Jul 20, 2010

5 Ways Plants Show The Love

Remember a couple blogs ago I mentioned the 5 ways plants show you love? All five mean you are doing a good job with your plant(s), and shows the plant enjoys its current location, etc. Here are they are!

1. A thirsty plant will perk up.
Plants 'droop' if they are thirsty. In some plants, like Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum, commonly called a 'Spath' for short), this effect is very noticeable. Other plants, like African Violet (Saintpaulia species) or the Spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), will look....thinner, sort of duller in color, or even display transparent leaves when they need water. Snake plant (Sansevieria) and other succulent varieties will wrinkle their leaves when dry. Give them a good drink and they should bounce back.

2. A well fertilized plant will stay greener longer (and look more beautiful)
Sometimes your plant just needs an extra boost to stimulate new growth. Are you looking for a surefire way to keep older plants looking like they did five years ago? The answer is here: fertilizer. Fertilizers that are water soluble come in the form of little granules you simply add to your watering container. But what do those little numbers mean, you ask? They show how much nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) are present in the fertilizer. So the label 6-12-4 means: 6% nitrogen, 12% phosphorus and 4% potassium. An ideal leaf-developing fertilizer (great for foliage houseplants) would be labeled 30-20-20, whereas a flowering plant like African Violet might go for something like 15-30-15, which is high in phosphorus.

The deal with fertilizer - it really depends on who you ask, and what type of fertilizer you're using. Experts will tell you to fertilize the plant only during its period of growth - typically spring to summertime - and to cease fertilizing during its period of plant rest - fall to wintertime. This is really a matter of personal preference. The key is to use just enough fertilizer to the amount of water - about 1/4 a teaspoon fertilizer to 1 gallon of water. Since most watering cans for indoor use aren't that large, I recommend using just a pinch of fertilizer between your thumb and index finger; or, just a few granules. Add this to your everyday watering container before you water (mine is in the shape of an elephant!) Make sure you always dilute the fertilizer heavily – highly concentrated amounts aren’t good for your plants!

3. Flowering plants will bloom
One of the best examples of this in my opinion is with African Violets (AVs). If the conditions for your plant are being well met, AVs will bloom throughout the year, again and again and again! This fact only helps add to their appeal as a cheery, happy looking houseplant. How do you make them bloom? Light is undoubtedly a key factor, and a source of great debate over the years. Some people claim an east window is the one and ONLY window near which AVs can bloom. For other enthusiasts, a west window is the answer. North windows often have too little light, so the plant will survive okay, but fail to really thrive, therefore yeilding no blooms. My Northeast window seems to be the spot the AVs enjoy most! A dry plant can't bloom, so be sure not to overlook watering on a regular basis. Fertilizing the plant helps blooms develop, also. My advice: be patient, and your plants will bloom! Before you realize it, the plant will be blooming like crazy and look even better than when you bought it! Spaths will also bloom if kept moist (they like a LOT of water) and given good light. They tend to bloom during spring or summer.

4. 'Parental' plants produce 'babies'
Ah, the Spider plant....all those little plantlets give you waves of joy when you see them (if you're like me, that is). I tend to think of this plant the most when I think of baby plants. They create exact mini copies of themselves that look just like the mother plant. The best way to ease the new plant into its own pot is to pin the baby to the fresh soil with a paper clip or some other fastening device. Make sure the pot isn't too large in relation to the plantelet size. Leave the plantlet attached to the mother plant until the new plant roots - anywhere from 2 weeks to one month - and keep the soil in the pot *lightly moist* but not soggy. Misting the plantlet would be a wonderful idea! Once the new roots are developed, sever the plantlet from its mother. If you don’t wish to propagate your spider plant now, you can leave the babies attached to the mother with no ill effects. Older plantlets may not root as well as new ones. They also make excellent gifts for friends, family, or whoever!

5. New leaf growth is a good sign!
Leaf development means the plant loves its conditions just as much as it loves you! New leaves also lead the way to a fuller plant in the future, giving it a more mature look. Whatever watering plan you’ve chosen, stick to it! If the plant likes lots of light, be sure you can provide it before you buy it! Variegated varieties need lots of light to maintain their coloring, so choose wisely.

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