House Plants Care made easy (real easy)

12 May

Often people are discouraged from keeping house plants after a plant dies soon after purchase. It is really un fortunate because these folks that get upset over the death of a plant are ultimately the better stuarts of house plants, if given the opportunity to do it right.
Over watering is the leading cause of the demise of plants. We often love our plants too much, since we can not interact with plants as we do with animals we have the tendency to water them to show our love and caring, it is a mistake more often then not.
Drainage is as important as judicial watering. When watering it is important to see water darning from the bottom of the pot, for two reasons; the first is it indicates that the soil was hydrated top to bottom, the second is it indicates the plant roots are not siting in water.
Plants have a way of communicating with us. When a plant shows yellow leaf or two, it is ether over watered or under watered, to find out we need to check the soil; if the soil is wet, the plant is over watered if the soil is dry it is under watered. Plants are cyclical beings and watering them on the same day every one or two weeks keeps them happy and healthy. A good rule of thumb is; well lit plants require more water then plants in low light, because the plant needs the light in order to metabolize the water.
Fertilizing is very important as well, giving a plant only water is like inviting someone to diner, placing in front of them a plate and silverware but no food. Water is only a vehicle to transport nutrition. Plants that are in low light need less food and over fertilizing will saturate the soil with minerals and it can become a problem in the long run.
House plants very a great deal as far as light conditions, temperature, and the humidity of the soil. The location of the plant vs. the window, the cold draft coming from the A/C or proximity to a fireplace can be the deciding factor for the well-being of a particular verity of a plant.

First step: selecting the right plant.
Here are two very affordable plants that need almost opposite conditions for thriving in doors: The Pothos and the Cordatum.
The Pothos is a hearty hard to kill plant that likes well lit room and damp soil (it does not respond well to going dry in doors) When it gose dry it will show yellow leaves as well when it gets to much water.
The Cordatum is a little more finicky, it can handle low light and going dry on occasion does not seem to hurt it. It will show yellow leaves and actually wilt when is over watered. (Both of the above plants can be toxic to pets and human, as are other house plants.)
Second step: buying the plant.
Choose a well developed plant, great deal of leaves will indicate a well developed root ball that is very important for thriving in low light conditions.
It is important to inspect carefully the plant at the nursery. Even a reputable nursery may carry a plant that has a pest.
Fungus gnats are common and difficult to get rid of and will infect other plants near by. To check for them you need to rustle the plant gently with your fingers as near to the soil as possible. If the gnats are there they will take of and start flying around. DO NOT take that plant home. In fact other plants at that location may be infected.
Mealybug is another common pest that can be difficult to rid of. When inspecting a plant  look for small white cotton like deposits, especially on new growth. If you find it, shop elsewhere or come back at a later date. This pest will spread easily to the other plans in your house. Be sure to wash your hands well with soap and water to prevent the contamination of your home.
There is a very simple setup of indoor plants that professionals use in public places like lobbies in commercial buildings.
The setup:
It is often the case that one will bring home a plant from the nursery and remove it from the original inexpensive plastic container and put it in some other (nice looking) pot. You and the plant are better of not to do that. The original pot has holes at the bottom that insure drainage and in fact this very holes can be used to irrigate the soil. Here is how:
Items you need to have;
•A potted plant in its original nursery container,
•A wick, a strip of cloth (almost any cloth will suffice)
the strip needs to be roughly 2″ wide and as long as the pot is tall.
•A sealed at the bottom container (this is the nice looking one), plastic or ceramic,
•A piece of Florist foam or a flat rock roughly 2″ tall and wide enough to keep the nursery pot leveled and stable.
•Some Spanish moss.
Take the strip of cloth and push it through one of the holes at the bottom of the pot about half way in the soil, use a pencil or screw driver to do it. FIG 1

Put the Florist foam (or rock) at the bottom of the sealed container. FIG 2

Place the potted plant that has the weak all ready in, on top of the florist foam, making sure that the strip of cloth is reaching the bottom of the sealed container.FIG 3

Now place some of the Spanish moss no top of the soil, use plenty to cover the plastic container.FIG 4

The pot is ready to be placed where you choose. It is a good idea to place a plate or a flat tray of cork under a ceramic container to prevent damage to furniture or floor due to seepage of moisture trough the bottom of the pot.

Watering: If the soil is dry you must water the soil in the pot but you have to make sure of two things; the water is draining in to the reservoir under the pot, the water level is not above the bottom of the nursery pot. As the plant consumes the water and also some evaporation occurs the wick will deliver water from the reservoir to the soil trough capillary action. Every two weeks you need to check the reservoir and you will discover that some times all you need to do is ad some water to the reservoir.
NOTE if the soil is wet and all is needed is to augment the water level in the reservoir, do it directly to the reservoir, DO NOT water the soil, but if the soil is dry you must water the soil to get the capillary action going. If the wick is wet out side but dry inside it will not do its job.
That is it, you now have a plant that you will need to be deliberate in order to kill it. I know because I am a reformed plant killer.

In short; choose a plant that is compatible with your home environment and be sure it is healthy when you buy it.
Water and feed it judiciously and cyclically.


One Response to “House Plants Care made easy (real easy)”

  1. John July 23, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Excellent well written advice!

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