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Selecting Your Houseplant

An important key to your success will be to start with a healthy plant. Avoid plants with off color or abnormally yellow foliage and check the underside of the leaves for signs of pests.

LIGHT: Your foliage plant will decline very quickly if placed in an area where light intensity is too low. If light intensity is too strong the leaves may sunburn.

LOW LIGHT PLANTS: Prefer light levels which normally exist in a northern, north-eastern or a shaded window. You should be able to read comfortably in the area where the plant will be placed.

MEDIUM LIGHT PLANTS: Prefer light levels that are achieved when a plant is within 5-10 feet of a bright sunny window or directly in an east or south facing window that is partially blocked by buildings or trees. Your hand will cast a fuzzy but definite shadow when placed over the spot where the plant will be placed.

HIGH LIGHT PLANTS: Prefer light levels which would exist in front of an unobstructed east, south or west window. During the summer months it would be wise to draw a sheer curtain between the plants and the window to prevent sunburn. Your hand will leave a well defined shadow when placed over the spot you’ve picked for the plant.

VERY HIGH LIGHT PLANTS: Prefer light levels which provide at least five hours of direct sunlight during the winter and three hours during the summer. Be careful of excessive heat that may build up in the west facing windows.

WATERING: Over watering is a very common problem with houseplants. Water only when the plant needs watering, not when your calendar says it is time to do so. Your plants will use water at a varying rate depending upon light, temperature conditions and plant size. The best way to determine the need for watering is to put your finger down into the soil, checking for moisture. When you do water, apply enough water so that the entire soil mass is moistened and some water drains from the drain holes in the bottom of the container. Never allow your plants to stand in water as this may lead to root rot. Finally, use room temperature water, never ice cold or hot, and water the soil, not the leaves.

TEMPERATURE: Most foliage plants do well at normal indoor temperatures. If you’re comfortable, the plant probably is too. However, watch that the plants are not exposed to cold or hot drafts and avoid excessively warm spots such as the top of your television. Avoid leaving plants on windowsills in extremely cold weather as the foliage may become frozen or chilled.

HUMIDITY: Many homes have very low humidity levels, especially during the winter months. Humidifiers can be very helpful in making your home environment more tolerable for plants as well as for you. Another way to raise humidity is to set your plants on trays of gravel that have been flooded with water. As the water evaporates into the air, the humidity is significantly increased around the plant. Contrary to popular opinion, misting your plants is not helpful. In fact it may do more harm than good by facilitating the spread of foliar disease.

FERTILIZING: Fertilizer residue from the growing cycle in the greenhouse will be sufficient for the first month. You may then begin to fertilize with any house plant fertilizer according to the label directions. Avoid fertilization as winter approaches.

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