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 What plants need :- Although this article was written with house plants at Christmas in mind,  it could apply to out door trees and shrubs as they all need the same five growing conditions!

House plants broadly fall in to two groups. Those that are in full flower now when given and have the 'wow' thank you, factor.  Then you have your 'run of the mill' Green foliage plants which might flower at some point, not necessarily showy. But all plants (including out side garden plants) need five things in varying proportions to survive given the right conditions / proportions they will grow well even thrive. To much of any one or take one away and the results are the same, the plant will die! So what are these magic ingredients :- Light, water,  food/Soil,  heat,  Co2 (Carbon
dioxide)  Nothing complicated

Light. To much light and even the toughest plant can get sun burnt if moved from shade into full Sun. Plants get used to their conditions and
move them from a shady position to a very light situation and the cells get scorched and they don't recover. New leaves are what they have to grow. The good news is that in Winter and in doors you cant give them to much light.
There is just not enough sunshine with short days and cloud, This then becomes a limiting factor on the plants ability to grow, which again depending on your point of view could be a good thing as the flowers will last longer, if the plant is not growing fast.

Water. All plants need water, not least, like us they are mostly made up of it! The main problem is the speed at which water is transpired out of the leaf (which is linked to temperature) In most situations weather the pot is wet or not water is drawn out of the leaf faster than the roots can suck it in and move it up the stem and along the leaf from cell to cell. So the edge of leaf will turn brown as the cells dry out, Lack of moisture in the air, with log fires central heating agars belting out the heat all day and night, is the main reason, the plants just cant cope in doors.

Food and soil. Plants come with there roots in soil and have grown to the size they are from that compost, but it's a fair bet that they are running
out of food by the time you get hold of them. So a small amount of liquid feed (usually tomato food) is a good idea. Never feed on to dry compost. The salts and sugars will already be more concentrated in dry compost. So water
first with clean tepid water.

Heat. Most house plants are more exotic than our garden plants . So they cannot stand any cold tempters. that's below 10'C 50'F by the same token with a lack of humidity they don't want to be over 21'C 70'F It's a combination of the above condition in varying amounts which causes plants to thrive or die.                         The fifth element all plants need to grow is :-

Carbon dioxide. For photosynthesis to happen you need all five of these elements in varying amounts a balance is what we are looking for. And just to make things complicated all the different plants need / require different conditions this is what makes one plant cope with one situation and another might struggle to survive.

Watering House plants How much and when?

Too much water no water at all the results are the same plants die! No water at all, and the leaves wilt still no water leaves dry up - plant dies  sad but true the answer, water the plant at first sign of wilting great. This time you have one of those pot covers and more water was applied than necessary the poor plant is sanding in water - for two weeks now. Sooner or later the roots
start to rot (roots need air as well as water) now if the roots rot they cannot take up any moisture so the foliage starts to wilt you give it a
drink (after all its wilting) compounding the situation the plant continues to suffer.

The best way to water , let the plant dry out between watering then soak the soil thoroughly, by plunging the whole plant pot in water for five minuets, this forces the old stale air out of the compost. Then remove and as it drains in the sink, it sucks fresh air back into the now wet compost. Tomorrow you can give it some liquid feed. What ever you do with house plants be confident that what you are doing is right. Changing positions every three days over feeding and dusting only serve to up set them but it wont show for a week or two by which time you don't
know which treatment upset them and which was good for them. Put then in one place and let them settle in. The more plants you have the better they all get on as they create there own micro climate of moist air so moisture transpiring from one leaf condensates on the one above, so then the moisture on the leaf dries up and not the water in the leaf. Spraying with a hand mister will do the same job, and is a good idea if you have the time, and you think its to hot . Don't do it if there is no heating in the room in the depths of Winter.

Christmas house plants - there are lots of them and they all have their funny little ways so here are some to look out for.
 Cyclamen in flower looks great, they like a cool well lit room or conservatory but there are to many stems all coming out of the same spot ,
splash water in here and within days the hole plant is rotting off. All you can do is pull off the rotting stems and water by standing in 3cm of water for ten minuets twice a week, look at it every day and continue to remove leave and spent flower stalks completely.
Poinsettias they could already be dead when you get them! The cold is there enemy below 53'f that's 12'c and the flower parts in the middle of the bracts will be frosted, look carefully there should be globules of nectar. The problem is open air markets or the journey from the garden centre to your car two minuets stood chatting to a friend the cold air will have got to it! Plants that have been frosted (12'c or below) will last till mid January early February those few that are good and are looked after properly will go on 'flowering' until next November when you should throw it away and buy a new one.

 Azaleas. At Christmas there are always loads of Indian evergreen Azaleas on the market from Holland I don't know how they grow them or what they do to them, but they always seem to be in a state of suspended animation then again they do last a long time. You can never give
these plants to much water. Plunge the clay pot in tepid water for at least 15 minuets three times a week and with global warming they can survive out side next winter.

 Chrysanthemum  for a six week flowering house plant you cant go wrong just splash some water on once a week.

Until next time enjoy your garden.

If you ever need a speaker, on the radio,  TV or at your gardening club - Ring me 07788767154

 

Stuart sat in his garden June 06                      it was dry that year!

01271 815269 07788 767 154 stuartaholder@tiscali.co.uk