Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
October, 2007
Regional Report

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My little plant family usually looks this perky.

Help for Sick Friends

All is not well here in Brisbane. Although the Sunset book on houseplants says that now is not the correct time, something had to be done. My indoor plants have been languishing these past few weeks. I don't know if I am not spending enough time with them, if they all need repotting, or if there is something more sinister going on, like the chloramine in the water, but I needed to take action to save my little green friends.

From Good to Bad
Usually my little collection of indoor plants is stellar, but recently I have been seeing brown tips, yellowing leaves, and no evidence of new growth. Even my pencil plant (Rhipsalis grandiflora), which has always been hardy, is looking limp and lackluster with evidence of mealybugs on the stems. My miniature monstera (Amydrium) cuttings, which have been growing for years in a glass jar filled with water, are losing leaves by the dozen every day.

Manos de Trabajo!
So instead of wringing my hands in worry, I sprang to action. The first thing I did was to tip the pallid patients out of their pots to examine the roots. Most indoor plants are going into their rest period now and will require less water and no fertilizer. It is never advisable to fertilize an ailing plant. The roots all look fine, except for the monstera cuttings, which I will pot up as soon as I step away from the keyboard.

To water, I usually submerge each pot in a deep container so that the entire rootball gets drenched. Every three months I add a teaspoon of balanced fertilizer. However, the string of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus) has been experiencing dieback and entire strings have turned brown. Not enough light? Heat? Humidity? Dang, if I were a doctor, I'd lose my job. I think I will move it outdoors for a few weeks. A little vacation never hurt anybody. There is always the chance that it will be stolen by the bar flies next door, but it's a chance I'll have to take.

More Light, Please!
I found some mirrored tiles in my closet that I had used for some long-forgotten project. I set them under the plants to increase the available light from the window. It will mean more housecleaning, but my plants are my pets and there is nothing I wouldn't do for them, even cleaning the windows.

With the days growing shorter and cooler, all plants will require less water, both indoors and out. However, houseplants will always need ample humidity, even more so once the heater is turned on. Dry air and dust are the enemies of houseplants. Insect pests seem to multiply overnight in dry conditions. I have gravel-filled saucers under every pot to collect moisture and allow it to evaporate back up through the foliage.

Hop To It!
The rabbit's foot fern is looking especially bad. Sunset recommends growing it in sphagnum, so perhaps I will work on that after I pot up the Amydrium. I do hope you will excuse me now, I have ailing friends to look after....

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