This book is a guide to growing many kinds of plants in all kinds of indoor environments, says the editor. "We have worked with many expert writers and consultants in the fields of botany and horiculture to gather together the best, most reliable information available on growing plants indoors," she says.
"Part of the joy of growing plants is in developing an awareness of what each one needs, and in finding the cultural techniques that work best for you. Don't be afraid to experiment. You will enjoy the greatest success if you adapt the guidelines given in these pages to fit the particular environment in which your plants are growing."
The book tells how to grow and care for all kinds of plants in all kinds of indoor environments, the authors say, and tells how to do it without introducing toxic chemical sprays into your home. Prepared by a team of expert writers, horticulturists and botanists, it provides accurate, up-to-date information on hundreds of indoor plants along with more than 560 color photos and 200 illustrations.
"Where, specifically, have our present-day house plants come from?" they ask.
"The answer is not a simple one; plants currently cultivated in North America have their roots in all corners of the globe. For example, the showy-flowered camellias are native to China and Japan; the present floriferousness of the species we cultivate is the product of many years of selection and research.
"Lantana, cultivated as an indoor pot plant, is a weedy, climbing shrub from tropical and subtropical parts of both the Old and New World.
"Our beloved African violets (Saintpalia spp.) are in nature herbaceous perennials that grow wild along the coastal regions of East Africa.
"When we learn that some of our tropical plants originated in environments with annual wet and dry seasons, it will be easier to remember to give these plants a seasonal rest, holding back fertilizer and applying water sparingly. Picturing the dry season of a South American rain forest will give us a clearer understanding of the needs of plants from that part of the world -- more so than if we were simply to follow, in a mechanical way, the usual recommendations for light, temperature and humidity.
"Just as a smattering of knowledge about chemistry is important to the development of a good cook, so a little geographical knowledge is important to the success of an indoor gardener.
"Many of our house plants come from tropical areas near the equator. The first thing to remember, in a very general sense, is that the days near the equator are always about 12 hours long, as are the nights. Plants originating from the equatorial region have become adapted to that light schedule over countless centuries. Knowing that, you can understand that, for these plants, being thrust out into the backyard of a Minnesota homa during the very long days of summer may not be the vacation you had intended for the plants, but a real hardship instead.
"You can understand, too, that during the short days of November and December, some plants require supplemental light during the early evening hours. And if you have ever wondered why you must provide at least 12 hours of total darkness for your poinsettia, in order to get it to bloom for Christmas, a look at its southern Mexican origins will provide the answer.
"Generally speaking, the further you can go in recreating the original environments for your plants, the greater success you will have with them.
The four major plant requirements -- light, temperature, soil moisture and humidity -- are all within control with today's resources.
"Artificial lighting, thermostatic heating and judicious watering will meet the first three requirements with little difficulty.
"The fourth, humidity, is the most difficult. Most tropical plants, for truly maximum home growth, require a level of humidity which we cannot sensibly provide. It is best, then, to compromoise, to offer the greatest amount of humidity -- again through artificial means -- that we can reasonably provide.
"It is wise, also, to select plants of similar geographic origin to share a common location in the home. Even if you do not know the specific origins of all of your plants, group together those that have similar requirements.
"Low light specimens that like warm temperatures and moist woodsy soil can be grouped together in a larger planter, where they can receive similar care.
"Plants that prefer lots of light and a drier soil can share a plant stand and a few hanging baskets near a south-facing window.
"You can arrange a rain forest collect, or even a North American woodland collection, in a terrarium, where all the plants receive the same lighting, temperature, watering and humidity.
"To intermingle plants of sharply varying requirements is to make things hard on yourself, as well as the plants."