Table of Contents
- 1 House Plants Care and Maintenance
- 2 House Plant Safety
- 3 Tips for Having Happy Houseplants
House Plants Care and Maintenance
There are eight major areas of concern when it comes to caring for and maintaining house plants: moisture, light, soil, temperature, humidity, fertilizers, potting, and pest control. Since different types of house plants will inevitably have different needs, be sure to read the package for directions on proper care for your specific plant or do some research on your own to find out more. Below are some basic guidelines for general house plant care.
The two main causes of house plant deaths are drought and drowning. Be careful not to over-water or under-water your houseplants. Check the moisture of the soil frequently by placing your hand on the soil and feeling just below the surface. Although many house plants require watering about once a week, it is not recommended to set a tight schedule. Plants should be watered as needed. When watering, be sure that the soil is saturated. A good way to tell is when water begins draining out of the bottom of the container.
Remember that most house plants depend on sunlight for photosynthesis. The two major factors that you want to be aware of with exposure are intensity and duration. These factors will differ for each plant. Direct sunlight is ideal for most plants, although this is hard to procure indoors. Most house plants are simply placed in windows to receive to sunlight. This may not be adequate, however. Artificial light, such as fluorescent lighting, can make a great supplement to natural light, particularly in areas where sunlight is scarce.
Most house plants require either potting soil or potting compost. As opposed to natural soil, potting compost contains soil conditioners packed with nutrients, the proper aeration, and good drainage. The mixtures are typically a combination of peat, perlite, and vermiculite. Natural soils typically do not drain well.
Most house plants are labeled as such because they are native to climates that most resemble the temperature and conditions inside homes or room temperature. Most house plants thrive in temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees during the day and somewhat cooler at nighttime.
Plants typically need high relative humidity to thrive, usually around 80 percent. This presents a problem since most households have a relative humidity of around 20 to 50 percent. Investing in a home humidifier is always an option but there are also several other things one can do to increase the humidity around your house plants. One of the most popular methods is a pebble tray filled with water which will evaporate over time and add humidity to the air.
Many soil nutrients can be lost or depleted in the potted environment. The addition of fertilizer is a good way to replenish these lost nutrients. However, fertilizers can be harmful to some plants, so be sure to check your labels. A basic principle to follow is one tablespoon of fertilizer for every gallon of water. The mixture is then used in the watering of the plant. Remember that it is always better to under-fertilize than to over-fertilize.
Pots and containers
Determining what size pot to use is an important factor in the growth of your house plant. You don’t want your pot to be too large or too small. A pot that is too small will restrict the growth of the plant, while an overly large pot can cause your plant to get root disease because of too much moisture present in the soil. Perhaps the most important feature in pots and containers is their drainage system. Pots can be reused for different plants, but remember to wash them thoroughly to kill any bacteria or disease that might be leftover from previous plants.
House Plant Safety
As adults, we understand that house plants are there for our viewing pleasure and should not be consumed. However, children and house pets have not come to this realization yet. Therefore, it is important to educate your children about house plant safety and possibly even keep certain house plants out of their reach entirely. Below are some of the more harmful house plants that you should be aware of.
The Araceae Family
This family includes the plant’s dieffenbachia, philodendron, caladium, an elephant’s ear. The sap of these plants contains a chemical protein called asparagine which has been known to cause inflammation of the mucous membranes. They also contain calcium oxalate crystals that can irritate the mouth and throat tissues. Severe reactions have been known to seal off the breathing passages; however, they are rare. Most poisoning symptoms include irritation and burning in the mouth, lips, and tongue.
The Euphorbiaceae (Spurge) Family
Members of this family include poinsettias, pencil trees, crown-of-thorns, and snow-in-the-mountains. The milky sap of this family is toxic and acrid. The sap has also been known to cause dermatitis in some humans and can be poisonous if ingested by someone allergic to the chemicals in the sap. Snow-in-the-mountain has also been known to cause blisters and skin burns. There is still debate on whether poinsettias are poisonous if ingested. Reports of nausea and abdominal pain from ingesting poinsettias exist, but myths about its deadliness have been widely refuted.
