Get the New Year off on the right “root”

So it’s time to pack away the Christmas decorations. Auld Lang Syne and Happy New Year. Now that the old tannenbaum is out of the house and the baubles and ornaments are nestled in storage for Christmas future, it’s time to focus on our foliage friends. Let’s get the New Year off on the right “root.”

We become attached to our houseplants and why not? They are attractive, aid in our breathing and mood and develop personas causing us to name them and possibly even carry on conversations with them. With the latter we do most of the talking but the benefit is mutual. As a plant relationship develops we look for ways to show our foliage friends affection. Who doesn’t love Phil O’ Dendron. This often can result in over watering, killing them with kindness.  Sometimes we give them too much attention and they just want some alone time. But if you can get the watering technique down then the rest seems to come naturally. It’s important the pot the plant is growing in has drainage holes. That’s why for many a cache pot is the answer. A cache pot is a decorative container that holds a potted houseplant. It is the fancy “clothing” on the outside. Think of the concept as a pot inside a pot. The cache pot does not have drainage. The “grower pot” inside the decorative pot has drainage holes. By using a cache pot combined with a grower pot with drainage holes the plant will be healthier. It will make both watering and maintenance easier for you. Everybody wins.

A pot inside a pot
Using a cache pot creates many options for decorative containers while maintaining plant health (click on image to enlarge)

An additional watering tip is to avoid making the mistake I often see people make. They give up trying to figure out when and how much water to apply to their houseplant. What they end up with is what they believe is a compromise. They pour on a “little” water frequently. They meet their desire to water on a schedule (frequently aka kill it with kindness) and the end result is the soil in the upper half of the pot remains wet. The roots in the upper half of the pot rot while the roots at the lower portion of the pot dry out. The plant quickly displays its displeasure with browning leaf tips and decline. The sight of the plant suffering causes the owner to water even more which speeds up the decline. The appropriate way to water is when the plant needs it (indoor plants like outdoor plants have seasonal needs). In winter lack of light, day length and humidity causes the plants to “slow down” compared to their vigor in spring and summer.

Proper watering technique
Avoid wet soil at the top and dry soil on the interior

For smaller pots you can tell if the plant needs water based on the weight of the pot. Pick it up. You can learn to tell when it’s time to water.  When you water, water thoroughly so moisture is available to the soil at the top, in the middle and at the bottom of the pot. Because you have provided for drainage with your cache pot grower pot technique or by placing a drainage tray, the excess can drain out the bottom. Now allow the soil to dry and wait until the plant needs water again. Remember in winter you will be watering far less frequently than when the days are longer and the light is bright in spring and summer.

Ok so on to some other maintenance details about your foliage friends.

Avoid drafts especially vents that blow dry warm air or air conditioned air on the plants. Place them away from heating and cooling vents. Also avoid cold drafts near doorways.

Should you rotate your plants? Yes! Windows and artificial light already limit the available light to a plant removed from their natural habitat. They will stretch to the light and the “dark side” will suffer. I recommend a quarter turn every couple weeks. Plants grow to the light. Reduce the lean.

Should I dust my plants. Yes! You will improve available light to them and they will breathe easier. Artist brushes or cosmetic brushes will help too especially with difficult to reach areas or with obviously difficult plants like cactus.

Can I dump the remaining Matcha green tea on my plant? Yes but cooled first and remember you can overdo a good thing. Coffee grounds can be used to fertilize indoor plants, but it’s best if you compost the grounds first. Directly applying coffee grounds from the used filter to indoor plant soil can cause excessive moisture retention, and unsightly fungal growth unhealthy to the soil and plant.

Can I shower with my plants? They love to be in the bathroom especially if you have natural light (a window) in the room. They will benefit from the humidity a shower affords. Just keep the soap off them. The plants in turn will create a “spa” feeling in your bathroom. Add some candles to the room and you’ll both be looking forward to a relaxing bath after a long hard day.

Should I feed my plants? Yes but focus on feeding during the months of March through October. During November to February day length is short and growth slows significantly. Don’t try to force growth. Give them a resting period.

Should you talk to your plants? By all means. Have fun. It’s entertaining, will improve your mood and will leave them speechless.

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