Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
June, 2001
Regional Report

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Pests such as scale sometimes attack banana leaf fig (Ficus maclellandii.

Stay Cool with Houseplants

I'm not a wimp, but sometimes the summer heat is just too draining to spend the day outdoors. Plus, my houseplants need some tender loving care. The fact that caring for my houseplants requires me to work in an air-conditioned environment has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Houseplant Environments

The term "houseplant" is really misleading. Houseplants are actually tropical outdoor plants that have been brought indoors. Most are native to the under-story layers of tropical rain forests, where they thrive in the moist, humid, low-light environment. People have collected these plants and brought them indoors because they are among the few plants that can survive in the low-light, indoor environment - not because they necessarily like it indoors.

Light Needs

The typical indoor environment has very low light intensity. Houseplants differ significantly in their light needs. A plant in less than sufficient light will gradually go downhill. Under minimally sufficient light it will survive but not grow very much. I move a few of my houseplants to a bright, spot outdoors, but out of direct sun - gradually, to prevent sunburn to the leaves - for summer to give them a chance to rejuvenate their reserves and grow a bit fuller.

Houseplant Pests

These indoor-outdoor plants need to be checked periodically for pests like mealybugs, aphids, scale - and this summer even for grasshopper damage. (My indoor plants also get pest problems at times.) If I catch them early, they are easier to manage. I spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to keep them in check.

Fertilizing and Watering Houseplants

I fertilize these houseplants a bit more in summer since they're growing more vigorously and can use the extra nutrition. They also take more water. However, the number one killer of houseplants may well be soggy soil, so be careful not to keep their roots too wet.

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