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Plants Are In The HOUSE

In addition to adding serenity and beauty to a home, house plants also have a more practical purpose: They improve the condition of the air. For those who want to know more about turning their homes into "green" houses, Saturday Early Show Gardening Contributor Georgia Raimondi has some useful advice.

Each type of plant requires a different level of care. It is best to buy a book and look through it to see which plant is best suited to you. Sometimes, the plant will come with special care instructions included. Look over the care instructions carefully before purchasing a new plant.

Light: Always research your plant to find the type of lighting it will need. Some plants require direct sunlight, but only for a few hours a day. Others require filtered light (placement near a window covered by a sheer curtain). Others still need indirect or reflected sunlight.

Water: It is important to know how much water your plant really needs. Use water that is at room temperature. Never use cold water. To warm water, leave container out for a few hours before watering. Try to avoid using tap water as the minerals and chemicals in the water can possibly harm your plant.

For most plants, the soil should become slightly spongy to the touch when watered. Always be sure there is adequate water drainage through your pot. To help disperse and drain water in the pot, you can add some pieces of foam (like crushed packaging material) to the soil. Or you can place slightly larger stones at the bottom of your pot before filling it with the soil.

Exotic flowering plants such as orchids or African violets often require a high humidity environment. This can be achieved through daily misting of the leaves with an ordinary spray bottle.

Different types of plants require different types of soil.

  • Exotic flowers sometimes require a special soil called "African Violet soil."
  • Cacti generally require a sandier soil mixture.
  • Most plants fare well with plain potting soil.
  • Helpful Hint: Sometimes, a plant requires a soil mixture that is slightly acidic. For plants like these, just add a little peat moss to your soil mixture.
Doctor Your Plants:
  • Problem: Brittle and dry leaves
    Possible Cause: Too little water or humidity.
    Possible Solution: Increase watering of plant. To increase humidity, mist plant with an ordinary spray bottle.
  • Problem: Leaf tips turning brown
    Possible Cause: Too much or too little water, using water with high salt content, too much sun or heat, too much fertilizer, or a combination of causes.
    Possible Solution: Find the cause of the problem and change care habits. This problem may take time to find the cause. If removing one possibility doesn't work, move on to the next until the problem is found. In the meantime, brown tips can be trimmed with ordinary scissors. Just cut along the plants usual lies.
  • Problem: Leaves turning yellow
    Possible Cause: Too much or not enough light, too much/little fertilizer, or too much water. Also, look for the possibility of pest infestation.
    Possible Solution: Find and correct the problem. Damaged leaves may not return to original color.

  • Problem: Leaves falling off
    Possible Cause: Over/under watering, too much sun, or too much fertilizer.
    Possible Solution: Find and correct the problem. Once leaves have fallen, they are rarely replaced by new growth.
  • Problem: Soft stem base
    Possible Cause: Root rot caused by over-watering.
    Possible Solution: Watch and reduce watering. It may be necessary to pot your plant in a different container with better drainage.
  • Problem: Yellow or brown spots on leaf
    Possible Cause: Too much water or direct sun
    Possible Solution: Change plant location or change watering habits accordingly.
Care and Growing Tips:
  • If you want to rejuvenate a plant, cut back as much as two-thirds of the plant.
  • Loosen the surface of the soil with a fork occasionally so that algae or moss can't take hold.
  • Remove leaves and/or flowers that have dried out, rotted, or look sick.
  • When cutting off brown leaf tips, leave a small brown margin. If you don't, the freshly cut area will dry out again.
Organic remedies for pest control (chemicals should be avoided indoors as much as possible):
  • Bathe the plant in Ivory soap and water.
  • Alcohol on cotton swabs rids the plant of mealy bugs.
  • To get rid of white flies, use yellow sticky boards or a Dust Buster.
When to water: Test with wooden chopsticks; a standard moisture meter, musical meter, or just place your finger into the soil.

Plants with thick stems and/or waxy leaves need less water than plants with thin leaves and/or thin stems.

Watering methods:

  • For bromeliads, don't water the soil. Their broad leaves form a central cup or vase. Keep vase filled with water. Empty and refill it once a month.
  • Plants in hanging pots lose water more rapidly than other plants due to evaporation. Best watering method: Plunge the plants into a sink.
  • Humidity: Increase humidity for one plant or a cluster of plants.

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