January 22nd, 2013
Now that we’re stuck inside for at least some of the time these next few months, we’ll have to depend on houseplants to feed the chlorophyll addiction.
I don’t think most people are as comfortable with these as outdoor plants like hydrangeas and petunias and tomatoes. For one thing, most so-called “houseplants” are tropicals or sub-tropicals – not all that familiar, in other words.
For another, these poor plants are trying to grow in a very unnatural setting.
So it’s no wonder a lot of myths and misunderstandings have cropped up in the way we care for these indoor winter plants.
I ran into an excellent web site done by a houseplant expert named Will Creed in New York City (www.horticulturalhelp.com). One of the things Will does is make house calls to houseplant clients in Manhattan.
But one very interesting tidbit he’s got on his site is a list of eight common myths about growing houseplants. To briefly paraphrase:
Myth 1: Plants grow bigger in bigger pots. Truth: Most houseplants prefer being moderately potbound. Oft-repotted plants put too much energy into root growth at the expense of leaves and flowers. Excess space also makes them more prone to root rotting.
Myth 2: Ailing plants benefit from plant food. Truth: Plant food is not medicine. Plants won’t take in more nutrients than they need, and adding more than needed can burn roots or discolor leaves. This is also true of landscape plants, by the way.
Myth 3: Indoor plants need lots of direct sunlight. Truth: Depends on the plant. Some like it sunnier, but many prefer it less light and will sunburn if exposed to too much sun.
Myth 4: Yellow leaves and brown tips mean over-watering. Truth: These common symptoms can be caused by lots of things, including too little water, not enough light, excess fertilizer, fluoride in the water, hard water and poor soil quality.
Myth 5: Misting plants increases humidity. Truth: It might keep them clean, but it has little to no useful benefit when it comes to a plant’s humidity needs. The dampness from misting is very short-lived.
Myth 6: Most indoor plants need high humidity. Truth: Most common houseplants were selected for the retail trade because of their ability to live in dry home conditions. Most do just fine when the pots are kept adequately watered.
Myth 7: Chemical pesticides are the only effective way to deal with pests. Truth: There are lots of effective alternatives, such as rubbing alcohol, horticulture oils and soaps, sticky traps, diatomaceous earth and hot-pepper sprays.
Myth 8: Most indoor plants go dormant in winter. Truth: Their growth may slow from shorter days, but most indoor plants are native to tropical regions that are warm enough to support year-round growth.
If you’re interested in more details and even more misunderstandings, check out this page.