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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Winterizing The Houseplants

If you're like most people, your house plants have probably suffered from neglect while you've picked summer flowers and planted autumn bulbs. The question is, what's the best way to revitalize and winterize a house plant?

Marion Owen, gardener at the University of Alaska says it starts with a 'Clean and Feed,' a technique she developed to clean indoor plants and feed them at the same time.

Every home and office space creates dust and other airborne particles that eventually settle on everything from table tops to leaf tops. Plants breathe and even feed through the tiny openings in their leaves. If these openings become clogged, plants suffer. For us, it would be like trying to eat and breathe through a sock.

To clean and feed plants, take a section from a clean, white T-shirt or rag and dip it in lukewarm water, or diluted broth left from steaming fresh vegetables or boiling eggs. For even better results, use PlanTea, the organic fertilizer in a tea bag.

Then, supporting the leaf on your upturned hand, gently wipe the leaf with the cloth. Rinse and re-dip as needed. For hairy, African violet-type leaves, just brush with a clean, dry paint brush to remove dust.

To perk up and winterize house plants:

  • Turn your plants occasionally so all sides get enough light.
  • Avoid 'leaf shine' products which clog pores and attract dust.
  • Mist plants periodically (except African violets) to prevent dust from settling.
  • Re-pot plants with fresh potting soil every two or three years.
  • Conduct a clean sweep for pests--check stems and soil as well as leaf tops and bottoms.
  • Remove shriveled leaves and trim browned leaf edges.
  • 'Tickle' the soil monthly with a fork or spoon to loosen crust-overs.

Studies have shown that indoor plants not only clean the air, they lift our spirits. As valuable additions to our living spaces, they deserve to be clean. According to Larry Hodgson, author of Houseplants for Dummies, "Dirty, dusty foliage cuts back on the light indoor plants receive and slows respiration, leading to weak, lackluster growth and even leaf loss." Cleaning house plants improves their appearance, stimulates growth, and helps control pests.

Feeding houseplants is essential to winterizing your plants.


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