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Your common questions about indoor plants, answered

Illustration of a woman holding a watering can surrounded by plants
(Bijou Karman)
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It’s hard to connect with nature when you don’t have a yard.

That’s why indoor gardening, along with other 1970s trends like hanging chairs and macrame, has made a comeback, especially with millennials who can’t afford to buy homes.

More people are gardening than ever, according to the National Gardening Association’s annual survey, and houseplant sales are soaring, along with the proliferation of Instagram influencers, plant swaps, Plant Parent clubs, jungle-like interiors, even plant stylists.

But for every #plantparent — like the Plant PPL we’ve featured — there is an aspiring green thumb who is struggling to master basic plant care.

And who can blame them? “It’s frustrating,” acknowledges L.A. County master gardener Julie Strnad. “Plants are living things. Nothing is ever straightforward.”

In the year and a half since we launched L.A. Times Plants, we’ve built a community on Instagram and spent time with Los Angeles plant lovers doing interesting things.

We also went looking for the horticultural questions that most mystify indoor gardeners.

We found the questions people ask most frequently about gardening and outdoor plants and went to local experts in Southern California to get some answers.

We learned that people want to know more about spider mites, pet- and kid-friendly plants, houseplants that can survive low light conditions, and that famous NASA Clean Air study. (For me, I learned that my aeschynanthus radicans was getting too much sun, my fittonia needed a humidity tray, my dracaena ‘lemon lime’ was suffering from overwatering, and I should have left my pilea peperomioides in its plastic nursery container).

Here are some of the most sought-after houseplant questions on Google, with answers from Southern California gardening experts and the indispensable 1979 Reader’s Digest plant Bible “Success With House Plants.”

If you have a question of your own, please send it to us. We want to keep learning together.

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