Unlocking the Interior Plant Maze

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Whether you are a newcomer to indoor gardening or an avid hobbyist, this guide is designed to aid you in the care of your indoor plants. The information presented is based on my years of experience with plants in the field and at home. It is my hope that you will be inspired and learn to venture into the wonderful world of plants, no matter how small your endeavor.

Working with the acronym PLANT should be helpful in remembering the basics that all plants need to thrive.

P stands for PLACEMENT

Before you spend you hard earned money on the investment of a plant take a few moments and ask yourself the following questions. 1. Where do I want to put the plant? What size of a plant will I need for the area? Is it going to be a focal point of the area or used as an accent? Will I need to purchase a container, or use an existing one? 2. What purpose will the plant serve? Will it be used to draw attention to something in the room, or to cover something up (like wires etc?) 3. How much lighting do I have, and is the existing area suitable for a plant, or do I need to make some adjustments before purchasing the plant? 4. How much care will it need? Will I be able to give the plant what it needs to thrive? 5. How much money do I want to spend?

L stands for LIGHT

LIGHT is one of the most important factors needed for plants to thrive. Without the proper light, a plant cannot produce food through photosynthesis so it will slowly decline and die. It is important to either purchase a plant that can live in lower light, or increase the amount of light the area has. Interior plants prefer bright indirect light, not hot direct sunlight, as they burn very easily. The best artificial light to use is cool white fluorescent bulbs. Most plant will survive in about 100 fc, which is what most lighting above a desk is. If you can see a shadow of your hand 1 foot above the surface from the light source you have a t least 100 foot candles. Here are my top 4 low light plants: (under 100 fc.)

Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen)~~~~~ Dracaena craigii

Scindapsis (pothos) ~~~~~ Sanseveria trifasciata (Snake Plant)

Here are my top 4 medium light plants: (100 to 250 fc.)

Dracaena massangeana~~~~~ Zamia (ZZ Plant)

Kentia (Parlor Palm)~~~~~ Chlorophytum (Spider Plant)

My top 4 hight plants: (250 fc.)

Dracaena marginata~~~~~ Schefflera arboricola

Ficus lyrata~~~~~ Hoya carnosa


Over-watering is the most common way plants die. Remember all plants like to be watered thoroughly when they are watered, but different varieties have different levels of dryness they want before being watered. Think of a fern on one end of the scale and a cactus on the other. Most interior plants fall somewhere in between. The worst thing you can do is give your plants a little drink because you are unsure of if they actually need water or not. It is best to let the soil of your plants dry out. (FERNS EXCEPTED). When the soil starts to dry, air circulates around the root system and prevents ROOT-ROT. Touch your soil … if it feels moist, then it is not time to water. RE-CHECK the top and then push your finger ½” down into the soil … if soil is dry to touch, then you can safely water. (THIS PROCEDURE IS FOR POTS WITH DRAINAGE.) If you have rock or charcoal at the bottom of a pot, then remember to water slowly…. A LITTLE AT A TIME … always allow the drying out period approximately three to four days longer than a pot with drain holes. Pour water all the way around the root ball, and not just in one area. Water the plant deep enough that water will drain out the holes in the bottom, but not enough that the plant will be sitting in water.


1. Collect rainwater (PLANTS LOVE IT). 2. Plant prefers tepid water. Allow water to sit at room temperatureas this will helps to evaporate the chlorine. 3. Do not use water from a water softener. 4. Leaching plants periodically eliminates salt and mineral build-up in the soil. To leach a plant run the water through the soil 3-4 times from top to bottom. 5. Never allow a plant to sit in water. This is a sure way to ROT the roots of your plant. 6. Plants growing in low light areas, or plants that have thicker leaves use less water than their counterparts. Giving your plants more water than it needs will eventually lead to death.

N stands for NOURISHMENT

The Soil The plants first source of nourishment will be from the existing soil it was planted in. If you need to transplant or add soil to your interior plants always use a good potting soil that is specifically state for use on indoor plants. This is not “GARDEN DIRT”. DIRT FROM OUTSIDE BECOMES HARD, MAY CARRY INSECTS AND LENDS VERY LITTLE FOOD VALUE TO YOUR PLANTS. Potting soil is mixed especially for the indoor plants and contains sponge rock and vermiculite, and has been sterilized. Potting soil will also provide your plants with all the elements needed to produce large healthy foliage and roots. From time to time, new soil should be added to the top of your plants, as the soil can settle become deleted of micro-nutrients. FERTILIZER = PLANT FOOD There are several rules of thumb regarding fertilizer and interior plants. Keep in mind that fertilizers increase the soluble salt levels in the soil. If you have a low light plant that is not requiring more then watering once every several weeks, and you consistently add fertilizer you are essentially just dumping salts into the plant. A new plant has been given a lot of fertilizer while the grower was producing it. Therefore, it is best not to fertilize until you know a plant is used to it new home. It will tell you this by new growth coming out, and the plant is not showing any signs of stress.

