Friday, February 24, 2012

General Houseplant Care

While taking care of houseplants can vary greatly between different varieties, there are some general guidelines that apply to most houseplants.   There are two general types of houseplants: the “green” plants and the “blooming” plants.  Green plants are generally grown for their foliage.  Some examples of green plants are philodendron, ferns, dracena, peperomia, and schefflera.  While not considered “blooming plants”, most green plants do flower.  However, in a home situation this is generally rare or nearly unnoticeable.  Blooming plants, on the other hand, are known for large or showy floral displays.  Blooming plants can often be grown after they finish flowering and will flower again if given a good healthy environment.  Some examples of blooming plants are cyclamen, kalanchoe, African violets, spathiphyllum (peace lily), anthurium, bromeliads, and orchids. 

Green Plants  

In general, caring for a green plant is a simple process that requires a small amount of work every few days. Selecting the proper location for your plants is a good way to reduce the amount of care that they require and can increase the overall health of your plant. This includes choosing a plant that will grow well with the amount of light that it will receive in the location in the house. The largest part of caring for your green plants is watering. Improper watering habits, both over-watering and under-watering, are detrimental to plant health. The best way to tell if your plant is watered correctly is to stick your finger into the soil near the plant’s root system and feel if the soil is moist an inch or so below the surface of the soil. Visual signs of both under- and over-watered plants include wilting and generally droopy plants. Over-watering a houseplant can lead to an increase in soil born insects and diseases as well as a reduced root system. Under-watering a house plant can lead to stunted or no growth and excessive leaf dropping.

Most green plants are fairly light feeders and thus only need to be fertilized every 8-10 weeks during the active growing season and every 10-12 weeks during the fall and winter.

Beyond watering and fertilizer, green plants require a bit of quick cleaning in order to keep them looking their best. This would include a gentle dusting with a damp cloth and the removal of dead, dying, or damaged leaves. As your houseplant grows larger it may occasionally outgrow its container or location. Depending on the type of plant, there are a couple solutions to this. If the plant requires repotting, a larger container may be used. Some plant species may be divided and placed into 2 or 3 separate containers if a single larger plant is not desired. Other plant species can be cut back to prevent them from overtaking their location in the house. Please talk to a plant professional about any questions regarding trimming or dividing your houseplants. 

Blooming Plants

Blooming plants require much of the same care as described above for green plants.  Due to their flowers, there are a few added things that need to be done to keep a blooming plant looking its best.  As individual flowers finish their life cycle, they can be removed to keep your plant looking healthy.  This process is often referred to as “deadheading”.  Depending on what type of plant you are growing, deadheading will take on a slightly different process.  A plant professional can give you specific advice as to how, when, and where to remove old flowers.  By maintaining your blooming plants properly, you can often extend their blooming and encourage growth and re-blooming.

Because of the added energy that producing flowers requires, blooming plants often require fertilizer more often than green plants.  A good baseline for how often to fertilize blooming plants is once a month, however, variations in fertilizers and plants can change that. 

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