Tropical Houseplant Care

Tropical houseplant care is easy when you follow these simple guidelines.

Keeping houseplants not only adds to your decor but also helps improve the environment inside your house. Tropical plants can add color and oxygen to your house. In addition to adding oxygen to the air, plants can remove toxins.

CHOOSING A PLANT

Before you head out to buy your new plants, watch the spots in your house that you would like to place your plants for several days. Get an idea of what kind of light your plant will have. Most tropical plants will want slightly diffused light as opposed to direct sunlight.

Next you will need to figure out if you have bright light, medium light, or low light. To test, hold your hand about a foot above where you expect your plant to be and under the light source. If you create a firm, crisp shadow you have bright light. If you get a recognizable but not crisp definition in the shadow you have medium light. Anything below this level of light will be considered low light.

You should now be armed with enough knowledge to head out to your local plant store and get those new plants. Depending on what kind of light you have and how much time you are willing to spend with your plants there is an enormous variety of plants to choose from in today's market. You might even check the internet for plant ideas before heading out.

Once you're at the nursery don't feel embarrassed about asking questions. Your retailer should be able to answer any questions you might have. You should ask about watering habits, the effects of a draft, whether or not this plant can take direct sunlight, and about any other information you feel may be required.

While you are at the nursery it would be a good idea to get everything you'll need to care for your plants. You might want to pick up some clay pots, fertilizer, a watering can, and some trays to place under your plants to catch excess water runoff. These trays should cost less than a dollar.



SETTING UP AND WATERING YOUR PLANT

Now you have your new houseplants. According to what you observed and the information you got from your nursery, place your plants where they will do best. Something to keep in mind is that few plants will enjoy being placed in an air conditioning draft and most plants, if set in a window, will need to be moved back from the window when the temperature outside drops to freezing.

Different plants need different amounts of water. The tag that came with your plant should tell you the watering habits your plant has. Evenly moist means that the soil needs to stay moist but not soggy. Depending on household conditions and the size of pot your plant is in you will most likely need to water every few days. Medium moist means that you want to allow the top inch to inch and a half of soil to dry out. The best way to test for this is to stick your index finger into the soil to feel for yourself. A majority of houseplants will fall into this category. Dry means let the soil dry but not become bone dry. A majority of your plants will not appreciate this but things like ficus and scheffleras will love you for it.

When it is time to water you want to water thoroughly. This means drench the soil. Think of the soil as a sponge that your plant is sitting in. You want to completely soak the sponge. By doing this you will be leaching out salts and other mineral build ups that can accumulate in your soil. To replace some of the minerals it is good to use a low salt fertilizer every third watering. This allows you to 1) fertilize, 2) leech away excess salts and chemicals, and 3) give your plant nothing but water. After all, that's all it gets out in nature.

Use the plastic trays you bought. Nothing will ruin carpet or that nice hardwood floor faster than water draining from your plants. To water I recommend you take the plants either outside or place them over a sink or bathtub. If your plant is too heavy to move I recommend getting a turkey baster to remove excess drainage.

PESTS

Many plant owners experience seeing one of their plants die or at least become extremely weak due to pest damage. When it comes to pests it is a good idea to try to take a preventative stance. At least every few waterings, take a few extra minutes to inspect your plants. Once a plant has a pest, depending on the type of pest, it can easily spread to your other plants.

When checking for pests, be sure to check both the top and bottom of the leaves. You will want to look for any webbing-this means spider mites, any small objects that could be eggs, strange coloration, or any other sign that points to a lack of good general health.

A great preventative step to take with your plants is to mist them regularly. This will help keep one of the most frequent houseplant pests away, the spider mite. Spider mites move into dry areas. Misting will also help bring out the green in many plants. As plants can take in water through their leaves you will be able to slightly push back your watering schedule.

If you find that you do have a pest problem it is best to start with the lowest impact treatment and work from there. By starting with a low impact method you save money and don't introduce unnecessary poisons into your environment. The lowest impact method is of course mechanically (by hand) removing them. The next lowest impact method is spraying a jet of water on the pests. Then, if you need to use a poison be sure to follow the printed instructions carefully.

If you experience any other problems don't hesitate to ask your local nursery. There are many diseases out there and usually one or two new insects in the area they will know about.

© High Speed Ventures 2011