56February 2, 2017

As I write this column, the forecast is for some snow. The January weather has been reasonably nice so I would guess that we couldn’t complain too much about a 3 to 5 inch snowfall in late January.

Last week we received a big shipment of houseplants. It’s a nice assortment of houseplants along with some indoor citrus plants; pineapple plants with a pineapple growing on the plant and some Venus fly traps. Whenever someone buys a houseplant, they are concerned about light conditions, temperature range and the big question always is “ How often do I water this plant? “ Life would be easier if I could say, “ Oh water it every other day. “ The problem is that I don’t have a numerical answer that fits all situations. First off, this is the time of the year that most houseplants are growing slowly. There growth is almost to the point of the plant being dormant. At this time of the year, the plants prefer to be on the dry side. This by no means implies that you allow the plant to go bone dry before you water the plant again. Each plant does have it own requirements for water. I would say that the fast majority of the plants would want to have the surface soil go dry before you water the plant again at this time of the year. The question becomes, what causes that soil to become dry. The two biggest factors are temperature and humidity. If your home is kept in the upper 60’s to low 70’s, the soil will dry faster due to the air temperature causing the leaves to loose moisture through the leaves. Generally the higher the temperature the faster the plants lose moisture through the leaves. Another important factor is the humidity level in your home. If the heat is on, the air tends to dry out faster. At this time of the year, plants need humidity to be happy. Dry air speeds up the evaporation of water through the leaves, requiring more water in the soil or you taking the time to mist the leaves with water.

So, how do you know how often to water your houseplants? A simple way to know is to buy a moisture meter. This is a hand held probe that measures the level of moisture in the soil. The meter comes with a list of plants and the list will tell you what each plant requires for a moisture level in the soil. You simply push the probe into the soil and the meter will give you a reading of the moisture level in the soil. If you have a plant that is in the low range, you water the plant. If the level is in the high range, you can wait to water. Once you have done this a few times over a period of months, you will learn how often you need to water that particular plant based on the growing conditions in your home or office.

When it is time to water your plants, you should use warm water. The types of soils used to grow plants absorb warm water better than cold water. When you water your plants, you should slowly water the plants. This allows the soil to become moist rather than have the water rush through the soil. You need to use enough water so that the soil is moist from the top of the soil right down to the bottom soil in the pot. If you water slowly, at some point the water will run out of the bottom of the pot. This is important because there are small amounts of salts in the water and there are salts in the houseplant fertilizers. If you don’t flush the salts out of the soil, the salts can damage the plants. The water that comes out the bottom of the pot should be thrown away. If you let the water sit in the saucer, the plant will reabsorb that salty water and the roots will be damaged.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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