by Gerry Hofmann
Now that the weather is definitely ‘fallish’ & even sometimes a bit like winter, many gardeners turn their attention to the cousins of our outdoor landscapes, namely houseplants. They manage to tide us over the cooler winter months quite nicely, if we just give them a little preventative attention.
Some plants have had a summer vacation of their own outside, enjoying the extra light & air for a few months. If you had any in this category, a couple of things to watch out for can keep trouble at bay: spraying them with tepid water, including the undersides of the leaves in the kitchen sink to dislodge any dirt. It may also be a good idea to knock the smaller ones out of their pots to check for insects looking for a free ride inside. Give them a good drink while you’re at it, since inside heated air is very drying, which will draw water out of the soil, too. Some leaves need removing if they have gotten sunscald or show evidence of slug or insect damage. When you trim, clean the scissors or clippers (ideally with rubbing alcohol) between cutting different plants so you are not transmitting anything from one to the other.
Most houseplants species originate in the hot, humid tropics. They are happiest in those conditions; however, that can be a tall order to replicate with our over-heated homes. Restoring some of the humidity with frequent misting along with situating plants near kitchens & bathrooms will replicate some of that.
Before looking for brand new houseplants, investigate where you are most likely to site them. Are the spots on the south or west side, where strong sunlight extends? If so, you may find the most success with succulents. These are thick-leafed plants, which are utilized to store water within. About the only way you can kill a succulent is to overwater it.
Speaking of watering, many people take the ‘more is better’ approach with sketchy results. Especially in sealed-bottom pots, where the extra water has no place to go, too much watering prevents the roots from accessing oxygen. Basically, the plant drowns. The best way to prevent this is to limit watering to 1-2 times a week, deep-watering when you do. Smaller plants may need water more often than larger ones. (If you find a plant wilting long before this, it may be root-bound. That means that it has used up a lot of the materials in the soil, making a bigger plant & roots along the way. Find a bigger pot for it.) The easiest way to check for water is to check the soil moisture just below the surface dirt; if it doesn’t stick to your fingers, it’s pretty dry. You can also just lift the pot (unless it’s too big) to check the weight, a dry plant weighs considerably less……after a little practice you will be able to tell quite easily.
If you are in the market for a larger plant & have a sunny spot, consider a citrus plant. A lemon tree, for example, can bring an aura of the warm Mediterranean into your home, which is especially welcome during the oncoming winter months. Citrus plants are relatively care-free & pest-free and may even yield some bonus fruit. The blossoms of many smell quite sweet too. Fort Collins Nursery has a wide variety of citrus plants, including: oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, kumquats, tangerines, key limes, and more!