Monthly Calendar (January) for Caring your Houseplants

Monthly Calendar in January

Before placing newly-bought houseplants in the living room, give them a transitional period in a moderately warm environment; this helps them to adjust more successfully to their place in your home. When frost is about, it is wise to protect your plants at night by placing some newspapers between them and the icy window. If the room is heated with an open fire or stove, they can, of course, be removed from the windowsill. This is not necessary with central heating, if the radiator is situated under the windowsill.

The Azalea that has been brought into a warm living room from an unheated location in order to bring it into flower now needs to be sprayed regularly over the crown to prevent the developing buds from drying out. Spraying should be stopped once the buds turn color. The plant should be immersed in a tepid bath once a week to ensure soil moisture.

The winter-flowering, small-flowered Begonia requires a light, sunlit location close to a window. Water freely and feed weekly, preferably with a lime-free liquid fertilizer. The Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) likes a daily spray with tepid water, a warm room and plenty of light and moist air. This way it will flourish at its best.

When the flower-like bracts have fallen, cut back the stem 6-7 cm above soil level, and staunch the wound with a little white sand, cigarette ash or powdered charcoal, then place the plants in a quiet spot in the room. The newest, more compact strains frequently retain their ‘star’ bracts and leaves for several months, so cutting back can be happily postponed. Water freely during the growing season to prevent the soil-ball drying out.

The Camellia should never be sprayed once the buds have opened, since this makes the flowers sensitive to infection and rot. This plant flourishes best in front of north-or northeast-facing window. Do not move or turn the pot, otherwise the buds will drop off. To bring the Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) into growth and flower, the tuber should be planted, if this has not already been done in December, up to a third of its depth in lightly pressed compost.

Place in a warm position above the radiator or on top of the mantelpiece, and only water the soil around the rim of the pot very sparingly for the first two weeks. With crocuses, first check whether the color of the buds is visible through the thin membrane. They are then ready to be moved to a warmer location, water freely but make sure that the pot drains well, as to much water may cause root-rot.

Berry-bearing shrubs prefer a cool room with plenty of light and moist atmosphere. Water generously and give the entire plant a good spraying one a week. Foliage plants should be sponged with tepid water every week; ferns and other fine-leafed plants are sprayed.

This care not only prevents dust settling but also guards against pest attack. The Christmas Cactus can bloom beautifully at this period, but on no account should it be moved about or turned. Once flowering has ceased, the old blooms can be removed; the plants should not be fed, and only watered very sparingly during this rest period.

Winter-flowering succulents, including Crassula portulacea, Crassula lactea, Echeveria carnicolor, should receive more water and warmth during the budding and flowering period than at other times. Geraniums, Fuchsias, and the Bell-flower (Campanula isophylla) prefer to spend the winter in a virtually unheated room. It is best no to water them during freezing weather.

Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans

Where the Plants Come From

 

Plants

The keeping of plants is no recent innovation: on the contrary, the techniques and traditions of growing them indoors in pots have been appreciated for countries. The history of lotus blossom, cherished by the Pharaohs of Egypt in their palaces 3,000 years ago, gives us the earliest known information of this subject. Also, in the Far East, particularly in ancient China, People were passionately fond of enhancing their homes and formal gardens with flowers and plants.

Originally, of course, each country was familiar only with those plants that flourished in the local environment, but as contacts with other continents and countries increased, people began to discover the possibilities of plants from distant lands. In Europe, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, many hitherto unknown exotic plants were introduced by Crusaders returning from the Holy Wars.

This early import later continued on a larger scale with the expansion of merchant shipping to more remote countries. Explorers and enterprising botanists also brought many new plants back with them, which were promptly added to cherished collections of an ever-growing number of plants enthusiasts.

Every university was proud of the unique plants in its botanical gardens, and as more and more specimens poured into Europe, certain rare varieties became the subject of crazes.

