Storey Basics Growing Healthy Houseplants by Ellen Zachos

Growing Healthy Houseplants is another great title in the Storey Basics line of how-to books. As with most of the series, this volume is to the point, informative, and uses illustrations rather than photographs.

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The book is broken down into three parts: Essentials (light, water and humidity, growing medium/soil, fertilization); Daily Care (tools, re-potting, grooming, propagation, vacation, pests); and Designing the Indoor Garden (display, foliage, flowering plants, trees, cacti).

There is a great introduction to understanding house plants and a very simple recipe for success: accurately evaluate light, choosing the right plant for that light, watering techniques, and then allowing it to grow. Small sections discussing vocabulary (latin, hybrid, etc.) as well as the difference between tropical plant and house plant are useful ways to ensure proper understanding of what we are dealing with when we purchase an indoor plant. This section is only a few pages long so it isn’t onerous to read.

The Essentials section is the heart of the book – there’s no use in falling in love with a type of houseplant if you don’t have the light or environment (read: moisture) it needs. Tips such as the problem with house water, the tools that make the job easier, and how to elevator humidity levels help ensure houseplant success.

Other useful tips include how to care for plants before going on vacation, specifics about the most common indoor plants (which didn’t include the African Violet, oddly enough), controlling fungus/mites/and other pests that surprisingly get on houseplants, and displays such as terrariums.

There were some detractions for me: e.g., the author suggests using a photography light meter to assess the light situation (got a photographer friend around?) and when I looked up how to care for my Christmas Cactus, I was told to use ‘non soil’ but couldn’t find what that meant exactly in the essential section except for a reference to potting cacti.  It was a bit frustrating.

So in all, an excellent, to the point book on the basics and some in-depth information on having happy, thriving houseplants.  Reviewed from an ARC provided by the publisher.

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