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As a continuation of last week’s column, following are other factors to consider in caring for indoor plants:
In a moderate humidity range of 20-40 percent, it is possible to grow a variety of plants; however, cacti and other succulents do well in a humidity range of 5-15 percent.
One of the simplest ways to increase the humidity around plants is to group them close together. Water constantly evaporates from leaf pores creating a humid microclimate in the immediate area of the plants. There are many ways to increase humidity around your plants, such as placing them on a tray that you have added pebbles, which have been moistened; misting them; or keeping your plants in the kitchen or bathroom.
There are many commercial potting soils available. Just remember good drainage with adequate water retention is essential. Unsterilized garden soils are not recommended for indoor plants. They may contain diseases and insects that could harm your plant.
Here are the basic points to consider when watering your plants:
1) Plants with large or very thin leaves and those with fine surface roots usually require more frequent watering than succulents.
2) In warm, dry and sunny locations, plants need more frequent watering.
3) A large plant in a small pot will need more frequent watering than a small plant in a large pot.
4) Flowering and rapidly growing plants dry out more quickly.
5) Different soil mixes require different water schedules.
6) Water evaporates more quickly in clay pots than plastic or ceramic pots.
7) Water thoroughly every time you water a plant. Apply enough water to moisten the entire soil volume. Make sure the water has leached out from the bottom, since you do not want the plant to reabsorb this water that could result in root rot and salt injury. Disregard any water that has accumulated in the saucer after each irrigation.
Remember: if you have some doubts whether your plant needs watering, just feel the soil. When the top half-inch of the soil feels dry, the plant probably needs watering. Cacti and succulents can go without water for longer periods.
Fertilizer for indoor plants should contain nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for the application of fertilizer. Observation will guide you in determining your plant’s fertilizer needs. Most plants grow during the warmer months and go into a dormant period in the winter; therefore, you would fertilize during the growth period.
Most widely used containers for indoor plants are usually made of clay or plastic. Soil dries out more quickly in clay containers, while plastic pots retain moisture longer. Of course, plastic pots are light in weight and generally less expensive than clay containers. It is, however, important to ensure good drainage and to avoid over-watering when using plastic pots.
Since indoor plants become dusty, use a soft cloth moistened with warm water to clean both upper and lower leaves at least two or three times a month. Plants that are small enough to move into the shower or outdoors onto the patio for a mild insecticidal soap wash and rinse in warm water will be more attractive and less prone to insect problems.
Just remember common sense is an important factor in keeping your indoor plants healthy and hardy. Just like the outdoor garden, plants depend on us to keep them looking their best.
Send your gardening questions or comments to: Brunswick County Master Gardener Column, P.O. Box 109, Bolivia, NC 28422, or call 253-2610. Enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope if requesting information or a reply. Answers may be printed in this column.