Tips on Feeding your plants

1. NEVER fertilize a dry or stressed out plant. 2. Get into the habit of using a little less fertilizer than the recommended amount. This will avoid accidentally burning your plants roots. 3. Only fertilize plants that are actively growing and utilizing a fair amount of water. There are many good fertilizers to choose from. Each gardener will have his own preference on that he or she enjoys using. Make sure the fertilizer you choose has a balanced amount of NITROGEN, PHOSPHORUS and POTASH, as well as micronutrients. The following three ingredients represent the numbers often seen on the front label. Example 18- 20- 16 THESE NUMBERS STAND FOR: 18-NITROGEN: For healthy green foliage. 20-PHOSPHORUS: For flowers. This needs to be low for interior plants as it never leaches from the soil and can reach toxic levels. 16-POTASSIUM For strong roots. A good fertilizer dosage for interior plants is a 9-3-6 formula. Your plants will also need a rest from feeding. The best time to cut back on your feeding is November thru February when most interior plants are dormant.

T stands for TEMPERATURE

If you are too hot or too cold, so are your plants. The ideal temperature for an interior plant is 65-80 degree. Plants do not like direct sunlight, and can burn after a short time exposed to full sun. Plants do not like drafts from heating or air conditioning vents. The Santa Ana winds can be very drying even though your plants are inside.

What’s in a BLOG?

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Being a horticulturist it is my nature to touch, see and feel the medium I work with. (ie plants, soil, stones etc.) Being fairly new to this very fast paced communication age, I have wanted to create a website that was more than just a business card on line. I seemed like such a daunting task, which may be similar to how many of you must feel when you think about designing your garden. I have become quite competent with my email, but was proud of my most recent accomplishment by becoming proficient at texting my teenage son. As I sought advice on different venues to use regarding creating a web address, the word Blog kept coming up. I thought, what does the word Blog mean, it sounded Greek to me, again how many of you must feel when I speak the Latin names of plants. So what do we do now in this age, we Google our question online or we Ask Jeeves. I learned the word BLOG is short for weblog, an online, regularly updated journal or newsletter that is readily accessible to the general public by virtue of being posted on a website and are usually written and posted by the author. The first time I was really introduced to a blog was when my assistant Miko had gone on a two month trip to India. It was great to see her pictures and entries and in a way experience her trip with her and be able to respond to her and communicate across the world. It seemed more like a journal with pictures, but until recently I was unaware I could create a blog site that would be more interactive my clients and college students. It could be a venue that I could use to inform potential clients about the services our company offers, as well as posting articles and seminars I have written. I love to educate people on the wonders of plants, and I am always asked questions from clients when I visit our accounts. I wanted to have a place my clients and fellow plant lovers could come to learn the answers to their questions. So welcome to our BLOG, as a professional company we offer a wide variety of services that can enhance your environment. I hope you also find it a place that you can turn to get your plant questions answered, as well as finding articles, and resources of information on plants you will find interesting and helpful. Deb Ringler C.L.P.-Interior Certified Landscape Professional

Plant of the Month – Sansevieria trifasciata Golden Hahnii

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PLANT OF THE MONTH - Sansevieria trifasciata 'Golden Hahnii' This stunning little gem of a plant may be small in stature, only growing 4-6 inches, but can really make a beautiful and striking impact in your home. Its architectural beauty and natural rosette form gives you the sense of a flower for your indoor garden all year round! Great things come in small packages making ‘Golden Hahnii’ one of my favorite small package plants! Sansevieria trifasciata ’Golden Hahnii’ is drought tolerant, clean and can thrive in many indoor light conditions. I just love a plant that you can stick in a room and not have to mess with every other day, easy and simple. Plus it has this unique and soft cream variegation which I would always contrast with a dark pot, wall or other plant material to enhance its character. For example, combining, ‘Golden Hahnii’ with its taller, deep green relative, Sansevieria trifasciata (aka Snake Plant or Mother-In-Law’s tongue), dress the soil with river stones and Ta-Da an instant Zen Garden in a pot! Does this plant interest  you?  Let us know!