By Jodi Torpey
Have you taken a good look at your houseplants lately? Are there yellowing leaves, brown leaf tips or leaf drop? If so, your plants are trying to tell you something.
Many houseplants, like philodendron, palms and ferns, are tropical plants and they don’t like cold weather any more than we do. A winter’s worth of low light, fluctuating indoor temperatures and dry air means plants need some extra special care.
Besides adding greenery to the indoor scenery, healthy houseplants provide the vital function of exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen to improve indoor air quality. Plants also filter common toxins and keep our green thumbs in shape for gardening season.
Houseplants do so much for us, they deserve a little TLC. Here’s how to give your houseplants a boost of good health by adjusting temperature and humidity, lighting, watering and fertilizing.
Houseplants prefer a consistently temperate indoor climate. In general, houseplants do best when daytime temperatures are 65 to 70 degrees and 60 to 65 at night.
Keep plants away from entry doors to protect them from cold drafts and make sure leaves aren’t touching chilly windows. Some plants may need to be moved to a warmer spot, as long as it’s not near hot air vents, fireplaces or radiators.
Humidity, the amount of water moisture in the air, benefits people and plants alike. Experts recommend an indoor humidity level between 30 to 40 percent. While some homes are equipped with a whole-house humidifier, a portable room humidifier can also do the job.
Placing plants on trays of moist gravel and clustering them close together can also increase the amount of humidity around plants. Although it works temporarily, misting isn’t an effective way to sufficiently increase humidity levels.
Light levels change from winter into spring and some plants may need to be moved to a sunnier window. Because plants will grow toward the light source, be sure to turn plants every so often to prevent them from becoming leggy or misshapen.
If you have blooming houseplants, like begonias, fuchsias or African violets, consider supplementing natural light with fluorescent or plant grow lights. Artificial lighting is usually placed one foot above plants. Expose plants to about 16 hours of light each day.
Did you know over watering is the reason most houseplants meet an untimely demise? Instead of watering on a regular schedule, adapt your watering habits to match the plant’s needs. Some plants need consistently moist soil; others need soil that dries a bit between waterings.
If you’re not sure when to water, allow the upper one inch of soil to dry before watering again. Discard any excess water that drains into the saucer.
Spring is the time when houseplants start growing again, so it’s time to begin fertilizing. Use an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer. Spring is the time when houseplants start growing again, so it’s time to begin fertilizing. Use an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer.
One last thing, show your plants how much you care by dusting their leaves with a soft, moist cloth. Not only will they shine, but you’ll be able to catch any plant health problems early so you can nip them in the bud.