House plants become part of the family in homes where, in some cases, they even outlive the family pet. Healthy house plants as well as sick ones will exhibit cues that help you determine their health. By understanding house plant requirements and noting visual cues given by your plant, you can ensure your house plant remains healthy and vibrant for years to come.
Evaluate the light level your plant receives. House plants are typically grouped into three categories including low, medium, and high light level plants. If your plant shows signs of gradual leaf drop or spotted leaves, the plant may need a different level of light. Typically, house plants prefer a filtered southern exposure without direct rays of hot sun on their foliage. The addition of a fluorescent grow light may be beneficial for some plants.
Check the water level of your plant. Over and under watering are two of the most common failures of indoor gardeners, resulting in dropped leaves, leaf color change, spotting, or browned tips, and even plant wilting or death. Provide a container with a drainage hole as the first defense against watering problems. When the top soil feels dry down to a maximum of 1/2 inch, water until it drains from the container hole.
Do not allow plants to sit in trays of water, unless the species is confirmed to prefer bottom watering like the African violet. This practice generally encourages a host of problems including disease spread.
Provide humidity adjustments during the dry months of winter. If leaf tips become brown, leaves are dropping or the plant appears stressed, group plants together to raise humidity. Trays of damp pebbles set underneath pots also provide relief, as does grouping plants near each other.
Be aware of temperature fluctuations, especially if you will be away from your home for an extended period of time. Temperatures falling below 60 to 75 degree Fahrenheit will typically cause plant issues. Spotted leaves may indicate contact with a frozen window pane. Wilted or sunburned plants may result from proximity to direct sunlight or heating units.
Fertilize your house plants regularly but not excessively. Browned leaf tips, leaf drop, and wilting may all occur from fertilization faux pas. Robert Mugaas, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, advises fertilization during active growing stages which typically occur during late winter, early spring, and through mid-summer. Water the plant well and then apply a liquid house plant fertilizer at half the recommended rate for best results.
Note the cleanliness of your plant's environment. Pots should be thoroughly cleaned before planting. Regularly wash leaves with a mild dishsoap and water mixture and rinse them clean. Discard dead leaf litter from the base of the plant and remove infected or suspicious looking foliage immediately to prevent spread.