In the sixteenth century Holland already boasted its own nurseries, and during the Golden age merchants from the Republic of North Netherlands suddenly became obsessed with tulips of mixed colors. So began the famous tulip mania that hit Europe around 1630, with speculators paying incredibly high prices for a single tulip bulb. This boom lasted about a decade and was followed a century later by a similar craze with the hyacinth as the object of trade.

The discovery and collecting of plants in all parts of the world came into its own in the second half of the eighteenth century. Botanists and doctors of medicine studied many exotic plant varieties and sought good and efficient means of transporting them back to Europe.

Anthurium, Dieffenbachia, Monstera and Philodendron, for instance, originally came from America, as did many of the bromeliads; and from Japan came, among other worthies, Primula japonica and Thunbergia (Black-eyed Susan).

A bewildering range of plants is now widely available to everyone, and you can choose at your leisure which plants from this vast collection you find most attractive.

Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans

Water is the Basic Need for your Plants (part 2)

water

Everyone is aware that rainwater is the best thing for houseplants. It is rather acid, which is something most plants like. It is also soft and reasonably pure. Most plant lovers will probably have their own ingenious methods of catching the falling raindrops.

Unfortunately tap water can be far from ideal for plants. If often contains a high content of magnesium salts, chlorine and a high salt content, as well as a generous portion of lime, which causes hard water.

For true lime-loving plants such as Aspidistra, Campunula isophylla and Hoya varieties, this is hardly a disadvantage. But most of houseplants dislike lime, which we continue to add to the compost with every libation of water. Consequently, an agglutination of mineral salts gradually builds up in the compost.

The correct acid level (pH) is disturbed and progressively declines (the current proprietary composts have a pH value of 5.5). We should use every means to prevent the effect of calcification in our house plants. When we see this as a chalky white crust on the outside of porous clay pot. It is sometimes too late. White chalk blotches on leaves (a result of spraying and sponging) or a hard.

White crust on the soil surface are equally ominous warnings. All clear evidence that the water department has been adding too much lime and magnesium to it’s water supply. Consequently, the degree of hardness of such water is much too high (more than 12 degrees). You can find out the degree of the hardness of your water supply by contacting your local board.

Special water-softeners can be purchased from hardware stores and large supermarkets or tap water can be boiled to soften it temporarily. For acid-loving plants put a ball of peat fiber in a muslin bag and leave it hanging in a bucket of water overnight; the humic acids of the peat will restrain the particles of lime.

You can also buy reasonably inexpensive water-filters that screw onto a tap. These supply as much distilled water as you want, but for ease of use it is advisable to have an extra tap installed. If you decide to purchase one of the chemical water softeners, make sure the information on the packets expressly states that the product is suitable for houseplants.

The well-known domestic products that produce ‘soft’ water for rinsing clothes and those that deter chalk from forming in the washing machine are certainly not suitable.

Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans

Water is the Basic Need for your Plants (part 1)

Water

Water is the source of life for every plant. Of course, everyone who keeps plants knows this, but the eternal question remains: how often and how much? It would be nice if we could give a general answer to this question, but there simply isn’t one. Here, too, different plants have varying water requirements that are, moreover, dependent on the season and on the location. Plants lose a lot of their moisture through transpiration during the summer, and this need to be taken into account when watering.

It is best to water your plants early in the morning, as this will sustain them against the heat of the day. If the soil of some specimens feels dry again by evening, then go ahead and give them a second watering; spraying the leaves of foliage plants can also have a refreshing affect. It is better for cacti to be dry again before evening, but during particularly warm days they can be included in the early morning watering round, over their crown.

Overwintering plants should be never be watered if the soil still moist and dark in color. And plants that spend the winter in a cool, frost-free room need very little water (one a week will generally suffice), while flowering plants in a heated room should be watered every day. Tropical plants should also be checked daily, but do not water too liberally; if the surface is dry, examine the under surface by pushing your finger into the soil. Cacti, with the exception of the leaf cacti, can do without water entirely between November and March (at a temperature of 10 degree Celsius maximum), and plant that drop all their foliage in the autumn can also remain dry during the winter. These include Achimenes, Sinningia, Rechsteineria and Hippeastrum (10-12 degree Celsius).

