Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014
Agri Leader

Keep your house plants healthy and happy


Published:

Central Florida's Agri-LeaderPlants are an important part of Florida living, not just outdoors but inside our homes as well. Some houseplants are low-maintenance, but others may need a bit more tender loving care.

Palm trees are always a good bet in Central Florida. The University of Florida recommends the ponytail palm and the lady palm for homeowners who want a tropical indoor feel.

The weeping fig is a lovely evergreen tree that also does well indoors. Pothos, English ivy and philodendron are also commonly used in and around the home. Recognizing signs of pests and diseases early will help you raise healthy, vigorous houseplants that are sure to add character to your home.

While pests and diseases can affect the health and appearance of your houseplants, many problems are merely environmental. A lack of humidity is a common cause of unhealthy looking plants. The few cold snaps that arrived late this spring have greatly reduced our humidity levels.

Turning on the heater can also reduce the amount of moisture in the air. Most plants thrive at humidity levels between 50 and 70 percent. Low humidity can cause your plants to have yellow leaves or leaves may drop altogether. You can increase the humidity by grouping plants closely together and placing them on pebble filled trays that will allow you to add water to the bottom of the tray. This is a great way to increase the humidity and keep plants from developing wet roots. Misting your plants lightly each day with water will also help keep them looking their best.

Rapid changes in room temperature and light can also cause your houseplants to develop brown, dried leaf edges or it may cause them to lose their leaves quickly. This problem most often occurs when plants are moved to a new location inside the home.

Slow defoliation may be caused by light insufficiency or a lack of fertilizer. All of these problems can occur but they are usually easy to rectify. However, some problems are a bit more complicated and more difficult to solve.

Overwatering is the most common cause of poor plant health or plant death in houseplants. Most homeowners fear watering too little, which can lead to overwatering which causes diminished vigor and root rot. Standing water in the container tray is one sign you are watering too much or too often. Be sure your containers have drainage holes so the water runs away from the roots. Another sign your plants need less water is mold growth on the stem, stalks and flowers of the plant. Too much moisture can even cause white, fuzzy mold to grow on the soil surface. Excess moisture can also lead to infestations of insects such as fungus gnats, which thrive in wet potting soil.

In addition to fungus gnats, there are a variety of other insects that can show up inside your home and invade your plants. Spider mites are tiny arachnids that are difficult to spot with the naked eye but the damage they cause is quite obvious.

During the summer months, these mites can develop from egg to adult in as little as two weeks. Some signs your plants may be infested with spider mites are stippled leaves, brittle leaves, overall decline and off-color leaves. Other insects such as mealy bugs and aphids are also common indoors. These pests generally live on the undersides of plant leaves, where they feed.

You may need a magnifying glass to see spider mites or aphids. Small infestations can be controlled by rinsing your plants with a hard stream of water once or twice a week. There are also a variety of pesticides that can help control these insects, but if your plants are heavily infected it may be best to throw the plant out and replace it.

Regularly monitoring your houseplants for signs of pests and diseases goes a long way to nipping a problem in the bud before it gets harder to control. Always purchase healthy plants that are disease-free and vigorous. There are a variety of reputable plant nurseries in our area that are happy to help if you run into problems after your bring your plants home.

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