We all want healthy and vibrant looking houseplants, and that is not hard to achieve as long as we cover a number of key elements such as soil prep work, setting the proper room conditions, and picking out the proper pot. And speaking of room conditions, the specifics that you need work out are humidity, light, and insect control.
Now, this on the surface would suggest that there are too many elements involved in tending to indoor plants. On the contrary, it is much easier to carry out then it appears by the list of elements. In some cases, houseplants need little attention after they are settled in to their environment while others require a little more attention.
This will all be covered here at indoor plants. I feel you can become real involved in furthering your gardening hobby and add beauty to your home to boot.
The first element that will be covered is the choosing of a pot in which to place your indoor plant. Granted all houseplants purchased normally come in a pot but maybe, it is not as attractive as you would like it.
All Pots Are Not Created Equal
True enough, you definitely need to select the appropriate pot to accommodate the specific indoor plants you wish to place within the interior of your abode The plants purchased in a container may make you feel as if the choice has been made.
You need to analyze whether the pot will provide your houseplant with the growth space or soil it will require. Quite often, purchased indoor plants are stuffed into a pot which either has little room for growth, poor soil or both.
A large pot will provide for rapid root growth. However, sometimes, this is not favorable to the plant, and it will be detrimental to its growth and can result in falling leaves or the plant may die.
Each houseplant is different in this respect, and it will be your job to determine what is best for your plants. This can also lead to excessive water retention so you have to watch the pot size.
In contrast, a smaller pot has less soil for your indoor plants to absorb nutrients. The smaller pot restricts the plant from rapid growth and the plant grows much slower.
The two conditions frankly offset each other, which leads to about the same amount of time for repotting of a specific species. It is important that you don’t allow the plant to become root bound.
Repotting will be necessary at one point, but the diameter of the pot should only be increased by about 1-2 inches to allow for good healthy growth. I had a specific opportunity to observe this in my home when I moved a croton plant too rapidly from one size pot to another.
The plant’s growth was stunted for several months and leaves began to drop. It fortunately revived from this situation, but this may not happen in every case.
The Drainage Of Your Pots Is Important To Consider
It is estimated in some professional gardening circles that indoor plants are overwatered by as much as 90%. Diseases develop in this atmosphere and are more frequent and definitely more severe.
Mold, mildew and fungi are the most frequent results of overwatering. If you grow herbs, these are the most susceptible to excessive watering. There are some situations that would normally put a lot of stress on other plants, but herbs would instead prosper in them. They simply do not need that much water.
Bonsai on the other hand, thrive with a moist soil but they still need adequate drainage to prevent drowning in water. Take a look at raising bonsai and you will be returned to here.
This makes it very important that you choose a pot with numerous holes. You should make sure the holes are of a modest size to keep the soil from spilling out, but you could also cover the holes with a small mesh.
Conversely, the holes should not be too small resulting in the pot being easily plugged. There is a test you can perform to assure yourself that your holes are of the proper size.
A saucer should be placed under the pot and fill it about one-third full of water. Repeat this procedure until the water is no longer absorbed by capillary action into the soil above.
Keep Track Of The Volume Of Water You Use
This will provide with a measurement for the correct size holes for your indoor plants and soil. It will also indicate the correct amount of water to be used.
This technique gives you both a measure of drainage, watering amount, and frequency in just one test.
Indoor Plants Soil Preparation
As far as soil prep work is concerned, that is very much contingent on what sort of indoor plant that you plan on getting. There are elements that can be applied to almost every houseplant and there are specifics that are unique to a single species.
You need to test the soil for the exact levels of nutrients that will be required by your houseplants. Sometimes this information is supplied with the plant at point of purchase.
If your are purchasing a potting soil, the levels of nutrients are generally 10-10-10, which translates to even ingredients of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These elements are often referred to in their chemical symbols as NPK.
Indoor Plants Requirement For Fertilizer
If you want to take a crack at mixing up your own soil, sure, you could do that. A good soil mixture includes two parts peat moss, one part sand and one part perlite, and a good silt or clay loam garden soil.
Unless you are a real hobbyist, I don’t recommend this route. Today, there are so many good commercial potting soils on the market making this step unnecessary.
The first thing to avoid is the assumption that more than the recommended amount of fertilizer is good for your houseplants. This could in fact damage your plants to the point of no return or in the least case, result in a leggy plant.
