HOUSEPLANT CARE GUIDE

Tips For Keeping Indoor Plants Happy And Healthy Year-round

Pests
Pests can be a real pain. They usually appear after outdoor plants are brought inside for the winter, or when a new houseplant is brought home.
•To get rid of bugs in houseplants, push a clove of garlic into the plant’s soil. If the garlic sprouts and grows, just cut it back.
•Spider mites are apt to thrive in warm, dry houses. Frequent misting under the leaves of houseplants will discourage them. A solution of 1 cup flour, ¼ cup buttermilk, and a gallon of cool water, applied in a mist, is a good organic deterrent.
•Small flies may occasionally appear around houseplants. These are called fungus gnats and are harmless to plants (and humans) in their adult form, though their larvae can damage young roots. Letting the soil dry out a bit between waterings can discourage fungus gnats from calling your houseplants home.

LIGHT
Before you buy a houseplant, make sure your house can provide the amount of light your plant needs. For example, if you buy a cacti, you will need a window that provides bright light.
When you first bring a plant home, it’s normal for the plant to drop a few leaves as it adjusts. If the lighting is to its liking, it will soon adjust.
•Put plants that can tolerate full sun and bright light thrive in a south-facing windows (examples are cacti, tropical hibiscus, Lantana).
•Plants that like partial shade or moderate light do best in east- and west-facing windows (examples are fiscus, phildendrons, and bromeliads).
•Low-light plants in north-facing windows (examples are snake plants and cast iron plants).
•Plants that require high light levels will do best under a grow light.
•Most houseplants grown for their flowers need to be within three feet of a sunny window (examples, African violets, gardenias, orchids).
•All plants require a period of darkness; light exposure should not exceed 16 hours.
•Rotate plants every once in a while to encourage even growth and prevent legginess.
•Plants become acclimated to a site so try not to move them from one light exposure to another; if you must, make the change gradual, if possible.

FERTILIZER
Most houseplants respond well to feeding, but be sure to follow the instructions included with whichever fertilizer you buy.
•Too much fertilizer can be detrimental to a plant’s health, so don’t fertilize more than necessary.
•In winter, feed sparingly or not at all; houseplants will be especially sensitive to overfeeding at this time of year, when most go into dormancy.
•Come spring, start to feed plants again. This, along with more hours of daylight, will help to kickstart their growing phase. Continue feeding through fall.
•A balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) works fine for houseplants, though fertilizers with a higher ratio of nitrogen will promote greater foliage growth.
•For flowering plants, use a fertilizer with more phosphorous.

 

WATER
Believe it or not, more houseplants die from overwatering than from anything else! Most houseplants can not tolerate soil that is always wet. Some succulent plants (such as cacti or jade) can survive a month or two without watering. Learn the preferences of you rplants.
The first step, of course, is to ensure the bottom of your pot has drainage holes. Otherwise, you will need to repot the plant.
When to Water
•Starting in late fall, water houseplants sparingly until daylight hours begin to increase again in the new year.
•The best time of day to water is in the morning, except when it is cloudy or rainy outside and there will no sun. Avoid watering on a fixed schedule; instead, check the soil and water when needed.
•Water when the roots, in the lower two-thirds of potted soil, begin to dry. Push your finger into the soil of a 6-inch diameter pot to a 2-inch depth. If the soil feels moist, do not water. Repeat until the soil feels dry, then water. Push you finger to a 1-inch depth in smaller pots. (If it is not possible to pushing your finger into the soil, the soil may be compacted and need pourous material or the plant may be root-bound and could benefit from being transplanted.) Alternatively, lift the potted plant dry and then when wet. You may learn to “feel” its needs.
•Starting in late fall, water houseplants sparingly until daylight hours begin to increase again in the new year.
•Water houseplants in unglazed clay pots more frequently, as the porous clay will absorb and evaporate some of the water.
How to Water
•Water plants with room-temperature water. Cold water can be a shock to a houseplant’s roots—like sticking your toes into an ice bath!
•Use filtered water if your tap water contains high amounts of minerals or chemicals. Fluoride can cause the leaf tips of some houseplants, such as peace lilies, to turn brown.
•Always water until the excess water drains out of the holes. Even plants that prefer dry soil should be watered this way (just not as frequently).
•Water gently over the top of the soil; avoid water on the plant leaves or crown. A long-spouted watering can works best.
•If water is not almost immediately absorbed by the soil, drainage is poor. Mix perlite, vermiculite, or sand into the soil; for best effect, remove and repot the plant in the amended soil, if possible.
•Watering from the bottom can benefit plants, too. Set a plant pot (that has holes in the bottom) on a saucer or in a shallow pan. Pour water into the saucer or pan to about an inch depth. Add more water as necessary until the surface of the soil in the pot is moist. Remove the plant from the saucer or pan and set it aside to let excess moisture run out.
•If the soil is exceptionally dry, water may not be absorbed but instead flow rapidly down the sides of the pot and out into the catch basin/saucer, bringing no moisture to the plant’s roots. If this happens, submerge the whole pot in a deep sink or pail full of water until air bubbles stop being released. Remove the plant from the water and set it aside to let excess moisture run out. Consider repotting the plant into a looser medium mix.
•Mist under the leaves of houseplants frequently to discourage spider mites.

WINTER TIME HOUSEPLANT CARE
Even indoors, winter conditions can be tough on plants. Fewer hours of sunlight, drier air, and cooler indoor temperatures can take their toll, so be prepared.
•In colder regions, houseplants that have been outside for the summer should be brought in in August. A sudden cold spell will be too much of a shock for them to survive. This is also a good time to take cuttings.
•It’s also good to bring in plants before you start heating your home. This gives them a chance to adjust. Wash them thoroughly before bringing them in to rid them of any pests.
•You can dig up your rosemary, basil, tarragon, oregano, marjoram, English thyme, parsley, and chives to grow them inside as houseplants. Keep them in a cool, sunny spot, and allow the soil to dry out before watering. Snip off the leaves as needed in the kitchen, but do not strip them completely.
•Divide and re-pot any pot-bound plants so they will grow well during spring and summer. Prune judiciously to create a compact, attractive specimen.
•Provide extra protection to houseplants on windowsills if it is very cold. Place cardboard between the plants and the glass. Be sure the plants don’t touch the windowpanes.
•As houseplants are growing more slowly in December light, cut down on watering by half until active growth resumes. Hold off on fertilizing as well.
•If your plants seem a little worse for the wear after winter ends, provide them with more sunlight, fresh air, and frequent bathing.



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A thing of beauty is a joy forever

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