First aid for house plants

Success with houseplants is governed by the correct amount of light, temperature, water, nutrients and humidity that the plants receive. When a houseplant does not receive this correct amount, then the plant suffers.

Houseplants are normally tropical plants and must be treated different than the regular garden plants. Care is similar, but still different, because houseplants rely on the homeowners while outside plants rely on mother nature.

Success with houseplants is governed by the correct amount of light, temperature, water, nutrients and humidity that the plants receive. When a houseplant does not receive this correct amount, then the plant suffers.

Promptness in recognizing the symptoms is the key to curing the various ailments that effects houseplants. To forestall trouble, the key is to set up a regular inspection schedule. A twice-a-month washing with water provides a good opportunity to monitor their condition. The symptoms or warning signs are the best indicator of problems of the plant. Recognizing these symptoms allows the homeowner a chance to cure the problems.

Probably the number one problem with houseplants is too much water or too little water. Too much water turns the lower leave yellow and stems become soft and dark color, the soil stays soggy and green scum forms on clay pot. Too little water causes the leaf edges to dry and curl under or the lower leaves turn yellow with brown spots appearing on the leaves. After a while the leaves will drop off.

Proper watering techniques will solve this problem. Water the plants by its need and not on a time schedule. Irrigate the plant until excess runs out the bottom of the container. If the soil becomes too compact, and the water runs through the pot rapidly, repot the plant into a bigger pot.

Probably the next problem is the amount of light. With too much light the leaves develop yellow and brown patches or the leaves on the sunny side of the plant turn brown. In too little light the stems of most afflicted plants stretch toward the light source and grow very long. Also, new leaves are pale-colored and smaller and usual.

Most houseplants prefer indirect sunlight. Generally, three to five feet away from a window and out of direct sunlight is preferred. Check on light requirements before selecting or placing the plant. Then place the low light plants six to ten feet away from a window; medium light plants three to six feet away and high light plants in the window area.

Too much or too little fertilizer is generally not a problem. If too much fertilizer is used then the new growth is rapid but weak and the plant may wilt. A large amount of white crust of built-up salt develops on the surface of the soil or on the outside of clay pots when heavy amounts of fertilizers are used. On the other hand, not enough fertilizer will cause the leaves to fade, turn pale green and the lower leaves turn yellow and drop off.

Houseplants should be fertilized once a month during spring and summer and every other month during winter months. Use a diluted fertilizer that is water-soluble and follow the directions for mixing. Allow some of the solution to run out the bottom of the pot. This will prevent root burn and salt build-up.

Plants that look too big for the pot are probably root-bound. Root-bound plants appears crowded, roots protrude from the drain hole in the bottom of the pot, the plants wilt between watering or produces only small leaves.

A root-bound plant should be repotted into a larger container. The roots should be untwisted by lightly combing the soil with a fork. Any dead or diseased roots should be trim back to live roots. The new soil should be placed around the root ball and watered until all air pockets are removed.

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