Planting House Plants
Sometimes the plants you choose to bring home will already be in an adequate pot for growing. It may be in a plain, black plastic pot with drain holes and a good growing medium. If that’s the case then you can simply drop the potted plant into a decorative pot or basket, making sure there is a drain saucer underneath to prevent damage to any surfaces. (See “Temperature and Humidity” on page “Choosing House Plants”)
Generally, the more mature a plant is, the more expensive it will be.
A lot of house plants are sold as seedlings, which can be planted into larger pots. This is the most inexpensive way to buy house plants, but you need to know how big the plant will be at maturity and how long it will take to get that big, so you will be sure to have the space you need for it to grow.
Also, you’ll have to be patient and wait for the plant you bought to match the plant of your vision. I recommend buying the largest, most mature plant you can afford. Houseplants don’t usually grow as fast as ones growing in the yard.
If you buy seedlings, then it’s important to know what to do with them when you get them home. You can pot your new plant into a larger, nursery pot (black plastic) to be set down into a decorative pot, or you can plant directly into a decorative pot. Either way, make sure there are adequate drainage holes. Over-watering is probably the most common cause of failure in house plants. Without drainage holes, the over-watering is a certain death sentence. Even plants that like very moist soil won’t tolerate sitting in water-logged soil. When there is too much water, the oxygen is displaced and the plant drowns, or it may die of root rot.
When growing plants in the house, it’s best to use a planting medium and not garden soil. There are many commercial potting mixes available that will help to insure the success of your indoor gardening. Potting mixes are formulated to feed the plants, retain moisture, yet provide the good drainage that’s essential for potted plants.
There are general mixes for many different types of plants, and there are specialty mixes. Read the information on the packaging for the best choices for your plant.
Caring For House Plants
Don’t kill your house plants with kindness. Know the moisture requirements of the plants you buy and don’t over-water. House plant don’t require as much water as ones growing outside, and usually they don’t require as much water in the winter as they do in the spring through fall (unless the temperature in your home is very warm, which can be drying).
Just because the soil appears dry, doesn’t mean that it’s dry below the surface. Either use a gauge meant for plants to determine how moist the soil is, or just insert the tip of your finger in about an inch. You’ll get a better idea of how much and when to water. More house plants are killed from over-watering than from neglect.
When watering, I like to add just 2-3 drops of a liquid plant fertilizer, such as Peter’s Special, per quart of water. In such small amounts it just provides some nutrients to the plants without over-fertilizing them. Using water that is slightly warm or at least room temperature, will not shock the plants and they will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Some plants benefit from an occasional shower. This can be done in the home shower or, if possible and the weather is warm enough, plants can be taken outside and showered off with a soft spray of the water hose. Not only does this remove accumulated dust and makes the plant look better, but if there are pests, such as aphids or white flies, it will dislodge them.
Misting house plants is also very beneficial. It will keep the plants from drying out and discourage pests.
Shaping, Trimming and Pruning House Plants –
Many house plants need no shaping or pruning, others may get leggy or grow too large for their space if not trimmed up. Pinching back some plants will encourage more growth and will result in a much fuller plant. This doesn’t work with all plant types, so it’s important to get informed about the plants you grow. If a plant outgrows it’s pot, it will become root bound and the roots will displace the soil, causing the plant to suffer and fail to grow. When a plant is too large for the pot it’s in, it’s time to re-pot, or trans-plant it into a larger pot.
Inspecting House Plants –
Plants can become fixtures, part of the background and it becomes easy to neglect them a little. If you routinely inspect your plants as you water them, you can prevent damage from pests and diseases. You can remove brown or damaged leaves to keep the plant looking healthy and attractive.
Pests of House Plants –
Aphids– These soft bodied insects suck the fluids from the plant. They are particularly attracted to the new growth. To
control aphids, they need to be removed. A soft, damp cloth will wipe them away or a shower of water (room temperature) will knock them off.
Whiteflies – Tiny white bugs with white wings that are very hard to see, unless the plant is disturbed. Then they can be seen flying around in a cluster. Washe the whiteflies off with a mister or with a shower.
Mealybugs– These are round and fuzzy insects that can be seen because they are bigger than most pests. They can be hard
to spot though, because they tend to cluster near the base of stems or where branches connect. They can kill the plant by sucking the fluids from it. They can be knocked off with a mister or in a shower. Sometimes it’s easier to just dip a Q-tip in some alcohol and wipe them off.
Scale – Flat brownish or gray insects with a harder outer covering. They can be found on leaves or stems. Scale also suck the plants fluids and cause damage to the plant. They can be scraped off easily when discovered, but can be harder to detect.
Spider Mites – These pests are too small to see but you can spot clusters of them and the webbing they create. They are flat and round and can be white or reddish. Leaf damage will be easy to see, with the affected leaves turning yellow or brown and falling off. The webbing can be seen on the underside of the leaves. When you find spider mites it’s important to immediately remove the plant from other plants, as they can spread rapidly. To remove them, you can spray them off. Spraying or misting regularly helps to control them.
Thrips – Tiny, barely visible insects that will fly or jump when disturbed. They’ll eat the leaves, and damage is usually visible on the leaf edges. Control them by spraying them off in a shower.
Strong, healthy plants are much less likely to be bothered by pests. By inspecting house plants regularly, damage can be minimized if they do get infested.