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Don’t neglect your indoor garden

Proper care, watering can keep houseplants lush and green all winter

POSTED: September 30, 2011 12:30 a.m.
MICHELLE BOAEN JAMESON /The Times

Pruning the dead and discolored foliage from indoor plants is one way to help them flourish in your home.

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Outdoor gardening may not be your thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lush oasis of greenery inside your home.

According to Hall County Master Gardener Pat DeNote, if you take care of your plants, they’ll take care of you, too.

“For me, indoor plants are comforting,” DeNote said during a recent gardening workshop at the Spout Springs Library in Flowery Branch.

“They also filter out a lot of pollutants in your home, so it’s a good thing healthwise to have one or two plants in every room of your home if you can.”

Like with all gardens, indoor plants need general maintenance, such as removing dead leaves and consistent watering.

“A real simple way to see if your plant needs a drink or not, is to put your finger about an inch and a half into the soil,” DeNote said.

“If any (soil) particles stick to your finger when you pull it out, the soil is moist and doesn’t need water. If it comes out clean, your plant needs a drink.

“Once you become familiar with your plant, you can also tell if it needs a drink by picking it up. If it feels light for its size, it probably needs water. You want the soil to be moist, not wet.”

Overwatering your plant can cause the plant’s roots to rot.

“When you water your plants too much, they can drown. You can tell they’ve been overwatered because the leaves turn brown or black and the plant gets a funny smell,” DeNote said.

Although you want to make sure that your plant’s pot has drainage holes in the bottom, you want to also be sure that the catch-all dish below it doesn’t stay filled with water.

“You have to be careful putting saucers under plants. Everything that I’ve read says don’t leave the water that drains onto the saucer for longer than 24 hours because it gets reabsorbed into the plant,” DeNote said.

“And it doesn’t reabsorb evenly. The bottom of the plant will be soggy, but the top of the plant will be dry.”

Rainwater is best for plants, but DeNote says that tap water is OK to use.

Either way, you want to be sure that the water is room temperature before it gets poured onto your plants. The easiest way to achieve the proper temperature is to let the water stand for four or five days, DeNote says.

If your tap water contains fluoride, it should be used cautiously on certain plants.

“Certain plants like the corn plant and the African violet don’t handle fluoride very well,” DeNote said.

An though you may like to adjust your thermostat on a whim, your plants don’t care for it as much.

“Generally speaking, they say your plant is happiest between 65 to 70 degrees (Fahrenheit). Of course your tropical plants can take a little more intensity,” DeNote said.

“A sudden change in temperature or light is something that will damage indoor plants. They’re very sensitive to that.”

And if you want to really impress your guests with your green thumb, don’t forget about the fertilizer.

“We have to fertilize all plants because they have to make food. In order for them to grow and be healthy, they need fertilizer,” DeNote said.

“Make sure the fertilizer for your indoor plants is water-soluble. My rule of thumb is, it’s always better to use less fertilizer on indoor plants than to use more.

“If you aren’t sure how much you need, my suggestion would be to use 1/4 teaspoon of fertilizer, dissolved in a half-gallon of water.”

If you aren’t sure how often to fertilize your indoor plants, DeNote says a general rule of thumb would be to fertilize once every six weeks to two months during the summer, but not more than once every 10 weeks to three months in the colder months.



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