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Skaggs: Indoor plants have new set of problems
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Help cure what ails your indoor plants

Here are a few symptoms that often point to specific causes of indoor plant problems

Tall plants, weak growth: Plants that are weak and spindly, stretched, have longer-than-normal stem intervals between leaves or abnormally small leaves are often suffering from insufficient light. Try moving the plant to a brighter area.

Plants fail to flower or flower sporadically: Reduced flowering is most often due to inadequate light. As a rule, flowering houseplants require higher light intensities than those grown solely for their foliage. Move the plant to a brighter area.

Rapid defoliation: Rapid defoliation is generally a shock response to temperatures well outside the normal range, to severe water stress or to rapid changes in light environment. Be patient; many plants will produce new leaves and resume growth.

Wilting: This is a natural response to water stress. Wilting may also occur under other conditions. Check the soil moisture; if it is dry, add water. Plants should recover in a few hours. If the soil is already wet, do not add more water. Examine the soil and root system for indications of disease, soluble salt accumulation or poor draining characteristics.

Leaves crinkle, curl or scorch around the edges: Such symptoms frequently occur in response to nutrient deficiencies or toxicities or soluble-salt accumulation. They may also occur as a response to severe moisture stress or low humidity. If the plant has not been subjected to moisture stress or low humidity, evaluate the fertilizer program.

Leaf tip burn: The causes of tip burn are so numerous that isolating the exact cause is sometimes impossible. High soluble salts, fertilizer deficiencies or toxicities, fluoride toxicity and moisture stress are the most common causes.

This week ushered in the first winter-like cold of the season, and I'm sure more than a few of you forgot to bring in your house plants.

If so, you have my sympathies.

The Skaggs household has killed our share of plants in the past in the same fashion.

Growing plants indoors is a source of enjoyment for many gardeners. Indoor plants help keep us in touch with nature and, in a sense, "bring the outside in." This time of year, however, brings challenges as the plants adjust to being inside the home for the first time in several months.

For those who have grown houseplants for any length of time, you've probably already discovered that indoor plants are subject to a wide range of problems. It is often impossible to diagnose the cause of a particular problem unless you keep an accurate record of watering, fertilization, pest problems, etc.

This is complicated by the fact that various disorders may produce essentially the same visual symptoms. Thus, it is not always possible to determine the exact cause of a given problem.

The tips at left, though, might give you some help in diagnosing your plant's problem.

For more information on growing plants indoors, see the University of Georgia Extension publication, "Growing Indoor Plants with Success."

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.