The Q&A Archives: Choosing Plants for a Classroom

Question: I am a teacher in a new school, which does not have any live plants in it. So far I have two philodendrons and clippings from an ivy and a swiss cheese philodendron. I need advice: please recommended lighting, food, watering frequency, and most of this the correct plant to use? How long should I root cuttings in water?

In addition, what plant do you recommend for me to use that will grow quickly so my students can appreciate it.

Answer: The philodendrons are good choices for a classroom, because they are hardy, and need only indirect light to grow well. They do well located in east or west windows, or can be placed a bit away from a south facing window (direct southern light is too strong for them). Keep the soil evenly moist, which is to say, don't let it dry out completely, and don't waterlog the soil. Use a standard potting soil, and make sure the pots have drainage. Feed with a foliage houseplant food as per the label directions. You can plant rooted cuttings when the rootlets are an inch long. They also benefit from misting a few times per week (I'm sure students will enjoy THIS activity!). I'm afraid I can't advise you on the ivy plant, since you don't mention what sort of ivy it is, but I suggest treating it like the philodendrons, and see what happens. Experimentation is appropriate for the classroom!

Other great plants for the classroom are spider plants, Swedish Ivy, and jade plants, because they grow quickly and are easily propagated, so you can spread them around the entire school, or students can pot up and take home "babies" if they like. I still have a spider plant propagated from my 5th grade teacher's huge "mother" plant! Spider plants and Swedish Ivy are two of the best common houseplants for cleaning the air, too! Maybe you and your students can do some research on this topic, or research the origin of the plants (their native habitat, etc.). Have fun!

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