Brighten Your Hudson Valley Home With Sun-Loving Houseplants

Plus, tips to get your indoor garden going.

Adobe Stock / Irina Fischer

Develop your green thumb indoors with easy-to-care-for houseplants that bring life and color into any room in the Hudson Valley.

By Marianne Lipanovich, Houzz

Most houseplants are happiest with indirect light. These houseplants are the exception. They love having plenty of light, and will do best in the full sun of a south-facing window.

If your window is shaded, either by trees or buildings, or gets direct sun for only four hours or less, you might find that more houseplants will be happy in this location. Start with those that like west-facing light and see how they do. Other options include adding a sheer curtain to cut down on the light or moving the plants so they’re away from the window itself. Moving plants is also a good idea if the window gets very cold in winter.

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Basic care

Care needs vary depending on the type of plant. Succulents and most herbs like drier conditions and less humidity; basil, citrus, geraniums, and crotons are happier with more humidity. Many of these houseplants also do well in higher indoor temperatures. And, like most houseplants, they prefer to be kept out of drafts and safeguarded against extreme temperatures. These houseplants are also subject to common pests, such as mealybugs, aphids, scale, and spider mites. Wipe the infestation off or use an insecticidal soap, neem oil, or horticultural oil.

Light needs

The amount of water and humidity sun-loving houseplants may want varies, but the amount of sunlight they crave doesn’t. For most of them, five hours is the minimum amount of light they want, and up to 12 hours is ideal.

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If your plant is not growing and thriving, it may not be getting enough light, especially if the light coming in is filtered by buildings and trees. If so, move the plant closer to the window to increase the amount of light it receives.

Jade Plant

Jade plant may start out fairly small, but give it some time and the right conditions, and it can be a statement plant in your home. Jade plants have been known to reach eight feet tall and three feet wide, although for most situations two to three feet tall and a foot wide is likelier. Either way, this easy-care succulent known for its smooth leaves can thrive for years. With luck, you’ll even get blooms.

Jade plants do best in well-draining soil; indoor temperatures of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18 to 24 degrees Celsius) or higher during the day and 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 13 degrees Celsius) at night; and lower humidity levels.

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houseplants jade plant
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Let the soil dry out about one inch below the surface between waterings, and allow it to drain thoroughly so it is moist but not soggy. Fertilize twice a year with a water-soluble solution, adding it to moist soil. Jade plants prefer slightly drier conditions in winter.

If the leaves turn brown, your plant may be getting too much sun; this is a more common problem for variegated varieties. Powdery mildew may be a problem if air circulation is poor; pinch off any damaged or discolored leaves. You can also pinch off stems to encourage bushiness. Wipe down leaves periodically with a damp cloth or spray lightly with water to remove dust.

Other succulents: You have your pick, but some favorites include aloe vera, hens-and-chicks, paddle plant, and living stones.

Sweet Basil

Having herbs year-round doesn’t require a patch of land and a warm-winter climate. Most will do well in a sunny window. If that south-facing window also happens to be in the kitchen, the cook will be happy as well.

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If you’re going to grow herbs indoors, basil is a good starting choice. It’s happy in a pot, with daytime temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (16 to 24 degrees Celsius), regular water and slightly higher humidity levels (misting or putting it on a pebble tray may help). Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and provide good air circulation. Feed every couple of weeks with a half-strength water-soluble fertilizer that’s high in nitrogen.

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The best news is that pinching off the leaves encourages bushiness, so you have a good reason to keep harvesting while you’re cooking.

Other herbs: Almost all culinary herbs can be grown in a sunny window, but some favorites are chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Often these are even easier to grow indoors than basil, as they’re happier with less water and humidity.

Dwarf Citrus

Even if you don’t live in a warm-winter climate, you can still enjoy fresh citrus. Citruses do well with enough sun and water, and it’s hard to go wrong with their fragrance, especially when they’re in bloom. Citruses can get large, so look for dwarf varieties of your favorites. You also will probably want a lightweight pot, and setting it on a support with casters will be appreciated when it’s time to move it.

houseplants citrus
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Plant in neutral to slightly acidic soil, and water when the top two inches of soil are dry, letting the water drain thoroughly (citrus roots don’t like to sit in water). It can handle daytime temperatures from 55 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 to 29.4 degrees Celsius) and prefers higher humidity levels, so don’t put your citrus where drafts can dry it out.

Feed monthly throughout spring and summer with a water-soluble high-nitrogen fertilizer; feed less often, if at all, during fall and winter. Yellow leaves indicate an iron deficiency. If the leaves curl up, you need to water more often.

Lemons and oranges are the most popular miniature citruses, but keep an eye out for kumquats as well.

Common Geranium

There’s a reason people grow geraniums. These cheery, carefree plants add color to the home throughout the year. They’re also versatile. Some seem designed for hanging planters; others are perfect for pots; still others are noted for their light scents.

Geraniums are happiest in regular potting soil with good drainage. Let a couple of inches of the soil dry out, then water and let drain thoroughly. Feed every two weeks from spring through fall with a half-strength water-soluble fertilizer.

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Pinch stems to encourage bushiness, and deadhead to keep the plant flowering. Geraniums may be subject to common houseplant pests. Yellow leaves mean either too much or too little water. Repot once the roots start to outgrow the pot.

Other flowering plants: Many bromeliads, including Aechmea, Ananas, and Billbergia, also like several hours of direct sun, as do amaryllises, florist mums, and miniature roses.

Garden Croton

This surprisingly sturdy plant is known for its leaves — which range from short to long and skinny to wide, and range in color from green to yellow, orange, pink, red, and cream, with all sorts of combinations and variegations. Not every croton does well in direct sun, but the general rule is that the more leaf colors a plant has, the more sun it needs. Also, don’t be alarmed if it drops its leaves after you bring it home — crotons hate being moved.

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Provide a regular potting mix, and water when the soil is dry to the touch about an inch below the surface. Let it drain thoroughly and empty any saucers. Crotons prefer high humidity, so use a pebble tray or mist often. Feed with a half-strength balanced fertilizer twice a month. They do best where temperatures don’t drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius).

Aralias are another good choice for a sunny window.

Related: Prep Your Garden for Cold Weather in the Hudson Valley

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