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House Plants for Beginners

Almost everyone has received a gift plant for their home or just wanted to bring some green leafy life into their living space. Many people would like to keep the plant growing and healthy, but don't have a clue.

Fortunately, many houseplants are fairly easy to grow provided you can supply their needs, Light, Water, Warmth, Fertilizer--

-- Light. Plants need bright light as their power source. Not giving them much light is like expecting your tv to work without plugging it in. Most house plants can survive without direct sunlight, but they need to receive at least eight hours of light coming from a nearby window or the equivalent. Ordinary light bulbs may seem bright, but they usually don't supply enough light power on their own. They can suplement natural light and "grow lights", if strong enough, can support plant growth on their own. Grow lights are more efffective because they produce wavelengths of light that plants need most.

-- Water. It is often said that too much water is what kills most houseplants. It is understandable that people who don't know what else to do with their new plant just keep on watering it. Unfortunately, they don't take into account the size or type of plant and the fact that plants kept out of the wind and direct sun use less water and dryout more slowly.

Most plants don't need consistently moist conditions and grow best when they have a "drying out" cycle of moisture as they would if they were growing outdoors where they have periods of rain and sun.

Water most houseplants only when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch. More experience gardeners stick a finger a couple of inches down into the potting soil to test for dryness. They water when it feels almost dry. After a few tries, you will know how often the plant needs to be watered. This could change if the plant grows or if its environment changes. This obviously does not work with all plants, but it would likely reduce the chance of regularily overwatering that leads to the quick death of many house plants.

Philodendron. A staple of indoor gardens, this vine with heart-shaped leaves, is surely one of the easiest for rooms with moderate to bright light but no direct sun. Water moderately once a week or when the top of the soil feels dry. Give liquid plant food diluted with 50 percent water every couple of months. Wash the leaves with water when they get dusty. Cut back the vines when they get long.

Dracena. Dracenas are shrub-like plants with long thin leaves that grow from a central stem. They need bright light, but prolonged sunlight would burn the plant. Dracenas that survive for a number of years can grow six or more feet tall.

Water well once a week or when the top one inch of the potting mix feels dry to the touch. Feed with liquid plant food every month or so diluted to half strength with water.

Dracenas show stress when the bottom leasves turn brown and fall. Eventually, this can leave a bare trunk with a crown of leaves at the top. To avoid the loss of leaves due to stress, consitent conditions of light and watering are important. It is also necessary to position the plant away from cold drafts.

Geranium. Commonly grown as an annual in the garden, geraniums are actually tender perennials that will grow for years if protected from the frost. You can bring them inside in winter or leave them indoors all year long. Like other blooming plants, geraniums (properly know as pelagorums) need plenty of light. Preferable several hours a day of direct sun so they do best in front of a south facing window.

Geraniums Cuttings

Propagating Plants

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