Indoor plants provide benefits to the home and homeowner. They brighten a home and freshen the air by converting carbon dioxide to oxygen through photosynthesis. According to the "Complete Houseplant Survival Manual," they also help to remove chemicals from the air. Research at Wageningen University in the Netherlands has shown both the presence of plants in the home and the tending of plants provides a psychological benefit as well. Plants require care to eliminate problems.
Indoor Plant Light Considerations
Plants need varying degrees of light to survive. If your room doesn't have many windows or you keep the blinds closed to reduce heat from the sun, pick a plant that does well under shady conditions. Spider plants, Dieffenbachia (or dumb cane), ficus and ferns do well in indirect light. Cast iron and mosaic plants prefer partial shade.
Plants get nutrients from the soil. Look for these indications to tell if you need to fertilize your plant. The upper leaves are small and yellow. Plant growth slows and leaves turn yellow and fall off.
The following signs show the plant has been over fertilized. The plant has twisted or stunted growth. White crusty deposits on soil surface or around the rim of the pot indicate salt accumulation from over fertilization. When healthy leaves wilt or edges turn yellowish brown, this indicates too much fertilizer.
Large leafy plants require more watering than others. Plants lose water through their leaves. Also, low humidity causes plants to require more watering. Air conditioners in the summer and furnaces in winter reduce the amount of humidity in a room. Some plants have adapted to low-humidity environments. They have a thick wax coating on their leaves to decrease water loss. Overwatering leads to root rot and disease.
Three ways to determine plant water needs. Stick your finger in the soil. Water if it feel dry. Lift the pot. A light pot probably needs watering. A heavy pot with water dripping out the bottom doesn't need watering. Electronic moisture meters help determine the amount of water contained in the soil.
Plant Temperature Needs
Plants do okay with normal room temperature. However plants such as palms prefer warmer temperatures, while Norfolk pine prefers cooler temperatures. Plants do not like drafts. Set your plants away from air conditioner or furnace vents. Temperature fluctuation can cause leaf drop. Leaves that touch cold or hot windows could get frosted or scorched.
A number of insects harm green houseplants. The most common include red spider mites, scale and mealy bugs. Spider mites are small red dots, if the infestation becomes great enough, you will also notice white webbing forming between the leaves. Scale are small brown bumps that appear on the stem and back of leaves. Mealy bugs also cause a white fluff on the plant. Sometimes wiping the leaves with a Q-tip dipped in a soap solution eliminates these pests. Palms, however, don't like soap, so you may need to use an insecticide.