Most Plants dislike wet feet, so any water that drains through the soil into the saucer (or into the ornamental outer container) after watering should be removed after 30 minutes. This water cools down too sharply, and cold water is never good for the roots of the houseplant, not even in the summer.

It is therefore important always to have water at room temperature to hand. Make a habit of refilling the watering can as soon as it is empty and leave it standing in the same, fairly warm place,then you can be sure that the water will always be at the right temperature. As far as your watering can is concerned, apart from aesthetic considerations as to its shape and color, choose one with a good long spout that can reach under the foliage direct to the soil without spilling.

Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans

Diseases- Take Care of Your House Plants from Various Troubles (part 2)

Diseases of Plants

Diseases-fungus
Image courtesy of Christian Meyn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Deformed growth

The plants grow lopsided in the pots and the stately little indoor three forms a crick in its stem. Set this right by regularly tuning the plant, remembering it will turn naturally towards the light source, although it must be said that some plants, namely Azalea, Camellia, Clivia, and Hibiscus, will not tolerate this at all. Leaf and phyllo cacti are also very sensitive when the flower buds are developing, and if these plants are turned, their buds will fall off. So let the plants stay exactly where they are and if they do start to grow crooked, support them with a stick.

Root-rot

Roots will rot if the compost in which they grow becomes waterlogged. Improper watering and/or bad drainage can cause stagnation. The soggy roots will then turn dark brown or even black. The plant’s new shoots droop, die off and the entire plants wilt. Severe root-rot is usually fatal but sometimes an infected plant can be saved by removing it from the pot, cleaning all soil from the roots, washing them in warm water, and then repotting the plants in fresh compost. Water very sparingly for a while, until signs of recovery to normal growth are clearly apparent.

Mildew

A fungus disease that can be particularly harmful to plants during the summer which shows itself in the form of a white, powdery mould on leaves. The infection occurs if plants are placed too close together and suffer from lack of air and light, but get too much moisture. The mould can be carefully rubbed of or affected plants can be pruned back, but if the mildew is particularly persistent, the plants should be sprayed with a fungicide. When spraying, do not overlook the undersides of the leaves, but on no account allow the fungicide to touch any flowers.

Green sickness

Deficiency disease, better known as green sickness or chlorosis, is caused because the plant is suffering from a lack of one or more of the essential nourishing elements. The leaves take up insufficient chlorophyll and become light green, yellow, and sometimes bleached in color. Feeding needs to be correctly adjusted if the plant is to survive.

Frost danger

Plants standing on the windowsill need to be protected with newspaper during the night when frost is about, especially in rooms where a stove is burning. During a period of sharp frost it is best to remove all plants from the windowsill before you close the curtains, though this is not necessary if your plants are situated above a radiator. Plants standing in an unheated room should not be watered during frost period, since a wet soil-ball will freeze much sooner than a dry one. If you have to be away for a few days, the plants can be wrapped in an insulating material, such as and old blanket, corrugated cardboard or newspaper and then placed on the floor in the warmest room in the house as far as possible from the window.

How you can tell when a plant has been affected by frost?. Leaves and stem become translucent and limp, and also change color from green to dull grey. It is sometimes possible to save a plant by moving it to a dark, cool room and then spraying it thoroughly with cold water. It needs to thaw out very slowly, and if you transfer a frost-bitten plant immediately to a warm room it will have no chance of survival. If a few days after having given it a cold shower there are still no signs of improvement, repeat the process once or twice. Should the plant perk up again, you can begin to adjust it very gradually to a higher temperature.

Authors: A. C. Muller-Idzerda, Elisabeth de Lestrieux, Jonneke Krans