- What is a Healthy Plant?A healthy plant is one that is fairly full, has a dark green color to the leaves, and is well branched (if it normally branches). A long, tall plant that does not have a good foliage canopy is usually one that has been kept under low light for too long, has had problems in growing, or does not have the root system that it needs. An exception to this may be very large Dieffenbachia or Dracaena. These plants tend to lose some of their lower leaves as they get older. However, you still want to look for plants that are full of leaves and have plenty of fresh growth.
One thing to avoid is a plant that has tender, young growth. If such a plant is placed in a darkened room, the new tender growth will be the first to deteriorate. Make sure that the plant is not a very old one, because this can cause problems.
To better serve your customer, you should acquire the knack of spotting heal thy, good quality plants. To a lot of people, the biggest is the best. There are several clues to a plant's health, but size is not always one of them; shape is, however. Choose plants that are short and stocky rather than long and leggy. Leaf color is another quality to check. Look for lush foliage instead of pale, faded leaves. Remember, too, that leaves without insect bites are not necessarily pest free. Check the stems and underside of the foliage for brown spots and in sect webs. Look for white or yellow dots. Become a plant critic. Make sure the plants you buy and sell are healthy ones!
- How to transport interior plantshen transporting interior plants, remember the two seasons of the year that can cause damage to the plants, the hot summer and cold winter. In the summer, avoid placing the plant in a vehicle and leaving the vehicle closed. Heat will build up and may possibly destroy the plant. This heat build-up can occur in a very short period of time.
If you have to set the plant near a window in the vehicle where the sun is shining directly on the plant, make sure that the plant is covered with newspaper. An alternative would be to cover the window by placing paper so that the sun will not shine directly on the plant. If traveling for any distance, this is extremely important. Plants can be burned by the sun shining through the glass in the vehicle even though the air conditioner is on and you are comfortable.
During the winter months, make sure you insulate the plant thoroughly before leaving the store to carry it to the vehicle. This may be done by wrapping the plant in newspaper, plastic, or special plant sleeves designed for this purpose. In severe weather, even a short run from the store to the vehicle may be sufficient to injure the plant. If the plant is properly insulated and protected, this is not a problem
Make sure that the plants are placed in the vehicle with the heater on. Do not place them in an unheated trunk compartment as this is usually a very cold area. If the plants are wrapped carefully and placed in the front or heated part of the vehicle where the temperature is comfortable, they will survive the delivery trip.
- LightingThe growth of interior plants and the length of time they remain attractive depend on the amount of light they receive in relation to how much light they need. Light is necessary for all plants because they use this energy source to manufacture food.
Inside, we often must supplement light by using incandescent or fluorescent lights or by placing the plants near a window. Some interior plants, especially ones that have been indoors for a long time, cannot tolerate extended periods of direct sunlight. For this reason, it is best to locate interior plants in or near windows that get direct sunlight for only short periods of time. Do not, however, put plants in dark corners. Indirect light is best for most interior plants.
Flowering plants such as gloxinias, geraniums, and begonias prefer bright,in direct light. Place them in areas that will receive this light level. East facing windows are good for these plants.
Excessive light can be as damaging as too little light. When a plant gets too much direct light, the leaves may become pale, sunburn, turn brown, and die. Therefore, during the summer months, protect plants from too much direct sun light.
Remember, also, that the sun is lower in the sky during the winter. Tender plants such as ferns may sunburn during the winter months. With the sun lower in the sky, many windows will receive more hours of direct sunlight during the winter months.
- TemperatureMost interior plants tolerate the normal temperatures found in homes and of fices. The ideal temperature is 70 to 80 F in the day time and 60 to 65 F at night. Many flowering plants will keep their flowers longer when the night tem perature is 50 to 60 F. Some interior plants can withstand night temperatures as low as 40 F for short periods. They should not stay at these temperatures for long periods though. If they do, they may deteriorate and even die. A minimum tem perature of 50 F is recommended for many interior plants. The rule of thumb to follow for temperatures for interior plants is to maintain the night time tempera ture 10 to 15 F lower than the daytime temperature.
Remember that plants such as Dieffenbachia (Dumb Cane) and Agaloenema (Chinese Evergreen) are sensitive to even 50 F. It may cause a limp stem in and foliage spotting in Agaloenema.
The increasing cost of heating has kept many people from adding plants to their homes and offices. Certainly where lights are never on from Friday after noon until Monday morning and the temperature is maintained at a minimum creates environments poorly suited for plant growth. Keep this fact in mind when assisting your customers in selecting plants for their offices. Only the hardiest of plants will withstand such conditions.
- When To WaterInterior plant roots are usually in the bottom two-thirds of the pot. Therefore, you should not water until the soil in the bottom two-thirds of the pot begins to dry. You can't tell this just by looking. You have to feel the soil; not on the sur face, but about one-third the depth of the pot below the surface. For a 6-inch pot, stick your index finger about 1-1/2 to 2 inches into the soil. This is ap proximately to the second joint of your finger. If the soil feels damp, don't water! How damp should it feel? It should feel about as damp as a cloth you would wet and ring out prior to wiping a kitchen counter. Keep repeating this test until the soil is barely moist at the 2-inch depth. NOW, it is time to water! For larger pots, the one-third from the surface rule should be followed. For smaller pots, about one inch below the surface is adequate.
When testing for watering, pay attention to the soil. If your finger cannot penetrate 2 inches deep, either the soil is not porous enough or the plant is becoming root-bound.
- How much to waterSince most of the roots of interior plants are in the lower two-thirds of the pot, this is the area you have to water. The rule to follow is to water the pot until water runs out of the bottom. How much water should run out? About one-tenth the amount of water you applied. Watering this way serves two purposes. First, it guarantees that the lower two-thirds of the pot was properly watered. Second, it helps to flush out fertilizer residue (excessive salts).
The pot should not be permitted to sit in the water that drains into the saucer below. To do so would cause a re-uptake of the fertilizer residue that should be flushed from the soil. After permitting the pot to drain for an hour or so, remove all excess water in the drainage saucer.
When a plant becomes very dry, sometimes the soil will pull away from the sides of the pot. Watering very dry plants requires special attention. In such a case, you should water the plant as described above. Wait a few minutes and remove excess water from the saucer. Re-water the plant. Failure to remove ex cess water from the saucer may result in an overflow with the second watering. This second watering allows the water to penetrate the soil. Sometimes, a third watering may be required.
- Suitable ContainersAny type of container can be used to grow interior plants. But remember that plastic, metal, ceramic, glazed, or glass containers will prevent water from evaporating through the sides. For this reason, many amateur plant growers are more successful with clay pots. Clay pots are porous and allow water to evaporate through the sides. Plants are less likely to be injured from overwatering when grown in clay pots.
It is permissible to use pots of materials other than clay. You should remember, though, you will have to alter watering schedules to compensate for the reduced evaporation that you will have with them.
- Disease PreventionTo prevent problems from occurring with interior plants, check plants regularly. This will head off a serious problem before it starts. In checking plants, always look on the underside of leaves. The next step is to remove the plant from its pot or container and inspect the root system. Many problems of interior plants are closely related to root problems.
Proper care, especially correct watering, is the key to preventing many problems. Many people overwater their plants. When watering, always water until the water comes out the bottom of the pot. Then do not water until the soil dries out approximately 1-1/2 inches below the soil surface. Also, keep water off the foliage especially in the afternoon. By watering correctly, many of the major plant problems can be eliminated.
PLANT TIPWhen adding new plants to the garden, pour some water in the hole before you place the plant. Especially at this time of year, it won't droop so quickly and will cut down on the amount of water and time needed to establish itself.