids can be found on every continent except Antarctica, but it’s the tropical regions of the world that grow the most diverse number of species.  They are noted for their uniquely shaped, colorful, and often fragrant flowers.