Houseplant Care

Taking care of indoor plants involves watering, pruning, and pinching, plus watching for diseases and insects.

The heated air inside our homes is dry. Plants need moisture to maintain healthy cells but too much water can lead to problems.

Check your container-plants’ moisture level before watering. Press a finger an inch into the soil and if it is dry at root level, water it. Allow the excess water to drain off,  then empty the saucer.

Recently repotted plants need less water because the soil keeps roots moist. Slip plants out of their pots to see if roots fill the space. If so, this is a good time to give them a bigger home or divide them.

Pruning and pinching makes plants more attractive and strengthens them. Bare stem sections between leaves or between the container and the end of the stem is an indication that the stem should be pruned. Stem cuttings can be used in vases and to start new plants.

Pinching back the top-most leaf buds will reduce plant stretching and make more compact plants.  Indoor vines, such as Wandering Jew, can grow several feet long without pinching or pruning.

Always prune and pinch at leaf nodes where you want the new growth to emerge.

An imperfect-looking plant can be caused by too much water or too little light (yellow leaves), too much sun (brown-edges),  too much humidity (grey mold on leaves or stems) and indoor drafts (leaves drop). Try moving an underperforming plant to a sunnier and less drafty spot, reducing water and re-potting it.

If mealy bugs appear on plant stems use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove them. Treat aphids with a hard spray of water. Spider mites and white flies can be treated twice a week with a spray of mild detergent water.

If a water spray does not take care of the problem, try insecticidal soap. It is commercially available in spray bottles and also is easy to make.  Combine 1-Tablespoon of  Dr. Bonners Castile Soap with 1-quart of water. Spray on plant stems and under leaves.


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