HOUSEPLANT CARE

Plants can be a wonderful addition to any home or office. They are often grown for their attractive foliage. But how do you care for these growing marvels without greenhouse conditions!

Several factors influence your success with indoor plants. The key factors for plant growth are light, temperature, humidity, and water. Take time to read about their individual requirements and then try to match their needs to your indoor setting.

• Proper Light
• Temperature
• Water Needs
• Humidity

Proper Light

Light is essential for plant growth and can be one of the most limiting factors for success with houseplants. Both the amount and the quality of light are important.

Light intensity refers to brightness and is measured in foot-candles, which is defined as the amount of light that one candle produces, measured one foot away. Outdoors, the amount of sunlight that is cast may be 10,000 - 12,000 foot-candles. Indoors, the amount of light that enters the room is only a small fraction of that amount. While most plants will perform best with bright light conditions, some plants can tolerate moderate to low light conditions.

Light intensity is measured in foot-candles and can be evaluated by using a light meter. You can also follow these general guidelines.
Low Light (75 foot candles)
North window: a few feet away; East/West window: 3-10 feet away; South window:15-20 feet away
Medium (average) Light (150 foot candles)
North window: directly in front; East/west window: a few feet away; South window: 3-10 feet away
High or Bright Light (300 foot candles)
East/west window: directly in front; South window: up to 5 feet away
Direct (1500 foot candles)
South window: directly in front

Keep in mind that light conditions change throughout the seasons. Several factors can influence your light intensity and duration. The sun is higher on the horizon in the winter (increasing the brightness indoors) and lower on the horizon in the summer (decreasing the brightness indoors); surrounding trees and shrubs may block sunlight with their leaves in summer, but allow for more light during the winter after their leaves have fallen off.

Light duration refers to the number of hours of light that falls on a plant in 24 hours. In low light conditions, plants can benefit from increasing the duration of light. Duration of 14 - 16 hours is sufficient. Do not expose plants to more than 16 hours of light since they need a rest period too. Also, be aware that flowering response in some plants is influenced by day-length and should be considered when supplementing the available light.

Light quality refers to the wavelengths of light. Plants need blue and red wavelengths for photosynthesis. For flowering, they also need infrared light.

Choosing lights

Incandescent lights: mostly red, some infrared, low blue
Fluorescent lights: vary according to manufacturer
Cool white: mostly blue, low in red
For foliage plants, using cool white fluorescent bulbs works well. For blooming plants, use incandescent or special "grow light" bulbs.

Most foliage plants prefer day temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees with night temperatures usually 5 to 10 degrees lower. Avoid extreme temperature changes, such as cold and hot air blasts from windows, radiators, heating and air conditioning vents. Take special care near cold window panes too. Cold glass can damage foliage.

Temperature

Most foliage plants prefer day temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees with night temperatures usually 5 to 10 degrees lower. Avoid extreme temperature changes, such as cold and hot air blasts from windows, radiators, heating and air conditioning vents. Take special care near cold window panes too. Cold glass can damage foliage.

Water Requirements

How much water a plant needs is influenced by several factors. Not only is the individual plant size and species important, but also the growing conditions. Light, temperature, humidity, container type, container size, and finally soil type all influence the speed of growth and therefore the amount of water needed.
It is best to look up individual plant types for their watering needs. Typically, you will see the following descriptions under water requirements: plants enjoy constantly moist, but not soggy wet soil; plants prefer to have soil allowed to dry moderately between waterings; or plants prefer very slightly moist soil at all times. The succulents and cacti have differing needs during their growth cycle.

Humidity

During the winter, most homes have less than 30 percent humidity and some houseplants may suffer. Humidity can be increased with a humidifier. Setting plants on pebbles in a water-filled tray increase humidity too. Make sure the pots are not sitting directly in water. Another technique is to group plants together which improves the humidity immediately surrounding them.

Misting plants does not always work. The humidity level is affected for only a short time and repeated misting is necessary. While some plants tolerate misting, other plants do not. With too much misting, the incidence of disease may increase.

Still got problems or questions about your houseplants drop us a line at GREENSCAPE GARDENS "the gardening center of the universe".