Killing my houseplants slowly? Not this year!

With everything so gray and dormant outside, many of us like to bring a little spring inside.  I don’t remember where I read it exactly, but someone determined you should have one houseplant for every 100 square feet of living space. That could be a lot of plants.

Now I will admit, houseplants and I have not always done well together. I’ve discovered a few possible reasons. Maybe these sound familiar to you too.

One reason could be bugs. There are five common houseplant pests are mealy bugs, spider mites, whiteflies, aphids and scale. Spider mites can be the most deadly because by the time most of us notice them, the plant has already become infested. To keep them at bay, try a couple of things. First, clean your plant regularly lukewarm water and check for “webbing” (you know, that cottony looking stuff between the leaves and stems. Avoid feather dusters for cleaning; they can transfer eggs and bugs to other plants. You can also use an insect control spray and/or granule such as the Bonide line (available at Flowerland), as both a preventative and treatment. You also want to keep your houseplants away from the heat registers. According to an article in Michigan Gardener magazine, the warm air can dry the leaves too much, leaving the plant vulnerable.

Another reason could be that I select the wrong plant for the amount of light available in my house.  According to another article in Michigan Gardener, houseplants are categorized as “high light,” “medium light,” or “low light” which indicates how much natural light the plant requires to grow. The front of my house has two large, beautiful trees that produce lots of shade, which is great for sun protection but not so much for houseplants. For these rooms, I would be wise to select plants that require low light.

A third reason could be over- or under-watering. I know how important watering is and I’ve been guilty of both. Over-watering can cause root rot – never a good thing. Under-watering causes its own set of problems.  But did you know the amount of water a plant requires is directly related to the amount of light it receives as well as the humidity of your house? Always check the soil before adding water.

For someone like me who is has a “low light” home and has been known to miss a watering now and then, here are some suggestions for house plants.

*Christmas Cactus (Zygocactus or Schlumbergera): Since it is a succulent, it doesn’t mind being “ignored” for a while and is OK with low light (although you’ll get more blooms in bright light).

*Mother-in-law’s tongue/Snake plant/Bird’s nest plant (Sansevieria): Only one or two watering are required during the winter, depending on the humidity in your house. Any more than that can lead to root rot. Plus it is very tolerant of low light.

*Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum): Need I say more? Well, just one thing: you will probably have to repot it every couple years to prevent it from getting root-bound.

Enjoy the green!