Mary Ann Ryan
Adams County Master Gardener
At this barren and drab time of year, look to houseplants to liven up your indoor living spaces.
Growing houseplants can be an easy proposition if some basic requirements are met. Knowing what kind of environment you can offer your plant is a good first step. Before buying, study the area where you wish to grow plants. What kind of sunlight is
the area getting? Is it near a window? What direction does the window face? Are there any air vents from which heat or air conditioning will be blowing? What kind of heat do you have? You need to know the answers to these questions before selecting your plants. When you
have the answers, carefully choose the best plants to grow in the conditions you can provide. Light, temperature and humidity are very important when selecting all plants.
Select plants that are insect free. Always inspect the underside of the foliage as well as the leaf axils. Choose plants with healthy foliage. If the leaves look yellow, or chlorotic, donít buy them. Look out for brown leaf margins or weak growth.
Plants that have young, new growth and healthy buds are usually of superior quality.
Be aware of the kind of light the plant is getting in its present location. For instance, if it is a plant that requires high light conditions, such as a croton, and is living in a low light situation in a store, it will probably drop many leaves
when you get it home. You will be nursing it back to health for quite a long while. Likewise, if you buy a low-light plant growing in a florescent light situation and put it in a window that is getting all day sun, it will likely get leaf burn and lose its leaves.
After you have selected a healthy plant appropriate for your growing conditions, be sure you protect it on the way home. Wrap the plant in paper or plastic bags, and be sure to transport it in the front of the car where it is heated. Limit your
number of stops on the way home. Just short distances in low temperatures can cause severe damage or death to a houseplant.
Water houseplants carefully. Too much or too little water can cause stress or even death. Itís best to grow the plant in a container that has good drainage. Place a saucer underneath the container so the water runs through. After 15 minutes, dump the
excess water out of the saucer. If the soil medium continues to be wet for a long period of time, the roots of the plants will rot, which will cause the plant to die.
Just as important is not allowing the plant to dry out. If the soil medium is dry to the touch, itís time to water. A good rule of thumb is to check the plants twice a week. If it is dry, water it, if it isnít, let it alone until next time. It is
good to get your watering on a schedule, like every Wednesday and Saturday. That way the plant is not forgotten. Plant care then becomes habit.
Humidity is important to a plantís survival. Dry heat from a wood stove can be deadly to houseplants. To create more humidity, group plants together or put a humidity tray under them. Misting plants has very little effect. Locate your houseplant in a
room that has good ventilation, but is not drafty.
During the plantís active growing time, typically March through September, fertilize every two to four weeks. Use a well-balanced fertilizer. A typical analysis of a fertilizer is 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. The analysis tells you the percentage of
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that is in the fertilizer, in that order.
Late winter doesnít have to be a time without the color and joy of living plants, not with the many houseplants available to liven up your living spaces.
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