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Caring For Indoor Plants

 

 


Indoor Plant Care

Water

Potting soil should be kept moist, but not wet. Of course, there are always exceptions , succulents, and other thick-leafed plants do best when the soil dries out between watering. If the soil is kept too dry or too damp the plant’s roots will begin to die, which can lead to inadequate growth or even death of the plant.

There are several methods to determine when a plant needs water. If the potting soil becomes lighter in color or cracked, it’s probably time to water. Pick up your plant and gauge the weight after watering. After a few practice lifts, you’ll be able to tell if the plant needs water just by picking it up. Of course, you can always stick a finger in the soil to determine how moist it is below the surface. For large plants, a hand-held moisture meter may be your best bet to determine how much water is present around the plant’s root mass.

Dehydration

Do NOT let plants get to the point where they are wilting or the soil is pulling away from the edge of the container. These symptoms indicate dehydration and at this point the plant is already seriously stressed and the roots may be damaged.

Signs of underwatering include:

  • Slow leaf growth
  • Translucent leaves
  • Premature dropping of flowers or leaves
  • Brown, yellow or curled leaf edges

Overwatering

Too much water is just as detrimental as too little. Frequent watering forces air from the soil and opens the door for root-killing bacteria and fungus to move in. Overwatering is the number one killer of houseplants.

  • Signs of overwatering include:
  • Fungus or mold on the soil surface
  • Mushy brown (maybe stinky) roots at the bottom of the pot
  • Standing water in the bottom of the container
  • Young and old leaves falling off at the same time
  • Leaves with brown rotten patches

Watering on Demand

Plants requiring more water Plants requiring less water
– Flowering plants
– Plants potted in clay pots
– Plants grown in small pots
– Actively growing plants
– Plants located in direct sunlight
– Large-leaved or thin-leaved plants
– Plants that are native to wet areas.
– Resting or dormant plants
– Recently repotted plant
– Plants grown in high humidity
– A plant located in a cool room
– Plants potted in non-porous containers
– Plants with thick or rubbery leaves
– Plants grown in a water retentive mix

For those who are too busy to keep up with a regular watering schedule, which requires checking individual plants every 3-4 days, there are several self watering devices available. A moisture wick draws water from a dish of water into the root ball of your plant. 

Water Quality

Room temperature tap water should be fine for most indoor plants, even if there is chlorine or fluoride added to your city’s water. Plants especially love rainwater or melted snow (unless you live in a region with acid rain). Avoid continuous use of softened water, which may contain sodium.

How to Water

Plants can be watered from the top down or bottom up. When watering from the top, try not to wet the foliage, while ensuring the entire soil mass is moistened. Water should be coming out of the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.

If you prefer to let your plants do the work, set the plant in a dish of water and the roots (and capillary action in the soil) will pull up whatever they need. This method, known as bottom-watering, is a more thorough, if time-consuming, way to water plants.

Tip: Be sure to dump any standing water from the saucer one hour after watering.

Drainage

Good drainage is essential to healthy houseplants. Start with a good, organic potting soil (not regular soil) that has been mixed specifically for indoor gardening.

Choose a container with drainage holes, or put a layer of pebbles in the bottom of a container without holes. The point is to not let the plant stand in water. From time to time, check that the drainage holes have not been clogged. And always empty standing water (don’t run it back through the plant’s soil).

Light

As with watering, every plant has different light requirements. Many plants prefer direct sunlight, but this may be hard to get inside a house. Placing a plant in a window might offer enough light, but some houseplants will need supplementing from a grow light.

Flowering Plants

Flowering plants generally do best in moderately bright light and for this reason windows located on the south, east or west side of the house are best for potted flowering plants. (African violets prefer north-facing windows.)

Foliage Plants

Foliage plants can be divided into three categories: those requiring low light, moderate light and high light.

A dimly lit room should suffice for those few plants willing to survive in low light areas. Moderate light-needing plants will prefer a north-facing window, light diffused through a thin curtain or daylight without direct sun. Indoor plants that prefer high light will need to be in a south-facing window or under a grow light.

Some plants will benefit from being moved outside in the summer to get a little extra light.

Temperature

Many houseplants thrive in temperatures between 65-75° during the day and 55-60° at night. Of course, temperature preferences vary from plant to plant with tropical plants liking temperatures around 90° (or higher) and other plants growing better in cooler temperatures.

Humidity

Most plants thrive in high humidity — around 80%. Unfortunately, most homes are much drier, especially in the winter when forced heat can even further drop the humidity.

Using a humidifier can help, but there are other ways to increase the moisture in the air near your plants. A small tray containing pebbles and water can boost local humidity as can grouping plants more closely together. Daily misting of the plant’s leaves can help as well. For some plants, such as gardenias and orchids, keeping them in a bathroom or the kitchen (both usually have a higher humidity) can help.

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