Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Plant Care

House plants is a term collectively given to a group of foliage or flowering plants that will tolerate indoor conditions for different periods of time. They will give you superb value if you give them correct conditions. They will even assist in making your environment more healthy by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and will certainly add a wonderful feeling to your indoor environment. House plants given proper care, are easy to grow and very rewarding.

There are seven ways to achieve success with House plants. Watering and feeding are the two key ones. Collectively these two factors hold the answer to keeping your House Plants happy and healthy. More indoor plants are killed by overwatering than any other single factor.
1. Watering
The amount of water your plant requires depends on the temperature and the time of year. Generally speaking, plants require far more water while they are growing or during flowering times than they do during their resting season which will generally occur in late autumn to winter. A thorough watering once or twice a week is better than a sprinkle each day. Some plants love being put out in the rain for a time, but not the hairy plants such as African Violets, for this can cause their leaves to discolour and rot. It is generally better to water a plant thoroughly when it is starting to become a little on the dry side. You need to learn your plants water requirements. It may take a little time and experience to achieve this. You may be able to determine this by feeling the soil or you may be able to judge by the weight of the pot. It is obviously lighter when it is dry than when it is moist. Certainly however, it is better to err on the dry side rather than being too wet. Most plants prefer to be kept evenly moist and allowed to dry a little between each watering. We suggest you ask your Local GREENGOLD Garden Centre to show you how best to water your plants.
2. Fertilising
When fertilising it is good advice to be sparing with the food. Giving too little is better than too much. Only fertilise during the growing season and preferably make sure that the soil is moist before applying. There are many fertilisers on the market, both liquid and granular and most well known brands have certain benefits. We believe it is best to apply a slow release fertiliser like Nutricote or Osmocote every six months and supplement this with a liquid feed like Thrive indoor to give it a kick start in the growing season. If your still unsure we suggest that you ask for advice as some products are better with some plants than others.
3. Light
Light is another important factor in plant growth. Inside your home there are probably many areas that are suitable for House Plants. In rooms with large windows for instance, light should be adequate provided there are no heavy drapes to block the light source. Supplementary lighting with fluorescent lighting is beneficial in darker rooms. Usually there is a plant for every room and your GREENGOLD Garden Centre can advise you on which one is for you and your room.
4. Warmth
Warmth, as much as light is essential for plant growth and substantial fluctuations in temperature should be avoided. Some plants tolerate artificial warmth in the home environment while others do not. Cyclamen in particular do not like an over-heated room.
5. Fresh Air
Open the windows wide on warm days and let fresh air blow gently through the house thus giving the plant a fresh atmosphere to live in. But do not leave your plant in a draught as this can create problems.
6. Humidity
Many of the plants which are grown indoors originated from jungles and rain forests where there is always a moist atmosphere. Although they have adapted themselves to our drier atmosphere they will still give of their best if you create an artificial atmosphere for them. One way to overcome the dry effect of house heating is to place shallow trays of water beside your plants, or place the pots inside larger vessels and fill the space between the two with peat moss. Alternatively you can place single pots on a tray of stones or gravel and then pour water into the gravel, making sure it does not reach the base of the pots or roots could rot.
7. Cleanliness
Plants, like people need to be cleaned. Sponge the leaves of larger foliage plants. This removes dust from the surface of the leaf and improves the appearance enormously. Misting with an atomiser over the plants with water from time to time will also clean the surface and allow them to use carbon dioxide drawn in through the pores of the leaf. This is essential for healthy plant growth. Most plants like to spend some of their time outside so perhaps it is worth alternating your plants from inside to outside on a rotational basis. During the warmer months it doesn’t to send your plants on a holiday to a shaded verandah for couple of weeks. This will usually invigorate them and when the come back they come back they’ll knuckle down and look good for you longer. Most House plants are like us they don’t like been left outside on a cold night so don’t put them out during winter or you might find they’ll go to plant heaven (The compost heap).
Repotting is really a subject on its own and it is certainly a matter that needs advice and assistance from your GREENGOLD Garden Centre. It is certainly not hard but different plants have different requirements. Quality soil is absolutely essential for good growth in House Plants using an inferior potting mix is like trying to drive your car with one flat tyre, it might still go but it won’t get anywhere. African Violets and some other House Plants do need their own special soil. Most repotting is carried out in the warmer months i.e. September to March inclusive but in most cases you can pot a plant when you’re both ready as long as your careful. Most House Plants do not grow very quickly. Generally you would only pot them from one container up to the next size e.g. from a 15cm pot to perhaps a 17cm or maybe a 20cm pot. It is always a good idea to water your plant before repotting with GREENGOLD Plant Starter and again afterwards to encourage new, healthy roots. The diagrams to follow will give you some idea of how to repot. Below is a list of some the more popular house plants we have available it may sound a bit of a mouthful but it should give you an idea of some of the many options available: African Violets, Impatiens, Begonias, Cyclamen, Streptocarpus, Zygocactus, Primula obconica, Kalenchoe varieties, Chrysanthemum, Poinsettia, Summer Love, Anthurium, Calceolaria, Columnea, Gloxinia. Plants that tolerate low light: Spathiphyllum, Philodendron varieties, Ferns, Palms (certain varieties) and Dracaena. N.B. If in doubt about repotting always consult your GREENGOLD Garden Centre.

Throw away House Plants: Many House Plants (particularly flowering ones) should be treated as disposable or throw away plants. Treat them like a bunch of flowers. If they cost you under $10 and you get at least 4 to 6 weeks of pleasure, then you've had good value. We’ve all seen it, the plant that looks terrible and never seems to do anything. Many people seem to persist with plants that have past their use by date. If it cost you less than $15 and lasts more than six weeks then it’s still cheaper than a bunch of flowers. It takes nerves of steel to throw away a plant that’s still alive (and in most cases barely) but chances are once a flowering plant has past it’s best the thing to do is throw it out and get something else in that looks good.

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