ARLENE'S HOUSEPLANT TIPS

Indoor plants can provide us with colour during the drab days of winter and also do a great job of cleaning our air. Larger plants soften and blend with groups of furniture, while smaller plants enhance and adorn our tables and windowsills. Knowing your plant’s requirements and paying close attention to your plants will substitute for a “Green Thumb”. Most foliage plants are native to tropical areas and enjoy a humid atmosphere with indirect light. If your plant does not receive enough light, it will soon let you know with yellowing leaves that will soon die. A great way to increase humidity is to group your plants together or set them on trays filled with pebbles and water. Avoid spraying your plants to increase humidity as this is only an invitation to insects and disease.
Plants will sense the natural shortening of daylight hours and may go into dormancy as they would in their natural habitat. This is a period of inactivity where the plant remains alive but doesn’t grow. This is a time when the amount of water and light should be decreased. Most of our indoor plants die off because we water them too much. Water only when the soil becomes dry to the touch about an inch below the surface. Never allow the plant to sit in water as this will promote root rot.

Following are some of my houseplant tips.

1. Cut back on feeding houseplants. This is the time of year the plants need a rest. The best time to fertilize houseplants is from late January until the beginning of October.
2. Now is NOT the time to re-pot houseplants unless they are root-bound, that is, if the roots of your plant are coming through the drain holes; or if your plant has definitely outgrown its container, otherwise, the best time is in the spring.
3. Healthy houseplants require good air circulation, so it’s important to avoid over-crowding.
4. Wash the leaves of your plants several times a year. Not only is dust unsightly on plants, it clogs the pores of plants leaves and filters sunlight before it reaches the plant. Dust and grime can also harbor insects. With a soft cloth, wipe the leaves with lukewarm water with a bit of mild dishwashing soap or insecticidal soap added to it

5. Check your plants weekly for insects and disease. If you didn’t isolate and spray your outdoor plants before introducing them into the house, you may have brought in some insects and disease. Check the underside of the leaves as this is where most insects gather. If you are checking your plants on a regular basis, you will catch a lot of the insects before your plant becomes infested.
6. Mealy bug – If your plant is a looking a little bit wilted and losing colour, your plant may have Mealy bug. Their bodies are up to ¼” long and are covered in a white powdery wax. They gather on the underneath part of the leaves and at the base of leaf stems. Mealy bug is one of the hardest insects to rid your plant of. Isolate your plant and spray it with an insecticidal spray or use a cotton swab with rubbing alcohol and remove them. You may have to do this a number of times.
7. Aphids are another popular houseplant insect. They are usually light or dark green, are very tiny, about 1/6th inch long and also cluster on stems and underneath leaves. They will literally suck the life out of your plant and can also cause premature bud drop. Use an insecticidal spray to control them, as well.
8. Scale looks like little bumps that collect along stems and at the base of leaves. They cause a reddening of tissue wherever they feed. The stems usually lose vigor and die. They are controlled by using an insecticidal spray.
9. Whitefly – If your leaves are looking a little yellow, dry and dropping, your plant may be infested with Whitefly. They are about 1/16th inch long and are white in colour. If they are disturbed, they flutter about the plant. An insecticidal spray provides effective control, as do sticky tapes.
10. Keep your plants away from heat registers, hot or cool drafts and from warm appliances. High room temperatures make the plant spindly; may cause blooming plants to drop buds or finish blooming prematurely and make them less resistant to insects and disease.