If this occurs by accident or by the realization of too much fertilizer, you can sometimes dissolve it with clear water. Have a container handy for just this purpose, with many holes in the bottom and place your houseplant in this container in your sink, and water profusely three to four times at half hour increments.
You must allow the water to flush out the fertilizer and other salts that maybe present. Like I mentioned earlier, the rates of which fertilizer is absorbed by indoor plants vary. Take for example, slow-release nitrogen.
You know, I’ve discovered this pretty brilliant slow-release fertilizer known as Osmocote®, and the thing works great outdoors too.
This product is labeled as 19-6-12. One application as directed will last up to four months. It is very useful where deep green foliage is desired.
Phosphorus is important in the ability of flowers to bloom on your indoor plants. This is basically influenced by the pH level of the soil.
This is a numeric measurement of acidity being soil that measures closer to 0 is acidic, and soil closer to 14 is alkaline. If the soil is too acidic, it retards the plant’s absorption of phosphorus. Phosphorus is particularly important in healthy root development.
Sorry I became a little technical here but it is important to understand some basic terminology in order to develop your indoor plants to their fullest potential. I would go to to your local nursery or store and purchase a test kit to see how your potting soil holds up. This is especially true if you decide to mix your own.
Potassium, on the other hand, aids in the fight against disease as well as encourages the fruit development in a fruit-bearing plant that you may have started indoors. It is very chemically active with the presence of oxygen and water, which aids in the movement of the elements through the tissues of the plant.
There are certainly acceptable liquid fertilizers that will perform well over a broad spectrum of indoor plants. They can, however, provide the fertilizer too rapidly for some houseplants. Liquids do have the benefit of adding the fertilizer at a more even rate.
One word of advice in applying fertilizer to your houseplants is not to add to a dry soil. This could result in a heavy saturation of elements and may burn your plant. Most indoor plants, if purchased recently, will not require the application of fertilizer immediately.
Water, How Much Is Correct?
Keep the lid on your old watering can. It is necessary to be observant and use good judgment for your house plant watering. The conditions in any place of residence or office vary so much and even from room to room.
This includes the lightning, the temperature both day and night, and of course, the humidity. You may have plants in pots with very little depth, which will require your watering attention everyday, and then you may have large pots that can maintain their moisture for several weeks.
If the moisture is over applied, then you are going to drown the roots since saturated soil drives the air right out, and the roots die because of lack of oxygen. Always make sure, the saucer catching the draining water is emptied.
This reduces the amount of water being funneled back up into the soil, and stops the dissolved salts from reentering the plant soil. The soil should actually dry to a point where it could be consider stress time. Many people without even thinking, just water their plants to death during the winter months.
Another point I just thought of, is the use of water with a particularly high salt content. This could be the result of water run through a water softener.
You could either collect rain water or if you live in area of snowmelt, allow it to warm and apply to your houseplant soil. Sometimes plants are sensitive to the chlorine used in city systems, so let a container stand overnight and allow the chlorine gas to dissipate.
Manual Methods Of Testing Water Levels
The first one was discussed when reviewing pot selection which was the saucer under the pot. Of course everyone should know about pressing your finger to the surface of the soil, giving you a good idea of the moisture level.
This method tells you if your finger becomes wet than water is present, but it also test the sponginess of the soil. Moist soil results in easily pushing your finger into the soil, but if the soil is dry and caked, it makes it harder to push your finger into the soil.
The second method utilizes a simple tongue depressor, or even a chopstick will make a quick and simple testing tool. Insert it quickly and withdraw quickly.
If the wood appears moist and dark, then there is more than likely water present under the surface. It is a fact that surface water will dampen the wood to a certain extend, however, wood can only absorb water so fast.
This is why the insertion should be quickly, so that the surface moisture will only account for a small amount of the water moisture clinging to the stick. If you want to take the time, there is still another method that will not disturb or even modify the soil.
Water has weight and moist soil will be heavier than dry soil. You position your pot on, using hopefully an accurate scale, and take repeated measurements as weight will tell you if the plant is lighter or heavier indicating dry as light and wet as heavy.
Once you have determine the correct amount of water, a daily weighing will provide with an accurate measurement. This will eventually give you an accurate estimate of the correct amount of water, and you can discontinue the weighing method.
The best method by far, for the serious indoor plants buff, is to purchase a hygrometer, which is an excellent investment. you can spend a few dollars or a lot of dollars for this piece of equipment. I like the one pictured here, or a similar one that provides a digital readout.
