Itís time to turn inside to consider plant health

By Jennie Hagen December 03, 2012 04:06 pm

Our Guide this week takes you inside your own home for tips and suggestions on keeping your indoor plant life healthy and happy throughout the next few months. Here are a few points to consider.

As unreasonable as this sounds, your indoor plants may actually require more water during the winter than during hot, dry summer months. Most notably this is caused by indoor heat sources that dry the air to an extreme degree. Although many believe wood heat is most drying, it is no more difficult on plants than natural gas or forced-air electric systems. 

All maintain an ability to use up any available humidity and stress plants to an unhealthy level. The most frequent sign of stressed plants I have noted is the appearance of spider mites, those miniscule arachnids that suck whatever life is left out of a plant if given the opportunity.

When indoor plants are well hydrated, spider mites almost never appear. Stressed plants simply must give off the stress pheromones, the way lodge pole pine do when attacked by bark beetles, which the spider mites receive and respond to. 

Spider mite infestations can usually be detected by the small mass of tiny webbing that appears on and between plant leaves. Leaf tips may curl and turn brown. The one tip for removing spider mite infestations is to remember that they simply detest water and a regular bathing of your indoor plants that exhibit signs of spider mites will usually deter their return. 

Most frequently when I have battled the small pests, one good bathing is usually enough. Place the plant in your bathtub or shower and gently run warm, not cold, water over them making sure to saturate the soil.

If you have a hand-held shower head, use it to spray the bottom sides of stems and leaves. Simply leave the plant, or plants, in the tub until they stop dripping. This is highly effective and no use of chemical sprays should be needed.

You may also want to remember to stop fertilizing all indoor plants at least for the months of December and January. Starting Feb. 1, begin fertilizing again but only at half strength. As your plants respond with some new growth, after the spring equinox and increased daylight hours, full strength fertilizing may resume.

Please make sure you follow manufacturer’s directions. As the “green” industry grows and more products become available for indoor gardening, it is important to read those labels and find out the best recommended procedure for what you are using.

An upcoming column of the Garden Guide will feature the winter timely tips for keeping greenery safe and healthy as we get closer to the next year.

Until next time, enjoy your indoor plants and leafing through all the seed catalogs!