Caring For House Plants
Caring for your houseplants, from watering, to repotting. What to do when you go on vacation. How to fertilize, when to fertilize.
Your houseplants need attention in order to thrive and look attractive. The amount of care will depend upon what kind of plant, and the size and type of container it is in. Choose your houseplants for appearance as well as the amount of light they will require. If you have north-facing windows you will have less light available for your plants than if you have southern windows.
The biggest killer of plants is not too little water, but too much. Unless your plant requires constant moisture, allow the soil to dry out between watering. Some pots will hold the moisture better than others will unglazed pots allow evaporation through the pot walls. This can make a difference if you are gone days at a time, or too busy to check your plants frequently.
When you choose your pots take into account the type of material well as your décor. If you are going to repot your plant, be careful that you don't choose a pot too large for the plant, while this will not kill the plant, having a small plant in a large pot will look unattractive. As a general rule, repot when you can see roots through the bottom of the pot, using a pot only one or two inches bigger in diameter.
Now that you have decided upon your pot, place some packing peanuts or broken potsherds on the bottom to help with drainage. Fill the new pot about halfway with fresh potting soil, and moisten completely. Gently tip the plant out of the old pot. Remove most of the old potting soil from the roots while you gently separate the roots. Place the plant in the pot with the roots at the same level as they were in the old pot. You may need to add a little more soil to raise the plant. You will want the base of the plant to be 1/2 to 1 inch below the top of the pot. Fill the pot with fresh potting soil, packing it down gently. Water and set to one side. After a few hours check to see if the soil is still damp or has dried out. Your plant may wilt for a day or two, but should recover. This is not the time to fertilize your plants. Allow them a few weeks to adjust to the new environment before fertilizing.
You can fertilize every time you water with a dilute plant food, or you can fertilize once a month with a regular strength plant food. The choice is up to you. Make sure that if you fertilize every time you water that your fertilizing solution is very dilute. Follow the directions for mixing on the package.
When you leave on vacation, you can water your plants and leave, if you will be gone more than a week, you might want to place each pot in a plastic bag after watering it with the top loosely tied, or arrange to have someone come in and water your plants.
You can clip dead leaves off as you find them. Keeping the surface of the soil free from dead plant matter will help keep your plant healthy. If you notice mildew or small flies you will need to isolate that plant to keep from infecting the rest of your plants. A good insecticide will kill the flies, and allowing the soil to dry out thoroughly between watering should kill mildew.
Enjoy your plants, they will help to keep the air in your home fresher, and provide you with an attractive addition to your home décor.