The neat part is it provides you with a dual readout of both temperature and soil moisture. This is particularly good for testing soil temperature, to make sure your houseplants are at their optimum for healthy plants.
Indoor Plants Signs Of Trouble
Wilting happens to be one of the typical causes of indoor plant death. This includes lack of water, excess water and root rot because of over use of fertilizer or salt buildup. The best check for this condition is to press your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle.
If the soil is extremely dry, then the plant needs water. However, if the soil is wet, then root rot could be the existing condition which requires the immediate repotting with new potting soil.
Loss of leaves and the yellowing and demise of leaves comes from several avenues. The sudden drooping of leaves is usually caused by rapid temperature fluctuation such as long hot spells, cold drafts, dry air or by the moving of a plant from a sunny spot to a darker location.
The yellow leaf may also be caused by a nutrient problem. My initial action would be to use some nitrogen fertilizer and wait for about 3 to 4 days for the foliage to get greener. If that does not happen, forget about adding some more nitrogen fertilizer.
So drop it completely, and instead, start using a chelated iron product to help make things happen. Now, it may or may not work but the thing is green leaf requires iron. Sure, sure, iron is available within the soil, but it is sort of locked up in there so to speak, therefore the plant is incapable of accessing that nutrient.
So that is why we try chelated products as they are able to treat this nutrient deficiency issue called iron chlorosis, which causes the leaves not to be green as they might otherwise be. These chelated iron products are expensive though.
You can make your own by applying one cup of iron sulfate to a bushel of compost and apply it directly to the soil. This works allowing the plant to have their iron in a form that can be used. Of course, with houseplants, you will have this mixture a long time since you only apply a small amount to indoor plants.
The insect thing is many times the result of having houseplants outside for a period of time, and then moving them inside for whatever reason. The severe infestation of aphids, mites and scale insects can cause the yellowing of leaves or very poor growth.
These insects sometimes lie dormant in the soil until you subject them to increase heat present in your house. All of these insects whiteflies included, can easily be identified and brought under control by the purchase of a houseplant insecticide.
Indoor Plants And The Proper Need For Light, Temperature, Ventilation And Humidity
Indoor plants have extreme differences in their light needs. Good examples of common houseplants are Chinese Evergreen requiring low, indirect light, maybe filtered sunlight, through a curtain with no direct light.
A snake plant requiring the same light requirements, or a Norfolk-Island Pine requiring four hours of direct sunlight or bright indirect light. As you can see, you could go on and on covering all desirable indoor plants with light specifications.
Most indoor gardeners rely on natural window light for the most part. This particular light source is definitely the most ideal as long as the plants are placed sufficiently close to benefit from it.
There are some exceptions to this rule, but by and large, the closer the better. If this is not possible, you will have to resort to artificial light where it is required.
I don’t feel that light from reading lamps is of sufficient intensity to keep your plants flourishing. The broad spectrum fluorescent lights made for indoor plants are the best.
These can be place at ten to fourteen inches above the plant, and will provide sufficient light for your plants. Incidentally, spindly plants need more light which means closer to the source, or your bulbs are too old to produce sufficient light for the houseplants growth.
Temperature And Ventilation
The Ideal temperature for most houseplants is between 60 and 75 degrees F. They can become weak if maintained at too warm of a temperature.
It is real important to keep them away from hot or cold drafts, warm appliances, and especially heat registers. Flowering plants tend to hold on to their blossoms longer if temperatures are lower.
Temperatures exceeding 75 degrees F speeds up the demise of the flowers as well as weakening the plant. This also leads to less resistance of disease and insect invasions.
Proper ventilation is a requirement and if you find your ventilation is less than desired, than buy a small seven inch fan to circulate the air. No need for a fifty mile an hour breeze just keep the fan on low and at a distance, so that your plants don’t appear to be in a wind storm.
Indoor Plants And Humidity
In some cases, plants require a higher humidity than the average home. If you have a humidifier that accompanies your heating system, by all means, keep it full of water.
Simply sprinkling the plants is not sufficient as the water tends to evaporate. If possible, you can grow plants together in a terrarium, or fill a tray with gravel and position your plants on the tray to take advantage of the moisture from the tray raising the humidity.
For your larger size plants like a Norfolk pine or a rubber plant, it may require an investment in a plant stand of sufficient size to hold the plant with a large tray beneath the plant. Fill this tray with gravel, making sure it is even, so the plant will not rock and add moisture to the gravel.