How Should You Care for Your Houseplants?

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Houseplants offer beauty and interest in your house, as well as dramatically improve the air quality. Plants filter harmful gasses out of the air, improving air quality in your home and offering a fresh supply of oxygen. Aside from watering them, though, plants can use a good dose of tender loving care. Are you caring for your plants properly?

A big question when it comes to houseplants is: when do I water them? The answer is pretty simple: when they are dry. You can simply stick your finger into the potting media several inches and see how dry the material is. When it is dry, it’s a good bet that your plant could use a watering; for most plants this is about weekly. When you water, water thoroughly enough so that all of the potting media gets wet. You can allow some water to come out of the bottom of the pot, but you want to make sure to pour that water out of the tray. Water in the tray will be absorbed back into the pot and can bring in a high concentration of salt that was previously washed out of the media. This salt accumulation can become hazardous to your plants, so you will want to raise your pot above that extra water or pour it out.

Most houseplants are tropical plants, adapted to low light situations in the rain forest, so they are able to create energy without large amounts of sunlight. However, your plants still need nutrients to continue to grow and thrive. Usually a small application of fertilizer monthly is a great way to supply your plants with the nutrients they need to stay healthy. You can have too much of a good thing, so remember to follow the labeled instructions on your fertilizer for how to apply it properly to your plants without injuring them.

Most people know that they need to water and fertilize their plants, but less known is that houseplants need to be cleaned periodically, as well. Dust inside your home collects on the tops of leaves, coating them and interfering with plant functions and breathing. To clean the leaves of your plants, you can wipe them with a damp cloth or spray with a spray bottle. If your plants aren’t too big, you can set them all in the shower and give them a good rinse. This will serve as a good watering for them and can also wash away some common pests, such as aphids and mealybugs. Another added benefit of a good rinse is that they will be bright green and ready to be enjoyed.

Houseplants are a great way to bring the outdoors inside, clean your air, and beautify your home. Whether you are an experienced gardener or a complete novice, there are some great plants out there to fit your lifestyle. With a little extra care, your plants will offer you many years of enjoyment and service. If you have any problems or questions about your particular plant, be sure to call the Catawba County Cooperative Extension for more information at 828-465-8240.

This article was written by Anelle Ammons, Horticultural Assistant at Catawba County Cooperative Extension