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Care for indoor plants

Plants need love and care. The natural habitat of a plant is not exactly indoors. In an artificial environment, the plant depends only on you for all it necessities. The plant looks up to you for all of its requirements. You must to know the basic requirements for the care of plants. You are the only one who can look after the following needs of the plant. The basic elements that plants need for their growth are:

Air Temperature Light
Water Humidity
Re-potting Food
Pruning Disease and Pest Control

The plants however differ in the quality and quantity of these needs that they must have in order to grow successfully. Care for plants is all about how best you satisfy the above needs of the plants.

Air Temperature

Most house plants tolerate normal temperature fluctuations. Excessively low or high temperatures may cause plant failures, stop growth, or cause spindly appearance and foliage damage or drop. A cooler temperature at night is actually more desirable for plant growth than higher temperatures. A good rule of thumb is to keep the night temperature 10 to 15 degrees lower then the day temperature.

Light:

Although, plants can be kept indoors, they need light for their growth. We must not forget that plants make their food by the process called photosynthesis. Light, we know is the vital factor in the photosynthesis process. Indoor plants will not grow in a dark or poorly lit room. Artificial lighting does enable the plant to grow properly.


Very often you must have noticed that plants grow only in one direction. This is because they are seeking light. To achieve a uniform growth, rotate the plants in their place periodically.

Indoor plants also need to be brought out for fresh air at least once a fortnight. Care should however be taken that the plants are not placed in direct sunlight. Doing so, even for 5 mins. will scorch the leaves of the plant.

Water

Some people love their plants so much that they frequently water them thinking that by watering, the plants will continue to be healthy. In the process they over water and kill the plant.

Water is something which has to be applied very judiciously to the plants. They should neither the over watered or under watered. There is no definite guideline as to how much to water the plants. Experience is the best judge for watering.

Feel the soil in the pot for dampness. If the soil is damp, the plant does not need watering. If it is dry sufficient water should be applied so that the water drains out from the drainage holes at the base of the pot. By applying less water, out of fear that the water will spoil the carpet, you run the risk of damaging the root system and killing the plant. Applying less water to the pot only wets the top surface of the soil. This forces the roots to grow upwards in search of water and getting exposed and possibly be damaged by some external factors.

Humidity

You must have noticed the tips of leaves turning brown and wilting very soon in an air-conditioned room. Air-conditioning dries out the humidity in the air. The plants loose water faster through the openings in their leaves than they can replace it through their roots.

To provide humidity for the plants:

  1. Place the plants on a tray of wet pebbles. The water evaporates upward from the surface of the stones and creates a humid atmosphere around the plants
  2. Group the plant together so that they can break the air currents blowing on them and also take advantage of the moisture evaporating from each other. A mug of water can be placed in between then for better result.
  3. Spray water on the leaves of the plant.

Re-potting

Plants cannot grow forever in the same pot. As the plant grows the roots gradually fill up the pot. It then needs to be planted in another pot.
For the purpose of repotting, use a pot which is of the next larger size and has drainage holes at the bottom. The drainage holes are required to allow the excess water to flow out of the pot. Also see section of
FAQ. Use a potting mixture that allows free drainage of water. It should be free from large particles of mud. There are ready potting mixtures available with nurseries.

Fertilizing

Fertilize the plants once in fourteen days. Use fertilizers which have a proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N:P:K). These are the three elements most essential for the balanced growth of all plants. Nitrogen is essential for the growth of the stem and leaves, phosphorus for the roots, and potassium for the general sturdiness of the plant. The three chemicals need not be applied separately. There are ready chemicals with a mix of all the three.

Pruning

Pruning is required to make the plant grow bushier and to give it the desired shape. It is also done to get rid of the diseased parts of the plant.

Pruning should, however, be done only when the plant is in an active growing stage. Generally, the plant is not in an active growing stage during the winter season.

Disease and Pest Control

Plants are liable to be attacked by diseased and pests. Be on a constant look out for the symptoms of plant disease and pests. However, do not wait for the plants to be affected and then take remedial action. Prevention is always better than cure. Spray the plants once in fourteen days with insecticides. The best insecticide to use, which does not cause any side effect to the plant, is neem oil cake.