Photo by Donna Balzer / For CREB®Now

By following three simple rules, you can keep your apartment plants happy and healthy

They say you should raise a plant before you raise a pet – it’s a warm-up activity. At the very least, tropical plants are easier to take care of, and cheaper too.

Apartment-ready plants, typically in four inch (9 cm) pots, are available at most grocery stores. At that size they’re not a big financial or emotional investment. Plus, tiny tropical varieties are just so cute. Before bringing home a baby houseplant, however, it’s important to think of the light and space you have available in your apartment.

I recently picked up a new rubber plant. The label said: “A cute little tree for your home. Start your plant out on a table and, as it grows taller, move it to the floor. Plant height: 46 cm (1.5 feet) tall.”

In reality, rubber plants are rainforest trees growing 17-20 metres (50 plus feet) tall if given room to grow. When it comes to the potential height of plants, don’t trust the labels because they are not always accurate. But don’t let that stop you from including plants in your apartment.

For basic plant care, just follow these three simple rules:

Rule 1 – Plants with colourful leaves need light

Leaves with colour need bright, south-facing, windows. Planning to buy a Codiaeum variegatum, also known as a Croton? Make sure you have a sunny south-facing spot before bringing this plant home. Will colourful plants survive with less light? Probably, but they won’t thrive. They will lose their colour with each new leaf formed while slowly dropping the older, prettier leaves.

Green leaved plants are better for dim light. Maidenhair ferns are perfect plants for those dull corners in your bedroom. And the Cast Iron plant? As the name implies, it survives anywhere.

Philodendrons are green-leaved jungle vines. They thrive on very little light, but when they grow their vines will sprawl up and over your couch and into your spare room, demanding support and space. Do you have room in your home or apartment for something this aggressive?

Rule 2 – To get blooms add light

It takes extra light to bloom. Peace Lilies, with their plain green leaves can actually thrive in a windowless corner, but to flower, they need an extra boost of energy from a window or a grow light. Calla lilies, orchids and lemon trees also survive as low light plants, but bloom best in south or west windows.

Rule 3 – Plants have different water needs

Grey, waxy or fleshy-leaved plants like cactus, aloe, jade, rubber plants or succulents hold water in their leaves and stems. These are usually high-light plants and you can head off for the weekend without giving these babies a thought because they like to dry out between watering.

The delicate, thin, lacey leaves of ferns may die if they dry out between watering. Check them before you leave for work and on weekends. Always keep them evenly moist.

With these basic rules, you’ll be able to grow happy apartment plants and maybe even take that next step towards a pet, if you haven’t already.

For a video about growing potatoes see my web page, where I help gardener’s grow and beginners’ blossom