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House Plant Tips from My Wife

February 27, 2017

Rita does an amazing job with our house plants.  I asked her to pass along a couple of tips to help you look like you have a green thumb when it comes to growing house plants.  She says that three things can cause house plants to suffer. 

First, your plants will not like it if the soil stays too wet between watering causing the roots to rot.  Sometimes this happens if the saucer is not much larger than the pot causing the water to get trapped just like it would if there were no drainage holes.  Rita suggests you use your finger to tell if there is still moisture in the soil an inch down from the surface signaling you should wait more time between watering.  When you water make sure the water is at room temperature.

Second, plants will get tall and spindly when there is not enough light.  One sign of this is when they lean toward the light in a low light situation.  If you have low light, check the plant tags and find a plant that can tolerate less light. 

And finally you will see excessive leaf drop or brown edges on the leaves when a nearby vent blows air conditioned and/or heated air directly onto the plant.  You may also see leaves drop when you first move a big plant from the ideal growing conditions of a greenhouse into your home, especially if you moved it when outdoor temps were high or low.

After fixing one or more of these three plant killers, repotting a tired-looking house plant can make a big difference.  Be sure to select a pot an inch or two wider than the one you are replacing.  The saucer should be large enough so the water drains easily from the plant and does not get trapped inside the pot.  Be sure to use a high quality potting mix.  We have had great luck with Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.  Your newly potted plant will appreciate regular feedings following the frequency recommended on the plant food package.  Rita likes using Osmocote Plant Food because it feeds for four months.

One last tip from Rita: Consider growing small house plants into big house plants to be ready to rotate your plant décor without breaking your pocketbook.  You will be surprised how fast small plants become big plants when planted in a good soil and with regular nutrition from a good plant food. 

Rita grew this Fiddle Leaf Ficus from a small 8 inch pot over a 6 year period.  She kept it bushy by pruning it a couple of times a year.  (click photo to enlarge)

Rita grew this Fiddle Leaf Ficus from a small 8 inch pot over a 6 year period. She kept it bushy by pruning it a couple of times a year. (click photo to enlarge)

Rita grew this Variegated Ficus from a small plant to over 12 feet tall over a period of about 10 years.

Rita grew this Variegated Ficus from a small plant to over 12 feet tall over a period of about 10 years.  (click photo to enlarge)

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