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
A stands for ADEQUATE WATERING
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.
Tips for WATERING
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 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.