Green Foliage Plant Care…..Part 1 of 3

Arboricola ScheffleraCare of Green Foliage Plants

Indoor foliage plants are often referred to as tropical plants or even just green plants. Generally used as interior decorations for home and office, most people are beginning to realize that these plants are very beneficial to the indoor environment also. Plants literally clean the air we breathe every minute and some varieties are more efficient than others. In our next article we will address those characteristics while here we will discuss how to select and care for these plants.

Location, Light and Water
The critical factors affecting the daily life of any plant involve basically only two factors:
1. Location as a function of light levels
2. Watering method and frequency plus plant food.
Of course, indoor plants should not be located near doors or drafts from forced air registers nor places such as on top of a hot TV. Hopefully, these are fairly obvious. There is a third factor that is much more difficult to define in most environments and that is the humidity.

There are many varieties available at numerous retailers so the first question is which one should be chosen for each location. There are plants that will tolerate low, medium and high light conditions. Later we will tabulate several varieties on this basis, but we need to define what each of these conditions means in easy to understand terms.

Low Light ………… just enough natural daylight to read by. (200 to 1000 foot candles)
Medium Light……… natural well lighted room in the day time (500 to 1200 foot candles)
High Light ………….lots of sunlight in room with many windows (1000 to 2000 fc )
Very High Light…… lots of windows and skylights with direct sun (2000 to 4000 fc )

You need not count most forms of artificial lighting. But the direction of the light or window exposure is critical as is the season. Most summer seasons offer south facing windows very high light levels plus a high level of heat which will affect watering.
Winter and windows facing the other directions offer lower levels of light and temperature.

It is important to realize that plants will tolerate much higher levels of light if they are exposed slowly over a period of time. A good comparison is a human gradually acquiring a sun tan. A plant cannot go from a low light spot to a very high light spot in a short period of time without suffering some damage. Similarly, one does not acquire a decent sun tan in 2 or 3 days. A plant can accomplish this by being in a location where it is gradually exposed over the course of the season to higher and higher light levels …….say from winter in Feb / Mar to summer in May / June. However, few if any indoor plants can tolerate direct sunlight in the May to September period of time…….the light and heat are simply too intense. The length of the days increase and so does the intensity of the light as time progresses from late winter to mid summer fading back as fall moves into winter.

Based on this understanding, it is common sense to conclude that conditions at any one location are not static. Light levels may be high to very high in the summer at a particular spot, but only low to medium during the winter months.

It is also important to understand that the level of light affects the growth rate of the plant. High light encourages plant growth whereas low light slows growth down considerably. In most cases, we do not want excessive growth and height as the amount of space is limited and large overgrown plants do not fit into many interior decors.

In Part 2, we will discuss watering of foliage plants.