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Tropical House Plant Care – How to Water Your House Plants

October 4th, 2008

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Too little water … too much water … either one can cause a plant to die. This article will help you decide exactly how much water to use, and what to do if you get it wrong.

What Determines the Amount of Water a Plant Needs?

There’s no general rule that works for every plant. It depends on:

  1. The plant’s environment: Higher temperatures, lots of light, and breezes or drafts will dry out a plant faster. Plants in small pots will need more water, and those in unglazed clay pots also, since the porous sides allow moisture to pass through. The type of potting soil is also a factor — more about this in another installment.

  2. The type of plant: Plants such as cactus that are native to a dry climate may not need much watering at all. Other plants with large, soft leaves need more water, as do plants that are blooming. I water my new cuttings daily, to stimulate root development.

Do all these factors mean that I just have to guess? … Not at all. Just use the “Feel the Soil Rule”. When the soil in the pot is dry to a depth of an inch or so, that’s the time to get out the watering can.

How to Water

Always give your plants a good soaking. It’s much better for them than small amounts applied more frequently. Every month or so, I like to just put the whole pot in a large bucket for a few minutes to make sure that all the soil is getting dampened.

Symptoms of Impending Disaster

How do you know if you’re doing it properly? It’s pretty easy to tell when a plant needs more water. Its leaves will begin to droop. Too much water is a more common mistake. It causes black spots, mold, or a “mushy” feeling in the stems.

How to Save the Day

If your plant is parched, just soak it for a while in a bucket. Mushy plants are more difficult to fix. Remove them from their pot and examine the roots. If they’re mushy too, it’s probably best to throw out the plant. Otherwise, replace most of the soil, and just keep it drier from now on.

Some Other Problems

  • Root-bound plants will need more water than usual. It’s best to repot them.

  • Ceramic pots with no drainage — just be conservative, and watch for symptoms of over-watering.

  • After repotting a plant, the new soil will stay moist much longer, since there are no roots in it to take up moisture, so you need to water it less often.

Once you get to know your plants, it’s much easier. You’ll develop a pattern, and you’ll learn to recognize possible problems before they get too serious.

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Posted by Professor and filed under care, tropical house plants, water | 4 Comments »

Tropical House Plant Care – Introduction

September 25th, 2008

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Now that you have brought many of your outdoor tropical plants indoors for the winter, it’s time to go over some of the things you need to know about how to care for them indoors. This article begins a series on Tropical House Plant Care.

You don’t have to be an expert to grow beautiful plants indoors. Most varieties require a minimum of care, and will provide you with all of their benefits in return. There are three basic areas that you need to consider for a plant’s envirnoment: nourishment, their container, and their location.

  1. Nourishment: a) What type of plant fertilizer should you use, and how often should you apply it? b) How often should you water, how much water should you use, and what’s the best way to do it?
  2. Container: The size of the pot should be appropriate to the size of the plant, and it should have sufficient drainage. The potting soil used can make it easier to protect against mold and disease.
  3. Location: Where you place your plants will require consideration for the amount of light they receive, the temperature to which they are exposed, and the humidity of the air that they breathe.
Caring for your tropical houseplants simply involves providing them with an environment that simulates as closely as possible the conditions that they would experience in the wild. Once you establish a routine, they require very little of your time, and will provide you with beauty, as well as cleaner and fresher air for you home.

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Posted by Professor and filed under care, tropical house plants, water | 2 Comments »