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Maintaining plants indoors is very different from gardening outside; there is reduced light, restricted root growth, reduced need for water and nutrients, lack of moisture from the air, and adaptation to air conditioning and heat. Interior plants depend entirely on us to take care of them.
Before making a large investment always do a little research!
Light and Temperature
The plants commonly used in our homes have been selected for their ability to adapt to interior conditions. Most have been grown "under shade" and acclimated to low light when you purchase them. You will have the best results by picking plants that have proven to be successful inside.
After purchasing your plants be careful not to expose them to sun or wind during the move home. Wind can shred leaves and break branches, and sun can scorch the leaves. Do not leave the plants in a hot car, it only takes a few minutes for the car to heat up leaving the plants lifeless. Likewise bringing a plant outside for a breath of fresh air can be fatal if allowed to bake in the sun. Also if you are moving them in the winter provide warmth during their transport. Plants are like people, they prefer moderate temperatures and do not like drastic fluctuations. Good locations for interior plants will be away from drafts like doors and air conditioning vents.
When artificial light is the only light available, 12-16 hours is desirable. If the plant has a flower this usually means it will need more light. (4 hours of direct sun a day.)
Over-watering is the number one cause of decline for plants in indoor locations. When in doubt, do not water! Let the soil dry out first then thoroughly water. Use your finger or soil probe to find out if a plant is dry enough to water. Probe into the soil as far as possible. Just because the top of the soil is dry does not mean the rest is dry. Under low light conditions the plant's growth rate slows so it doesn't take up much water. A plant that almost wilts from no water has a better recovery rate than if you over-watered it. A good rule-of-thumb is to water until the water starts to come out the bottom of the container, unless there is no drainage. With practice, the time to water can be determined by the feel of the soil or the weight of the plant.
Plants in low light conditions require very little fertilizer. In fact, the risk of damage from the buildup of excess fertilizers in the soil through over fertilization is worse than no fertilizer at all. For all green tropical interior plants use a balanced slow release fertilizer every 3-4 months at a rate specified by the manufacturer. Remember too little is better than too much. Watering slowly activates the fertilizer pellets giving the plant nutrients in small doses. Flowering plants may need a boost, use a general water soluble fertilizer once a week to keep them flowering and healthy.
Pests and Diseases
Mealybug, scale, and mites are among the most common pests to attack indoor plants. A routine inspection of the leaves and stems of your plants is recommended. A monthly cleaning of your plant with a sponge or soft cloth and a soapy solution is beneficial. It will not only take care of most pest problems but will also take care of the dust that tends to accumulate on many indoor plants. Most diseases occur when we over-water. Root rot, leaf yellowing, and leaf drops are symptoms to look for. In you notice these symptoms, let the plant dry out and try moving it to a location where it gets natural light. If the pot has no drainage you can replant it in a container that has good drainage.
Grooming and Cleaning
If you have done a good job of matching the plant to the location and regulating the watering, the need for grooming will be minimal. The occasional yellow leaf should be removed, and long runners on hanging baskets pinched to encourage the plant to fill in. Resist major pruning - most indoor plants do not have enough light to support healthy regrowth. Having a sharp pair of scissors is a great way to shape up a plant with old leaves. By cutting off the brown tips you can make your indoor plants look brand new.
Flowering Seasonal Plants
When it is cold outside, potted flowering plants can bring color indoors. If given a bright, sunny window flowering plants will continue to set new buds for months. Some varieties can be planted in the garden afterwards bringing years of continuous enjoyment. Depending on where you live, seasonal plants may have to be discarded when their flowering period is over. Doing research to see what will grow in your area is always your best bet.
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