Overall, this is definitely the most challenging for most plant owners and care givers. Yet it is the simplest, once you understand the rules that plants insist on placing on you. The most common sin is over watering as people do not believe it is far better to let almost every indoor plant dry out somewhat between waterings rather than to keep it soaked in water. The plant is not doing well……so let’s water it some more……….kills a lot of plants.
How do you tell if a plant needs water? It is quite easy. Stick your finger in the soil about one inch. If moist, do not water. If dry, soak the plant thoroughly and be sure to drain or remove excess water afterwards. But that is not all that easy, is it?
I prefer lifting a plant if it is not too large. If a plant is light or very light, it needs water. If the plant is heavy, it does not as most of the weight is water. Think about it……if you cut the plant in pieces and weighed that, would the mass not be very light? Pick up a bag of dry soil…..it is not heavy. The container can be misleading as a heavy ceramic pot makes this method more difficult.
One also has to consider the environment and location of the plant. One located near a hot dry south window in the summer may require watering once or twice a day. The same plant located in a northern window in winter may only need watering once every 10 days. Quite a huge difference that has absolutely nothing to do with the plant!
The size of the plant pot is also significant. A small plant in a 4 inch pot may require water every 2 to 3 days whereas a large plant in a 16 pot can go 10 to 20 days before needing water. It is simply a matter of how much water can be stored in the volume of soil in the pot.
The best method is to set up a regular schedule so that you check your plants at least once or better yet, twice a week. On Wed make a quick tour, and take care of plants in hot locations that dry our quickly. On Sat. do a more thorough check. Remove dead foliage and rotate plants to maintain even growth. Check small pot plants daily.
Plants do not need to be fertilized during the winter months as there is not enough light to encourage growth. Plants know it is winter because the days are short and the light level is lower. Fertilize in the spring to late summer period and follow the directions provided by the manufacturer. Generally, every 3 to 4 weeks is more than adequate. Remember, more fertilizer is going to result in more growth, just as more light will also do the same.
Palms and Ferns
These two groups of plants have to mentioned as they require more frequent watering as compared to most other foliage plants. Please keep palms and ferns more on the moist side and water more often. If too dry, the leaves will turn brown and often drop off.
Weeping Fig – (Ficus Benjamina)
This plant requires special mention and a word of caution. An excellent indoor tree, it often confounds many owners with heavy leaf drop. Research shows that this plant is negatively affected by indoor air pollution caused by such factors as new paint, new carpet, etc. It is recommended that you do not put a Benjie in a newly constructed or newly painted area unless there is a lot of fresh air and air exchange. It may take up to a year before the Benjie will survive. Indoor pollution will cause the edges of the leaves to turn brown and drop off the plant.
Most people already know the this plant in particular requires climatization when moved to a new location. There will almost always be some leaf drop associated with a move but this will decease as the days go by. New leaves will stay on the plant whereas if there is too much pollution, even new leaves will drop off.
In Part 3, we will discuss several plant varieties that fall into various light categories.