The Solanaceae Family
The Jerusalem cherry is probably the most widely known of this family. The plants in this family contain a poisonous glycoalkaloid known as solanine that is highly toxic even in small amounts. Consuming the berries of this plant can cause symptoms that range from abdominal pains and headaches to paralysis of the respiratory and circulatory systems. However, it is important to remember that not all members of this family are toxic to humans. For instance, we enjoy tomatoes and peppers with no harmful side effects.
There are a number of seasonal plants that are extremely toxic when consumed. Ivy, holly, mistletoe, and hibiscus are all toxic to humans. What’s more, some of these plants can be fatal to your pets, so be aware. The preservatives used in watering your Christmas tree stand can cause severe gastric issues with your pet. Azaleas, oleander, mistletoe, sago palm, yew plant material, and Easter lilies can all be fatal to your pet if ingested. So be sure to keep these and other potentially harmful plants out of reach.
The Japanese Yew
An ornamental yard plant often used in landscaping around the foundation of homes, the new plant is extremely deadly to animals. For instance, an animal only has to consume one-tenth of one percent of its body weight to receive a lethal dose. In other words, a 50-pound dog could die from eating less than 2 ounces of the plant. The new plant contains a toxic alkaloid that affects the electrical activity in the heart, leading to sudden heart failure. Some other symptoms may include loss of coordination, trembling, diarrhea, and collapse. For safety reasons, it is recommended that you be able to identify and rid your area of this harmful plant.
Household pets such as cats and dogs will often vomit after chewing or eating certain flowers and house plants. It is important to note that this probably does not represent poisoning. Only persistent or severe vomiting should be a cause for alarm. The best advice, of course, is to consult your veterinarian to be certain.
Tips for Having Happy Houseplants
Nothing adds quite as much pizzazz to a boring home or office like houseplants. Plants with exotic foliage and blooms add appeal to any home or office environment. While many houseplants are easy to grow, a few tips can certainly help you to grow plants indoors successfully.
During the winter months, a common problem often occurs. Plants develop yellowish foliage and the edges of the leaves curl under. These symptoms are followed by wilting and leaf drop. The most common cause of this problem is overwatering. Although plants do need water during the winter, they do not need as much as in the summer months.
It is not always necessary to water your plants on a set schedule! If they do not need watering, don’t water them. The best way to tell is to stick your finger into the soil about two inches. You can also use a moisture meter if you want to be a little more scientific. If the soil is moist, no water is needed.
It’s easy to determine if your plant’s problem is related to overwatering. If the growing medium is soggy, the root system has a “sour” smell, and roots are dark and off-colored, the problem is most likely due to houseplant watering practices. You should be able to take a peek at the roots of larger plants by gently sliding the plant partway out of the container.
As a general rule, keeping the soil evenly moist will keep most houseplants happy, but do a little checking to find about your plant’s specific water requirements. Avoid such practices as keeping a plant sitting in water in its saucer. Remember, too much of a good thing can spell disaster, particularly when it leads to root or stem rot.
Overheating can also cause leaf drop. Plants placed too close to heaters or air outlets are subject to desiccation and should be moved to a friendlier environment to prevent excessive foliage loss.
Did you bring any plants indoors for the cold winter months? Although necessary for some plant material, this practice can cause distress for some types, especially those that prefer the outdoors.
It is important to gradually move plants inside a sheltered location prior to winter’s chill. It is very important to consider light requirements for your plants when you move them. Gradually move them outdoors again when temperatures warm in the spring. Don’t place them directly in the sun; instead, place them in a sheltered location in indirect sunlight for a period of time. Gradual adaptation will ease any “shock treatment” from which your plants may suffer.
As I mentioned, lighting is very important. Have you ever been watching TV and ever so often a leaf would fall from your rubber plant? One by one every leaf falls until you have nothing but a stick in a pot? How frustrating is that!
Rubber plants need moderate to high levels of light such as a south or west-facing window or general fluorescent office lighting. They won’t grow well in the dark. Pay close attention to and know the light requirements for your houseplants.