Last week George listed a number of questions you need to ask about a plant if you want to have a “green thumb”. Then you need to pay attention to make sure it is getting the essentials while growing. The essentials include:

            Light is an important factor in good looking plants. Think of the difference in intensity when you take your plants out and then when you bring them in.  To prevent burning in the spring, Gladys likes the North side of the house for a week or two, while for some the East side will work. Before bringing them back into much less light, she likes the North side of the house again. She has some picnic benches out there (the table fell apart long ago). Many plants respond not only to intensity but to day length. 

          Florists regulate the light on plants such as POINSETTIA, KALANCHOE, and EASTER LILY to get them ready for a holiday.  Some of your plants could never stand a South window as they are shade plants in nature. Gladys SANSEVERIA (also known as SNAKE PLANT and MOTHER-IN-LAWS TONGUE), her PEACE LILY, and her AGLAONEMA all come into a North window for the winter.  Her others are either first or second row away from a South window.

          Temperature is another major factor. For this you need to know where the plant is a native.  Tropicals are very popular right now and most of them should not go below 45 -50 degrees F. Some may have a resting period such as during the dry part of their native country. For example, Gladys DESERT ROSE  (Adenum obesum) stores water during rainy season in odd shaped stems and blooms. Then during the dry season the leaves are dropped to conserve water loss.  She could panic when this happens if she didn’t know the plant habits.

          Gladys has a dwarf POMEGRANATE that requires a rest period during winter. In early winter it drops part of its leaves and in general looks like it might die. Then when the days get longer and warmer it perks up, blooms, and makes tiny POMGRANATES. CLIVIA needs not only a cold period but a dry one.  Just before frost Gladys brings it into the garage, which goes down to 35-40 degrees F., and gives it water about once the entire winter. In early March she waters some and by April it has a tall beautiful orange stalk 18 inches above the leaves.

          Air is just as important to inside plants as it is to garden plants and field crops.  This is why we don’t use garden soil in our pots as it tends to compact and draw away from the sides of the pot. As a result the water will run down the edges and not into the soil. Many potting mixes contain no soil at all but are mixtures of bark, perlite, compost, and/or sand which will not rot fast but retain fertilizer. Gladys and George do not like peat moss in their soils as it dries out and then becomes almost impossible to wet again. In addition, we are ruining the peat bogs in order to bag it up and it takes many, many years to restore and some can never be renewed. Something Gladys has been using lately is coconut fiber. It is loose, retains some moisture, and is a by-product of coconut production. It comes in compressed bricks that expand about 3 times when placed in a bucket of water.  Also she likes its brown color, and it never contains weed seeds!!!

          Learn about your houseplants and the plants in your garden and you will find they are much easier to take care of, and will grow and flower much better for you.

Copyright 2017