By Katie Winslow, U of M Extension
As the cold January weather and shorter days drag on, many of us are spending more time indoors. As we spend more time in doors we may be giving more attention to our house plants and noticing a few things. I am going to do a two-part series on house plants. Today, let’s discuss how to properly care for your houseplants and the environment in which they are growing.
Sunlight, water and nutrients are three major factors that contribute to the overall health of your house plants. If any one of these three factors is off, your house plants will have a hard time dealing with pests and diseases, which I will cover in part 2 next week. When you are choosing a house plant, you want one that thrives in growing conditions that match your home’s environment. Consider the average temperature, humidity and light availability. If you continually struggle with house plants, these could be contributing factors. Make sure that your plants are near a window that gets plenty of sunlight. South-facing windows tend to be best. During winter months, homes are generally drier which can lead to your plant needing to be watered more often.
In order to properly water your plants you need to start with understanding how much water they need. Each type of plant is a little bit different. Some may require watering throughout the week while others prefer a drier climate and will require minimal watering. When watering, be sure to water at the base of the plant and avoid getting water on the leaves. It is important that you are not letting plants sit in water. Pots should have enough drainage holes that the roots are not continuously in saturated soil. Once the plant is done draining you should empty any excess water out of the saucer. Plants that sit in water will be at risk for root rot and more susceptible to fungus gnats and other pests.
Finally nutrients in the form of fertilizer. It is recommended that you use a basic house plant fertilizer at half the recommended rate. For best results fertilize when the plant is actively growing.
Next week I will go into specific pest and disease management practices for house plants. In the meantime for more information on this topic you can visit www.extension.umn.edu, or call the Stearns County Extension office (320) 255-6169, extension 1. Much of this information is in collaboration with information from Jeff Hahn, Extension entomologist and Julie Weisenhorn, Extension Educator.