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Celebrate your indoor plants!

In September we celebrate our indoor plants. The third week of September is National Indoor Plant Week. What we generally call “Houseplants” are primarily foliage plants native to tropical regions. These plants come from areas that have warm and stable temperatures, abundant moisture supply, 12 hour day length and a continuous season (no dormant season). They are beautiful in our homes, apartments and offices and lift our spirits. Aside from keeping us connected with nature the benefits are numerous from cleaning the air to boosting our mood with therapeutic benefits. And think about how plants generate oxygen. Remember, the oxygen doesn’t arrive until the plants do!

Interior plant specialists recommend one potted plant per 100 square feet to feel the benefits
Interior plant specialists recommend one potted plant per 100 square feet to feel the benefits

As we prepare our houseplants to move back inside from the deck or patio areas a good cleaning of the foliage, inspection, and repotting into fresh potting soil is a good idea so we don’t bring problems with them inside to affect our other houseplants or plants we will purchase in the coming months. Some insecticidal soap or systemic granules would be a good defense against insect problems.

1) Dust your plants with warm water using a soft pair of cotton gloves. Do this for shiny leaved plants only, fuzzy leaves will need a small brush for dusting. This will optimize the amount of light available to the plant for photosynthesis making it happier and healthier and more resistant to getting sick. Use warm water, cold water will leave spots. 2) Give the plant a 1/4 turn weekly to optimize light to all sides of the plant. 3) Move the plants back from windows in anticipation of cold nights. Do not allow foliage to touch the glass as cold damage would result. 4) Remember plants don’t like cold drafts (not talking about beer). Keep them away from frequently used doors. 5) Houseplants don’t like dry heat. Move them away from heat registers.  6) Water is the number one killer of houseplants, too much or too little. The problem with watering is usually too much and the plants are killed with kindness.  Learn to tell if the plant needs water by lifting the pot and learning by the weight whether it needs water. If you’re still nervous, get yourself a moisture meter to take some of the guess work out of the process. Putting a houseplant inside a “cache” pot is a great way to regulate and learn how to water. You can remove the potted plant from the cache pot to see if there is excess water making maintenance easier and your floors and table tops protected from stains and moisture.

A cache pot is a decorative container that holds a potted houseplant. Think of it as a  pot inside a pot. The cache pot does not have drainage. The “grower pot” inside the decorative pot has drainage holes. By using a cache pot combined with a grower pot with drainage holes the plant will be healthier and it will make both watering and maintenance easier for you. Everybody wins.

An additional watering tip is to avoid making the mistake I often see people make. They give up trying to figure out when and how much water to apply to their houseplant. What they end up with is what they believe is a compromise. They pour on a “little” water frequently. They meet their desire to water on a schedule (frequently aka kill it with kindness) and the end result is the soil in the upper half of the pot remains wet. The roots in the upper half of the pot rot while the roots at the lower portion of the pot dry out. The plant quickly displays its displeasure with browning leaf tips and decline. The sight of the plant suffering causes the owner to water even more which speeds up the decline. The appropriate way to water is when the plant needs it (indoor plants like outdoor plants have seasonal needs). In winter lack of light, day length and humidity causes the plants to “slow down” compared to their vigor in spring and summer.

For smaller pots you can tell if the plant needs water based on the weight of the pot. Pick it up. You can learn to tell when it’s time to water. Then when you water, water thoroughly so the water is available to the soil at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the pot. Because you have provided for drainage with your cache pot grower pot technique, the excess can drain out the bottom. Now allow the soil to dry and wait until the plant needs water again. Remember in winter you will be watering far less frequently than when the days are longer and the light is bright in spring and summer.

Example of grower pots inside a decorative cache pot

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