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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Caring for Houseplants

To many people, a home is not complete without attractive potted plants. Proper care of houseplants helps increase satisfaction and enjoyment from them and extends the blooming period of many flowering plants.

Most potted plants purchased from the florist have been grown in greenhouses under ideal conditions. When they are placed in home environments designed for people, not plants, they need good care to adjust to the new environment.

1. Watering

Just about the most important requirement of all indoor potted plants is correct watering. Some, such as philodendrons, need moist soil, but most will be better for a good watering and a period of reasonable drying out before further water is given.

Tepid water will be more suitable than cold water, and rain water will suit some plants better than hard tap water.

Less water is generally needed in winter, and a combination of cold and wetness can be particularly damaging for many plants.

2. Lighting

3. Temperature Proper temperatures for plants are often hard to find in the house. A hot, dry atmosphere shortens the life of flowers. Flowering potted plants should receive temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees F in the day and 55 to 60 degrees F at night. To get the most out of flowering potted plants in the home, move them to a cool spot at night.

Foliage plants are more tolerant of high temperatures, but they thrive at temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees.

In winter, plants placed close to a window may have cooler temperatures than those elsewhere in the house. If the drapes are drawn behind these plants at night, the window temperature may be too cool. On cold nights, check temperatures close to windows. Some tropical foliage plants can be injured at temperatures below 40 degrees F.

Do not put plants at windows that have hot air registers or radiators directly below them. Hot air blowing on the plants often causes leaves to brown on the edges and occasionally to drop or die.

4. Humidity

Air in most modern homes is extremely dry during the winter. A furnace or room humidifier can help plant growth. If one cannot be used, watertight trays placed beneath the plants and filled with constantly moist sand or gravel help increase humidity around the plants. Pots must be placed on, not in, the wet sand or gravel.

Misting over the leaves daily can help a plant overcome the stress of low humidity. Plants needing constant high humidity such as orchids or gardenias are best kept in kitchens or bathrooms where humidity often runs higher. A relative humidity between 40 and 60 percent is best for most plants but is difficult to attain in the house.

5. Fertilizing

Never overfeed, and never feed plants that are ailing or have been freshly potted. Winter feeding is seldom necessary, and when feeding while plants are growing one should ensure that the directions on the fertilizer being used are followed, bearing in mind that too much food may be more harmful than too little.

6.Planting and Repotting

7. Grouping
Large and stately plants make an impressive feature in a room, but it will often be found that smaller plants have much more appeal if they are placed in small groups. Plants in groups create their own humidity and will grow better, especially in a dry atmosphere.

8. Propagation
Plants with large leaves are difficult to propagate indoors, but there is a wide range of subjects with smaller leaves which are reasonably easy to manage. Clean peat should be used, and a smll heated propagator will be an asset, as will a rooting powder or liquid. Temperatures in the region of 21 degree celsius and a close atmosphere will encourage cuttings to root more rapidly. Provide reasonable light for cuttings, but avoid direct sunlight.

9. Cleaning Houseplants

Keep houseplants clean by carefully washing foliage. Washing leaves with water or cleaning with leaf polish is not recommended on plants with pubescent (hairy) leaves.

Plain, room temperature water or a soft, damp cloth works well. Leaf polish products should be used sparingly and only on plants with firm foliage.

10. Vacation and Summer Care

Many people move their houseplants outdoors during the warm summer months. Often this helps reinvigorate them. Do not place them in direct sun. A north-side exposure or under a tree works well. It is best to introduce plants to a new location slowly. Begin this acclimatization by placing outdoors for just a few hours on the first day. Each day, increase the time. By the end of 1-2 weeks, these plants should be ready for their new spot.

In the fall, bring them back into the house before the temperature drops. Repeat the acclimatization steps. Inspect them for insects and disease. Often it is a good idea to re-pot them into fresh potting mix before returning them indoors. Be aware that plants may be infected with disease or insects when moved indoors. Quarantine them from other indoor plants for 2-3 weeks to minimize this risk.


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