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Conservatory

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants. —A. Whitney Brown

The conservatory is the room appointed for plant care. Here all the elements that affect a plant's health and beauty, with special notes on plants I haven't killed yet.

Many plants are accustomed to different conditions during the growing season (spring and summer) and the dormant season (fall and winter).
 

Air

Hot or dry air can cause plants to dry out aboveground, resulting in brown leaf tips. In general, keep plants in a cool or humid place with indirect sun. Some remedies for dry air include: standing the pot on a tray of wet pebbles; misting the plant regularly.

African violets
do not mist these, as the droplets will cause rot
fig family (Ficus, Rubber Plant)
room temperature
mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
minimum 60 degrees F, high humidity
cactus
growing season: 65+; dormant: 55-, avoid frost (cold makes plants sturdy and encourages flower buds)

Pests and diseases

Plants can be attacked by various pests and diseases. However, overtreatment can be worse than the disease. Read manufacturer's directions.

Propagation

There are four methods of propagation by stem cutting, depending on the type of plant.

  1. Plants which root easily (such as Coleus, Tradescantia, Swedish Ivy, English Ivy, Jade Plant, Peperomia, Impatiens): put cutting in glass on windowsill, pot when roots are 1".
  2. Plants which grow baby plants (such as Spider Plant, Begonia): cut and plant the baby.
  3. Plants which will root from leaves (such as African Violet, Streptocarpus, Gloxinia, Begonia Rex): peg large leaf down with toothpicks, slit veins on underside, dust with hormone powder, lay flat on compost, tent with clear plastic bag.
  4. Plants which will root from stems -- most plants that will propagate by stem cutting are in this category: (such as Geranium, African Violet leaf on a stem, Philodendron, Fibrous Begonia, Crown of Thorns): dip in hormone rooting powder, pot, tent with a clear plastic bag.

fig family (Ficus, Rubber Plant)
propagate by air layering
mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
propagate by stem cutting
cactus
rooting -- take cutting or offset; let cutting dry a few days; root in equal parts peatmoss and sharp (builders) sand; expose to sun and water occasionally; pot when vigorous roots form
germination -- scatter seed on moist, sterilized soil; barely cover with sand; bag and seal container; wait several days to several months for germination; remove bag; pot when vigorous roots form
grafting -- cut and bind together while still wet; keep in moist, warm place to prevent drying out; remove bindings in about two weeks

Food

Plants need food, but too much will kill a plant or render it unsightly. Read manufacturer's directions and choose the appropriate food for the plant.

fig family (Ficus, Rubber Plant)
feed with manure water twice a month during growing season
cactus
low nitrogen such as 5-10-10 during growing season; feed established plants only

Light

fig family (Ficus, Rubber Plant)
low light is adequate, but full light (not direct sun) is recommended for best canopy
mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
full light, some sun
cactus
direct sun

Soil

fig family (Ficus, Rubber Plant)
compost; repot in May when obviously pot-bound, only slightly larger container
mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
well drained
cactus
equal parts sharp (builders) sand and houseplant soil mix; repot into next size container when plant is within 1/4 inch of the edge, then wait several days to water

Water

Overwatered plants suffer from rot underground. This will kill a plant. In general, avoid standing water and provide dry spells between waterings.

fig family (Ficus, Rubber Plant)
keep soil moist in summer (three times/week), less in winter; drain well and give an occasional dry spell between waterings; wash dust and pests from leaves with rain or distilled water; can use a clean, soft, wet sponge
cut flowers
fill a clean vase at least 3/4 full of water; add 1 small drop household bleach to stop algae from blocking stems; cut off about 3/4 inch of stem on the diagonal; remove leaves that would be submerged; keep in a cool place (not on the TV)
mimosa pudica (Sensitive Plant)
plenty in growing season, but very little in winter
cactus
active: when top 1/2 inch of soil feels dry, soak with water; dormant: water lightly every few weeks (do not soak) avoid overwatering to prevent rot
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