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In the Garden: Tips for growing houseplants

With outdoor work completed, it’s time to focus on indoor gardening. For many senior gardeners, it may be to care for only one or two plants. If there is an indoor light garden or sunny window, there may be an assortment of houseplants available.

Visit several retailers that have a variety of house plants for sale. You may find an attractive plant to grow for the coming months. Something new is always exciting. The goal is to meet the needs of the plant for maximum success.

When looking at prospective plants, look for the plant that appears to be healthy. Good color and form, not too large, something that looks like it has had good care. Look under the leaves for potential insects hiding there. The worst thing to do is to bring home a family of insects. One year I ended up with mealy bugs to battle from a gift plant given to me.

Leaves should be rich in color and not yellowing. The plant should be compact and not overly tall or leggy. Enclose the plant in a cardboard box or large paper bag to protect from cold temperatures when bringing home.

Give the plant a long drink of water after arriving home. If pot is on a saucer, dump the extra water in the saucer to prevent over-watering. You may want to mist the plant to increase humidity, particularly if it was used to conditions in a greenhouse. Some claim that misting is worthless, but I disagree. Misting a plant with water at room temperature several times a day makes for a “happy” plant.

After the plant has been under your care for two weeks or more, begin to water once a week or better yet — when the soil “feels dry to the touch.” This approach works well for a majority of houseplants.

Check the plant tag for the amount of light the plant should have. Some plants require low light, others bright light.

Don’t worry about fertilizer at this time of the year. Little growth is taking place and the less fertilizer, the better. The only time to feed lightly begins in late spring and continues through summer into early fall.

If the leaves appear to look wilted or dry and abnormal, watering may be insufficient. If the plant feels dry, set it in a waterproof tray with an inch of water for about an hour and then remove to set in a sink to drain. In time, you can set up a regular watering schedule. If you miss a day or two now and then, don’t worry about it. It’s not like giving a pet water! Badly wilted leaves are a typical sign of dry soil.

Over-watering is the number-one killer of houseplants. Too much water will cause rotting of roots. When that happens, they no longer function in providing water to the plant and it begins to wilt. Both over and under watering tend to cause wilt. Healthy roots are light colored and firm, not mushy.

If a plant becomes tall and leggy and lighter in color than normal, it probably needs more light. Move it to a brighter environment.

To help prevent winter boredom for a gardener, trial-test a few new or different houseplants. One example is in today’s photo of two “Emerald Ripple” peperomias. It is common and very adaptable to various indoor environments. It thrives in different light levels from that of a north window to curtain-filtered sunlight.

Most peperomias are compact in size, rarely taller than 12 inches. Grow in a general houseplant soil mix. It is a light feeder. Apply mild feedings at half strength every six months during spring and late summer.

Water only when soil becomes dry. It grows well in average indoor temperatures of upper 60s to low 70s. The corrugated foliage creates visual interest.

Happy New Year! May your garden, large or small, be productive and bring much pleasure during 2015. Gardening becomes more popular each year.

Richard Poffenbaugh is a retired biology teacher and active home gardener since 1960. He is a member of the Mansfield Men’s Garden Club and was editor of the club newsletter (The Greenhorn) for 21 years. He resides in Ontario with his wife, Barbara. Reach him at 419-529-2966.

Article source: http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com/story/life/2014/12/30/garden-tips-growing-houseplants/20806563/