Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
October, 2006
Regional Report

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With so many varieties of houseplants to choose from, such as these Aglaonemas, surely you can find the right plant for your specific needs.

Houseplant Tips To Keep Them Thriving

Years ago in college I collected houseplants from the hort department greenhouse to decorate my dorm room. Their unique colors and shapes added interest to the interior landscape, and it made the winter less drab. You, too, may have houseplants that have endured time and have special meaning. Keeping them happy and healthy can be a challenge, particularly if you have to contend with dry air and varying light conditions.

Watch the Water and Fertilizer
Many of us kill a plant with kindness now and then. We want to nurture them so we give them lots of water to keep them growing and thriving. But sometimes we give them too much. Yes, plants like a drink, but be sure to empty the drainage saucer that fills up with water. Roots don't like to get too soggy or they will soon suffer from root rot. If you're the type that's guilty of overwatering, get a papyrus plant; it likes standing in water.

Then there is the other extreme -- we are so busy we forget to water. That can be just as damaging, unless you select plants that can take drought, like mother-in-law's tongue or cacti.

Over- or underfertilizing houseplants is another problem. Fertilizing most houseplants once a month is adequate, except when you're growing plants that bloom. Some, such as orchids, need more fertilizer during specific growth cycles to promote flowers. So if you decide to grow higher maintenance plants, make sure you can make the commitment to fertilizing them appropriately.

The Right Plant for the Right Place
If the plant tag specifies a recommended amount of sun, it's important to provide it. Full sun at the higher elevations can be tricky, however, since the light intensity can burn plant foliage, so watch your plant while it acclimates to the location. If the plant develops scorched leaves, move the plant further away from the window to reduce the full sun exposure.

Avoid placing plants too close to heat sources such as furnace vents or a fireplace. Continued blasts of hot air will stress the foliage and dry out the soil faster. Fried leaves are not a healthy sight.

Misting plants may be helpful for some, but it requires constant attention during the winter months when the furnace is operating full force. It's best to invest in a furnace humidifier to increase humidity. This is not only good for the plants, but also for your general health.
To keep plants growing uniformly, turn plants around from time to time. This will also allow you to check them for any problems. If tiny pests such as aphids or mealybugs should show up, don't panic. A little rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab can eliminate these pests in short order.

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