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How to Keep Indoor Plants Healthy

Nov 25, 2007
It's always easier (and better) to prevent the disease than to cure the patient. That's just as true for house plants as it is for people. Thousands of words have been written on plant diseases and blights; we can read books on insects and plant insect infestation but the number of house plants that fall prey to these ills is infinitesimal when compared with the tremendous majority that die from neglect or from the gardener's lack of knowledge of the habits of the plants themselves.

You have a green thumb. Everybody has. We want to help you put it to work successfully.

By far the major cause of failure in the home garden is neglect. Plants need watering, pruning, a time in the sun, proper food and soil, and good living (potting) conditions. They must be provided with an atmosphere in which they can prosper, with a reasonable temperature, proper humidity and enough fresh air. By this we don't mean to say that they must be watched constantly, petted and pampered; or even that all plants need daily attention.

The second big reason for plant failure comes from trying to grow plants in an environment unsuited or badly suited to their needs. Some plants such as Lantana or Morning Glory need as much sun as they can get, and demand a south window; others like the African Violet and various species of English Ivy will flourish for season after season in settings which never receive the sun's rays directly, but which merely get reflected light.

Most plants which are grown indoors possess a fantastic degree of adaptability. They must, in order to survive. The modern home is designed to be lived in by humans primarily, and little thought is given by the architects and builders to the needs of growing things. Yet, a cactus from the desert and a fern whose original habitat is in the rain forests of the South American mountains will live and prosper in the same room, if they have been chosen and then cared for with some intelligence and thought.

There are a couple of basic considerations which must be kept in mind in the selection and care of any house plant or group of house plants.

Light and Sun

Before you decide on the plants you are going to buy, you should plan the accommodations they are to receive once you get them home. If you live in a house or an apartment with exposures on all sides, it's best to try to plan your arrangement around a south-facing window. A southern exposure gets the most sun, an eastern one next most, then west, with the north-facing windows getting the least.

As we have said, not all plants need direct sunlight; some actually are bothered by it but whereas you can always provide shade in a sunny window, it is harder to try to induce the sun to shine into your north windows in the dead of winter. Therefore as a starter use a southern exposure. Of course, a bay window on the south side of the house is the perfect answer to an indoor gardener's dream. Here you get the sun almost all day long.

Plants grown in sunny windows and that includes almost all of the flowering varieties will tend to turn their blossoms and foliage toward the sun. Since you are growing plants at home for the enjoyment of those in the house rather than passers-by who might look in the window, it is wise to turn the pots every day or two so that the flowers won't grow in a completely lopsided manner.

The basic needs of indoor plants are few, but they need to be satisfied. Then you can enjoy your flourishing indoor plants for years!
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